Every week I head to the Pilates studio around the corner from my house for class. Since I've been doing this for so long, I typically see the same women and the same instructors each time. Many of us have become casual acquaintances who make polite conversation before, after and (when we need a distraction from contorting our bodies) during class.
Trish winds up in practically every class I take. Even when I switch things up and take classes outside of my normal routine she's usually there. How do I know this? Trish is hard to miss. She complains loudly about everything — the music, the routine, and the temperature of the room. Some days her running commentary is entertaining. Other times it's irritating because it detracts from the peaceful environment the studio tries to provide.
This morning, though, I found Trish's tendency to complain inviting. I didn't realize it at first, but as the instructor pushed us through a difficult hour of cardio, I found myself tired, sore, sweaty and thirsty before class was even half over. When Trish started to complain, without even thinking about it, I joined her.
As soon as the first negative comment flew out of my mouth the instructor quickly jerked her head and looked at me in surprise.
"What was that?"
When I repeated myself she looked at Trish and said, "I wish we could put you in a bubble so people could close their eyes and tune you out." Trish's influence on me was so obvious that everyone could see it. I felt embarrassed as I left class.
But there was a lesson in it for me. It reminded me that the people we choose to associate with are constantly influencing us whether we realize it or not. For months I had listened to Trish banter, thinking nothing of it. But she was still influencing me. And she was right there to spur me on when I finally joined her in her negativity and complaining.
1 Corinthians 15:33 says, "Do not be misled: 'Bad company corrupts good character.'"
The first four words of that verse are often overlooked but they are vitally important. Do not be misled...That means it's easy for us to downplay some of the negative influences in our lives. We can justify certain relationships or behaviors and brush them off like they are nothing when, really...they are a big deal.
Have you been misled recently in some of your relationships? Are you being negatively influenced without realizing it? Do you have a friend you need to distance yourself from?
Too often I've seen friends walk away from their convictions, their true friends and even their faith because they were misled. In college, one night out dancing with friends quickly led my friend Courtney to a hard partying lifestyle that ended up in the bedroom of a guy she hardly knew. A few years ago, my friend Kim's addiction to a certain TV show weakened her resolve and led her to have an affair.
While complaining in a Pilates class is a much lesser evil than what some of my friends have experienced, it showed me I'm still susceptible to being influenced by those around me. My attitude in class today could quickly impact my unbelieving instructor's perception of me as a Christian. And it could also lead me to a negative outlook on life long after the end of my workout.
While Trish is a nice person, I'm going to make a point to position myself as far from her as possible in my next Pilates class. Sometimes the choice is really simple — we either distance ourselves from negative influences or we distance ourselves from God.
"Do not make friends with a hot-tempered person, do not associate with one easily angered, or you may learn their ways and get yourself ensnared." — Proverbs 22:24-25
"No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it." — 1 Corinthians 10:13
Shannon Primicerio is an author and speaker who loves Jesus and ministering to women of all ages. She is currently on a quest to find the perfect pair of workout pants.
© 2011 by Shannon Primcerio. All rights reserved.
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