Influence and Persuasion- Personal Example #2

I mentioned in a previous post how as a child I wanted my younger siblings to follow my lead. I wanted them to take my instructions as law, but they didn’t respect me, because I had not put in the time to earn that respect. And if that meant they didn’t want to play what I wanted that was one thing, but they would even stage mini-rebellions when I was just being the messenger for Dad and Mom.

“No!” I would say. “You have to listen to me. Dad and Mom said we have to clean this up, so you have to help me do it.”

I felt that my authority was absolute in this case, but they would ignore me all the same. Not because they didn’t respect Dad and Mom, but because they didn’t respect me as their emissary. And no matter of invoked authority was going to make them view me in the same light as the parents.

In those moments I felt an intense aggravation. They needed to do what I was saying, and I had to find a way to make them do it. And that resulted in all manner of shouting and threatening and shaking by the shoulders.

Then one day I realized something. If you need to make someone do something in that very moment…then you’ve already lost. I realized that the campaign for someone’s loyalty is won out long before the moment of need. It has to be sown long in advance.

So if you haven’t already put in that time beforehand, you don’t stand a chance. Then you will be tempted to force them to comply through fear and anger, which might get you what you want in the moment, but will make them resent you even more, and they will be all the less willing to comply next time.

I’m glad to say that after realizing this I started to treat my siblings differently. I stopped trying to make them respect me, and instead got them to know that I liked them. I played with them, I made things for them, I taught them how to ride the bike. I learned how to be nice with no strings attached. I won their hearts at quiet times when I didn’t need a single thing from them.

And then, when I was the emissary for Mom and Dad, and I told them we had been commissioned to do some chore and needed to work together, they happily agreed.

Influence and Persuasion- Matthew 20:26-27, Doctrine and Covenants: 121:46

But it shall not be so among you: but whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister;
And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant:

The Holy Ghost shall be thy constant companion, and thy scepter an unchanging scepter of righteousness and truth; and thy dominion shall be an everlasting dominion, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee forever and ever.


Whosoever will be great among you, let him be your minister; And whosoever will be chief among you, let him be your servant
Yesterday I examined some verses that spelled out the divinely approved method for obtaining influence over others. And they were full of words like persuasion, gentleness, meekness, love unfeigned, and kindness. Which honestly sounds like a great deal of work! In fact it doesn’t sound like the work of a leader at all, but that of a servant.
And as it turns out, this is exactly the same methodology that Jesus taught to his disciples. It seems a paradox, but his process for gaining power over others was to just serve them. He assaults us with love until at last he wins our hearts.

Thy dominion shall be everlasting, and without compulsory means it shall flow unto thee
And going back to those verses from yesterday, after they conclude detailing the service we ought to employ as our means of influence, they then provide a promise. We are told that our dominion will just flow unto us. After we have sown love, loyalty will flow back to us of its own accord. It will come without “compulsory” means.
Maintaining power is the exact opposite for tyrants that rule by intimidation and force. Nothing flows to such leaders, they must go out and hunt for every ounce of control they have. They must domineer every servant at all times, and if ever they slack off then their power is gone.
Virtuous leaders invest themselves in their people. They plant their own goodwill, and reap the loyalty that naturally grows from that seed. There is no domineering and no forcing, just service flowing out and then flowing back in, pulsating, like the rhythms of a heart.

Influence and Persuasion- Doctrine and Covenants: 121:39, 41-42

We have learned by sad experience that it is the nature and disposition of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, as they suppose, they will immediately begin to exercise unrighteous dominion.
No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood, only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned;
By kindness, and pure knowledge, which shall greatly enlarge the soul without hypocrisy, and without guile


It is the nature of almost all men, as soon as they get a little authority, to exercise unrighteous dominion
It has been said that one of the best ways to really know a person is to see how they treat their inferiors. When they are in a position of power (whether it be a boss over their employees, a parent over their children, or a pet-owner over their pets) how do they behave towards them?
I was the middle child growing up, and there was definitely a difference between how I interacted with my older siblings and how I treated my younger ones. I felt subservient to my older siblings, and I would try to please them so that they would include me in their games. Meanwhile I felt superior to my younger siblings, and to them I’m afraid I felt the same tendency described in this verse: “to exercise unrighteous dominion.”

No power or influence can or ought to be maintained by virtue of the priesthood
Primarily this dominion took the form of “you should do what I say because I have authority.” Not priesthood authority in this particular case, just an “I’m older” authority. I felt that I was entitled to their obedience because I was bigger than they, and I was not okay if they challenged that belief.

Only by persuasion, by long-suffering, by gentleness and meekness, and by love unfeigned, by kindness, and pure knowledge
Of course my younger siblings did not care for this arrangement. And who could blame them? I didn’t want to be lorded over by my older siblings in that way, and neither did they didn’t want to be lorded over by me.
We all wanted older siblings who earned our respect. Siblings who didn’t take our obedience for granted, but who put in the time to care about us, help us, and play with us. When an older sibling did that, then they could ask a favor and easily receive.

Evolving Your Beliefs- John 8:39-40, 52-53

They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father. Jesus saith unto them, If ye were Abraham’s children, ye would do the works of Abraham.
But now ye seek to kill me, a man that hath told you the truth, which I have heard of God: this did not Abraham.
Then said the Jews unto him, Now we know that thou hast a devil. Abraham is dead, and the prophets; and thou sayest, If a man keep my saying, he shall never taste of death.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham, which is dead? and the prophets are dead: whom makest thou thyself?


They answered and said unto him, Abraham is our father.
Art thou greater than our father Abraham?

A major point of contention between Jesus and the disbelievers was that they perceived his teachings as an attack on their patriarchs. Here they are making an appeal to authority, claiming that their doctrine is derived directly from Abraham. Jesus frankly refutes that claim.
Their position, though, is one that I believe many of us can directly relate to. We often bristle when someone suggests that some of our conceptions of God and morality are amiss, even when the person making that suggestion is God, Himself! One reason is because that accusation feels like a slight against the place where we received our teaching: our childhood home. “Art thou greater than our father?!”
Sometimes God is going to say things that we don’t like. And it might be “your parents were wrong, so stop holding onto their old beliefs.” Even if He’s only saying they were wrong in part, that still stings us.
Or, it might be the exact opposite. He might be saying to you “your parents were right all along, so stop trying to be smarter than them.” Even if He’s only saying that they were right in part, it still stings us.
In the end, people tend to feel very passionately about their family of origin. They either love them or they hate them, they are proud of them or they are proud of having grown past them. In either case they struggle to accept that some parts of that home could be good, and other parts not so much. Sooner or later, though, God is going to come disrupt our personal pride, and coax us toward a higher truth.