Not Quite an Original
Today is my 67th birthday. As the old saying goes, “If I knew I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself.” Birthdays are good for you. It’s been proven that those who have the most live the longest.
I’d like to claim that I’m an “original.” But that’s a stretch. And you are not that original either. I’ll explain.
A few weeks ago, I spoke to a men’s group on the topic of influence. My preparation took me in a direction I did not expect. It led me on a journey to ask two questions: Who really am I? And…how did I become “Mark Elfstrand?”
The answers to those questions brought me to the broader realization of the many influences that have shaped my life. The person I am today has knowledge, an emotional and mental makeup, core values, and beliefs that have relied greatly on the input of others. Some of those sources I chose. Others were chosen for me.
For example, I am the product of my two parents—Arthur and Alyce Elfstrand. Their families emigrated from Sweden and Norway. So I’m three fourths Swedish and one fourth Norwegian. I had no say in this DNA history. In fact, my design framework was from a greater source. King David understood this well. In Psalm 139, he wrote, “For you (God) created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb.” Psalm 139:13 (NIV)
My parents contributed a LOT to who I would become. Their influence echoes today. I also have two sisters. They influenced my growing up years. As did extended family, teachers, playmates, and others with whom I came in contact.
But wait! There’s more. I was influenced unsuspectingly by the many sources of media I consumed. All those top 40 songs on the radio made an impact on me. Television shows, too. Plus the plethora of reading material and pictures I consumed.
Without being fully aware, my internal guidance on morality and values took shape. And this brings me to my first enlightened reality. Who I am today is really a composite of a huge number of influences.
My opening seminar presentation on influence began with the premise that each of us is really a composite. As Merriam Webster would define the word, “made up of distinct parts or elements.” That’s a reality to grapple with in those two questions as to who I am and how I became “me.”
The followup premise is also important. Many of those influences in our lives we do not choose. Their input may be based on truth. Or not. They may have hurt us and left us as damaged goods. Or they may be the ticket of hope to drive us forward to a bright future.
Somewhere along the way, you and I have picked up ideas about right and wrong. Hopefully, we’ve been guided to healthy moral choices. We call that character development. My beliefs about morality were and are shaped by 66 books we call the Bible. I can thank my parents and many others for introducing me to the Scriptures.
A few select people were highly influential in my career and spiritual growth. My radio mentor would be Chuck Gratner. Spiritual mentor: Glenn Murray. A few teachers gave significant inspiration as well.
Just as I am not an “original” in the purest sense, I am also not my own. This is a shocking truth for some, although it is a spiritual reality. An abbreviated reading of 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 (NIV) reveals, “You are not your own; you were bought at a price.” Study the larger passage for a deeper understanding.
I will be devoting a few more blogs to this subject of influence. My hope is to give you insight and awareness of how to be a more influential person in life. Others in your world will be grateful for your wisdom even if they don’t always thank you.
Now, back to the birthday cake.
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Let’s Talk with Mark Elfstrand can be heard weekdays from 4-6 PM Central. To listen outside the Chicago area, tune to www.1160hope.com for live streaming or podcasts, or download the AM1160 app.