Actions can inspire, pull down others
Several years ago, while leading a Bible study in a county jail, the inmates were discussing what they believed was unfair treatment by the guards. They felt the guards expected the inmates to adhere strictly to the rules that they, as guards, were lax in following. One inmate offered a solution to the problem — they could simply stop following the rules. As his fellow inmates pondered this idea, I asked the man how his philosophy had been working for him so far, since obviously his unwillingness to follow the rules had landed him in jail in the first place. He agreed his idea was not good.
Besides the stupidity of the idea, what struck me was how quickly the perceived failure of one can translate to the downfall of another. Because the inmates felt the guards were hypocritical, the inmates were tempted to become disobedient.
An inmate growling about a guard is as common as the sun rising in the east, but this lesson should be a caution to us all. As people observe us every day, they form opinions regarding our character. These determinations have an influence on how they live. If our actions align with our profession we can inspire people to a higher level, but if we contradict our profession, we provide justification for their decline.
Who are the people observing your life? Are they watching an example or a contradiction? Are you providing an inspiration to go higher, or the justification to retreat to a lower standard?