How To Change People!


February, 2000

Dear Ministry Friends,

I had three different roommates when I was in college twenty-something years ago, and one of them brought a book back to our apartment titled, How to Influence People Through Fear and Intimidation. It was all about how to be mean and hateful to people. The theory was that if a boss could make his employees afraid of physical harm and emotional rejection, then the boss could control the behavior of the employees.

This was a very short-sighted book, full of the "wisdom" of Satan and not the wisdom of God. While it is true that people will sometimes obey a person out of fear for a little while, they will usually be looking for another place to work, or looking for a chance to retaliate emotionally or physically. We have all heard of work-place shootings. And I personally knew a department store manager who was very manipulative through rejection that was hospitalized not long ago after being beaten with a baseball bat in his store by the custodian.

When people sow rejection of others, they eventually reap rejection in some way. Anyone who tries to change people in ways outside of the principles of scripture is in for unpleasant consequences in some way.

So how can we influence and change other people around us using a scriptural method that we won't regret? The clue to the answer is: how did God change us? We were once self-willed, disobedient, and spiritually lost. Romans 5:8 says, "God demonstrated His love towards us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us." And 1st John 4:19 says, "We love Him because He first loved us." We changed — got saved and began obeying God — because He loved us. His demonstration of love caused us to make the biggest change of our lives.

This power of love is used very little by many believers. They are often ignorant of how people respond to real love. If a person only knows one human being that truly cares for him or her, it is often enough to encourage and influence that person's life powerfully in the right direction.

One reason that real, God-like love is not practiced much is because it is not understood. The best explanation of it is in 1st Corinthians 13:4-8 (AMP). "Love endures long and is patient and kind; love never is envious nor boils over with jealousy; is not boastful or vainglorious, does not display itself haughtily. It is not conceited — arrogant and inflated with pride; it is not rude (unmannerly), and does not act unbecomingly. Love [God's love in us] does not insist on its own rights or its own way, for it is not self-seeking; it is not touchy or fretful or resentful; it takes no account of the evil done to it — pays no attention to a suffered wrong. It does not rejoice at injustice and unrighteousness, but rejoices when right and truth prevail. Love bears up under anything and everything that comes, is ever ready to believe the best of every person, its hopes are fadeless under all circumstances and it endures everything [without weakening]. Love never fails."

Many ministers recommend substituting your own name in place of the word "love" and "it" in that passage and reading it out loud to see how well it fits. How well does that describe your life or mine? Frankly, I know I have much room for improvement. However, I know that the more our lives line up with God's definition of love, the more influence you and I will have to permanently change people for the better.

How do I know we will have more influence? Just look at the life of Jesus. He loved us so much He died for us — and therefore He has changed the people of every continent, and He has even altered how we measure time! Millions of people have even willingly died for Him.

As a contrast, consider those who have tried to influence people through fear and intimidation. For example, Adolph Hitler tried to rule through strong-arm tactics — and literally millions of people set out to kill him! What an opposite outcome.

Love takes longer to "work" and so some people give up on it and revert back to trying to force others to change. However, if we genuinely care for people, it will be a powerful influence in their lives — whether to get them saved, quit a sin, or just be a better person.

Another key to seeing love be a positive influence in people's lives is to know what they interpret as love. For example, what if you ordered your favorite meal at a restaurant for someone else to eat — they might not like it! There are many ways to communicate love, and the expression of love we prefer may not be another person's preference. There are a couple of authors named Swihart and Chapman who have written on these different "languages" of love. The five types of love are:

1) encouraging words,

2) acts of service,

3) gift giving,

4) quality time, and

5) physical touch and closeness.

Each person has his or her own preferences based on many factors.

A minister came to me one time and said his teenager was rebelling. He was asking for prayer. The Lord clearly gave me a word of knowledge and a word of wisdom about the situation. The Lord said his son was rebelling because the minister never spent any time with the son. The Lord impressed me that the boy liked cars. God told me (you may not believe this) to tell him to take his son to places he liked, for example the local drag races. (It's not a sin to go to the local car races!) When I told the minister that, he looked like I had hit him with a baseball bat. Then, he got embarrassed and convicted, didn't want to talk about it, and walked away! The minister was clearly not showing love to his son in a way the boy appreciated (if he was showing love at all in any way).

The Bible says in 1st John 3:18, "My little children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth." This means we should not just tell people we love them, but actually demonstrate it! I once said that God was from Missouri (the "show me" state) because you have to show God your obedience. You can't just "talk a good talk" to impress God, you have to "walk a good walk." And 1st John 4:8 says it even stronger, "He who does not love does not know God, for God is love." People want to see love demonstrated, not just hear empty rhetoric.

One reason people don't listen to us more is because they haven't seen enough love in us. There is an old saying that people don't care how much you know, until they know how much you care! Sure, love has to be tough sometimes. But we can still be loving even when being firm.

Everyone wants to be genuinely loved. We were made that way. And if we genuinely love people, they will usually respond to us.

That brings up another very important issue that must be mentioned. Some people are so lazy, selfish, deceived, or demonized that they will let you do all you want for them — and they just soak it up like a sponge wanting more. The key to changing them is spiritual warfare. Spiritual strongholds must be broken over their lives before they will change. But you still need to be walking in love toward them. 1st Cor 16:14 says, "Let all that you do be done with love." And Ephesians 5:2 says, "Walk in love, as Christ also has loved us and given Himself for us."

Spiritual warfare would take a whole 'nother newsletter to try to cover all the pertinent issues, but let me say prayer can change things. In fact, Jesus said that problems that had been there ever since childhood only went out through "prayer and fasting" (Mark 9:29). There are many other tools and techniques of spiritual warfare — so much that I have two different 10 tape sets on the topic. But love is the ingredient that we have to practice all day, every day, the rest of our lives. So we really need to focus on it. Let's pray for each other to love like God does.

Growing in love,

Dale Leander

P.S. — I have recently been teaching on marriage and family on the radio. The challenges of this new millennium remind us it is a time to focus on having solid marriages and relationships. The issues of love — and prayer — are important ingredients to achieve the goal.


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