Don’t befriend angry people or associate with hot-tempered people, or you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul. ~ Proverbs 22:24-25 (NLT)
Some of my friends have picked up on one of my quirks. It doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, it can be quite funny. I develop an accent and/or mannerism when I am around people from a different culture. For example, if I’m in the Southern U.S., I can tend to pick up a southern draw when I speak. Words like “Y’all” tend to come out of my mouth fairly regularly. If I’m around people whose primary language is not English, I can begin to pick up their accent as well. (Think of someone from a Spanish speaking country who also speaks some English, but with an accent. Yeah. I pick that up.) Or, if I’m around someone from a more urban culture (think more inner-city), suddenly I find myself speaking in a way that is reflective of that culture. Basically, I am a culture-sponge. I soak up what’s around me then partially adopt it.
I think part of the reason I do this may be as a way to feel more connected to the person. For example, when you are in a foreign country, but find someone else who speaks your language, or is from your country, you tend to hang out with them. It feels more normal. Since I’m an extrovert, my brain must think (all of this is on a subconscious level, of course) that if I adopt pieces of their culture and language, I can make them feel more at ease. At least, I hope that’s what my brain is thinking.
Unfortunately, we are all like sponges, and that’s not always a good thing. No, maybe you don’t pick up accents, but we do pick up attitudes. When we hang out with people who are cheerful, we tend to also be more cheerful. When we hang out with people who are constantly negative, we too become negative. And, as King Solomon put it, when we hang out with people who are constantly angry, “you will learn to be like them and endanger your soul.” In other words, the people we choose to hang out with deeply affect who we become.
Let’s take this a step further: Your behavior towards others shapes their behavior. Don’t want this world to be so negative? Stop being negative and stop hanging out with those who insist on being negative. Want to live a life full of peace? Stop hanging out with people who are always angry about everything. In short, find friends who encourage rather than tear down.