Women Of Influence

25 05 2011

Reading the Bible this morning, this line in Acts made me think: “The Jewish leaders stirred up both the influential religious women and the leaders of the city, and they incited a mob…” (Acts 13:50). Isn’t it interesting that the Jewish leaders chose influential religious women and city leaders as their means to incite a mob? This made me think…

I really get excited about how God made women and entrusted them with such incredible gifts and responsibilities. I really love this about men too, in case you are wondering; I am not one- sided in thinking people are the astounding result of an astonishingly creative God. The genius of God is seen in the two of us (men and women) and how God made us both equal and unique.

But back to women, being one and having two daughters, I have a passion that runs pretty deep to see us and our kind, everywhere, be all that God has called us to be; without any human-made limits. As I think about what that means, and even the implications of this passage of Scripture, I realize what we have to work with.

Why did the leaders go to these women to try to accomplish an evil agenda? I think they knew what men have always known, so concisely put in My Big Fat Greek Wedding: a woman is the neck that turns the head. In my journal I jotted down a short list of what women are generally good at. I am not saying this is true of every women, in equal amounts, but here is what I have observed about “our kind”:

  • Women have a desire to be connected to others and are good at creating connections; add a leadership gift to the mix and you end up with what this Scripture passage describes: women who are well connected and influential. You have met women like this. They have charisma. They know how to gather people and foster relationships.
  • Women know how to win people over. Perhaps because women haven’t typically had the privilege of power, women have become adept at campaigning and, out of necessity, understand the potential of good timing. Think of Esther in the Bible who needed to win over the King; she knew how to set the stage for a favorable outcome.
  • Women know how to read a room. Generally, a woman is emotionally wired to pick up on the subtle clues of body language. She has an ear and a sense for what is under and around what appears to be just a normal conversation. She reads expression and tone of voice and it makes her feel something and affects how she will respond. All of this becomes part of what motivates her to action: what she has sensed. This skill is part of what helps her navigate through life: understanding the layers of communication.
  • A woman will find a way. This is another skill women have developed out of necessity. Women are often very good at improvising and finding creative means to get done what needs to get done. More women than not have a survival instinct that has allowed them to pick up and start over, find holes in imposed boundaries, keep kids on track against all odds, and bandage their own wounds.
  • A woman and a cause she believes in is a force to be reckoned with. Need I say more?

I know I have only named five great things about women but before I get too ra-ra about how awesome we can be, I must admit that these five things are powerful when under the right motivation, and most dangerous when they are not. Let me give you the shadow side:

  • It’s true: Women have a desire to be connected to others and are good at creating connections; there are many women who are well connected and influential and can they ever sway a big audience if they want to. If a woman is viewed by other men and women as being beautiful, charismatic, smart, charming, and popular, don’t underestimate what she can accomplish with so little as the rolling of her eyes. When you want to be like her, or be with her, you don’t question much of what she says. Finding yourself in her company feels like it is an achievement. It is no wonder the leaders sought out influential women. If they could sell their agenda to her, she could sell the agenda everywhere else. Think Oprah.
  • It’s true: Women know how to win people over. They know how to wait things out and the right time to drop a word or two. They know how to set the stage to come out with the win. The religious leaders knew the women could throw just the right party, invite the right people, “win friends and influence people;” some of the best lobbyists you’ll ever meet.
  • It’s true: Women know how to read a room. The leaders would get great feedback from those influential women about who was “with them” and who was “not” because they would pick that up pretty quickly. Women always know (or think they know) who is with them or against them; as much as we don’t want to, it comes pretty naturally to size people up. Can you imagine how dangerous those women were in their role of stirring up a mob. They would have known whose buttons to push and when.
  • It’s true: A woman will find a way. After one hour, those women would have come up with 10 really good ideas to sway popular opinion, out-of-the-box ideas that the female mind cooks up.
  • It’s true: A woman and a cause she believes in is a force to be reckoned with. If they managed to appeal to a women’s sense of right or wrong; if they connected with her heart’s passion, enough said. Indignation is a powerful motivator. By morning she’d have posters printed, meetings with the right people lined up and a press release ready to go.

But there is something else in this passage that is scary. These were “religious” women. These were women whose hearts were moved spiritually and here again is something both wonderful and nasty. It is a beautiful thing when a woman comes before God with open hands to hear from Him and be moved and motivated by Him. Oh the leadership, courage, faith, generosity and sacrifice that comes from such a submitted heart!

Yet, we can’t deny it, we have done our share of whispering in dark corners, twisting Scripture to satisfy our wants or to soothe our wounded egos. We have quoted verses to suit our needs. We are familiar with the self in self-righteousness, unforgiveness, banding together to force a hand, and judging both sisters and brothers with less than holy hearts.

A “religious” woman’s influence is hard to quantify, but I am sure it is double that of a woman who has no backing.

A little mention in Acts, but what a warning in just a few words. Who am I? I can be devoted and influential in all the wrong ways that look right. One’s influence is serious; a serious thing to consider when we, as women, pray that we will be honorable. If we have such power to sway a mob, we better be leaning in the right direction.

— Teresa Klassen

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