We are what we eat: the power of our influences
“We become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become.”
— Clare of Assisi
These words have great depth, and many things that we can learn from them. This quote has really stuck with me lately, maybe because I've been thinking a lot about how to use my time best, and what exactly to put as a priority. Because honestly, how we choose to spend our time is how we nurture certain things in our lives. Knowing this, it is vital to fill our time with good and healthy influences, to grow into the people we were meant to be.
The People We Surround Ourselves With
Think about a thing or a person you admire, or a close friend. Those people, things, and ideas influence us so very deeply. If a friend of mine likes a certain band, I'm more apt to like it too, right? Because I admire my friend, and that admiration makes me want to love what she loves. As a result, my taste in music has formed to be more like hers, as I look into that band, and others like it.
I think this is a good metaphor for our hearts and minds, how susceptible they are to the influences around us. If we surround ourselves with people who love what is good, honorable and true, because we admire and respect them, we will grow to love those good, honorable and true things as well. These people are truly good for the soul.
Now think about if you were influenced by this person who you like, or want to like, and they do not love what is necessarily good, honorable or true (such as gossip, drinking, drugs, you get the idea). You would automatically be more inclined to do these things because you see someone you either like, respect or admire doing them as well, and they seem to be doing fine, right? Our minds are tricked into compromising our values. This is an easy trap to get caught in, I think more so than we expect.
It is similar with our romantic relationships. You want the person who you are in a relationship with to reflect the values that you yourself want to have. The man you choose to love should challenge you to grow in what is good. You want to grow to be a person of virtue because of the influence of your significant other, not in spite of it. This can be true in less obvious things than alcohol and substance abuse as well, such as arrogance, unkindness, or lack of faith. It all affects us.
Whether in friendships or romantic relationships, it is so very important to surround ourselves with people who challenge us to be better and more loving people. And once we find those people, to build and nurture those relationships. There are very few better ways to invest your time.
I know that I have been beyond blessed to have some wonderful friendships in my life, friendships that have shaped me in huge ways. These young women have no idea how much they have influenced my life. We are all seeking Christ together, which is a huge part of what makes these relationships so strong. These girls always challenge me to be a healthier, more patient, more loving, more joyful person. They have strength in places where I find weakness, or share my weaknesses and we learn together how to overcome them. As Christian women, having such friendships is nothing short of a necessity while navigating the hardships of life.
My challenge for you is to be a woman that is the good, true and beautiful influence that our world desperately needs, and to seek and nurture the relationships and friendships that lead you to Christ. If it is true that we are influenced so heavily by the people around us, we come to the conclusion that our own influence on the world has more impact than even we know. We are all so capable of affecting things and people. It is our own approach, disposition, and values that could make all the difference.
I think this quote is a good summary of this point.
“I have come to the frightening conclusion that I am the decisive element. It is my personal approach that creates the climate. It is my daily mood that makes the weather. I possess tremendous power to make life miserable or joyous. I can be a tool of torture or an instrument of inspiration, I can humiliate or humor, hurt or heal. In all situations, it is my response that decides whether a crisis is escalated or de-escalated, and a person is humanized or de-humanized. If we treat people as they are, we make them worse. If we treat people as they ought to be, we help them become what they are capable of becoming.”
— Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Oh how true.
What We Soak into Our Minds
I don’t think I can write an article in 2016 about our influences without mentioning the media. I think we can say, without a doubt in our minds, that Snapchat, Instagram, Facebook, television, and the other technology that is offered to us has changed the world. People would argue whether it’s for the better or the worse, but we can undoubtedly say that the media has shaped our lives as modern young women.
My advice when it comes to the influences on social media is this: take it all with a grain of salt. Because things posted on social media are all about appearance. These things very rarely have any true depth to them. By visiting social media too often, we get pulled into this superficial world where the appearance of something or someone is all that matters, and it’s intoxicating when we take in too much of it. It subconsciously creates in us this narcissistic and shallow view of life. We are called to be women who lead lives of beauty in our real lives, not just on our Instagram or Facebook posts.
Another thing to mention would be the books we choose to read. A lover of literature myself, I have never read a book without having it affect me or my thoughts in some way, shape or form. Unfortunately, much of the modern literature we are surrounded by is full of selfishness and immorality. Somehow, reading these sorts of books gets me to have similar thoughts to the ones expressed in them. I’m not saying we should not read modern books, but we should approach them as a filter, and not a sponge. We should use our faith to filter the truth from the non-truth and lean toward books that we can confidently soak in without worry- the kind that stretch our minds and our souls. The important part is discerning when we have to be a filter, and when we can be a sponge. This awareness is vital, also when it comes to movies, TV shows, and music. It undoubtedly impacts us.
The Most Important Thing
So then, if the people and things we spend time on and surround ourselves with are what ultimately shape us and our identity, would we not want to surround ourselves with the things of God as much as possible? If our goal is to be Christ-like, wouldn’t we want to besiege ourselves with Him? This is one of the many reasons I believe in going to church often. This is the reason frequent prayer and scripture reading are so very important.
“But my faith and morals are strong, I can handle the bad influences without having them affect me too much,” you might say. But wouldn’t you want to surround yourself with things and people that build that faith and those morals, rather than trying to keep your values in spite of your influences?
The Lord influences us directly in ways that we are conscious of, but often even more in ways that we are not. It is an interesting concept. God is capable of working in countless ways. Through our friends, family, and even the internet or the books we read, the Lord speaks truth to us. But in the same way, the devil can also speak untruth. That is why we have to, at the very least, be aware that the things and people and activities that we allow to consume our time impact our lives, minds and souls in ways in which we are often unaware.
I know there are certain influences that we can’t change, but more often than not, we do have a choice in what we give our minds and hearts to absorb. We have a choice in our friends (even if we don’t feel like it), our intake of social media, keeping a certain job, the books we read, how much time we spend with the Lord, and our own attitudes.
So, if it is true that we become what we love, and who we love shapes what we become, we would ultimately want to surround ourselves with Christ through prayer, and people and things that are good, true and beautiful, reflecting His glory. Let us, every now and then, take a good look at ourselves, how we’re spending our time, and who and what we’re surrounding ourselves with. It is often even more important than we know. Truly “we are what we eat”, especially when it comes to what we choose to feed our hearts, minds, and souls.
My name is Julia, and I've had the pleasure of growing up in the beautiful state of Michigan. Currently, I'm a junior in high school who is just trying to figure out what it means to be a truly authentic woman of Our Lord, and how to write about it. I have two sisters, both younger than me, and have had the blessing of being homeschooled through middle school. During my freshman year I experienced a real conversion to Christ and have been falling more deeply in love with Him ever since. I also blog, you can check it out here!