Photo from Myers Elementary School
This past week, I have been thinking a lot about the issue of power or authority. Everywhere you look there are people who have power and authority – the power to make decisions, the power to direct people, the power to open up opportunities and the power to shut things down.
In many ways, power is similar to a fire. Fire is a useful and beneficial thing if it is used and stewarded correctly. But it can be a dangerous thing if it is used inappropriately or abusively.
I have been a believer that we will all exert some level of power or authority in our lifetime. This does not mean that we will all be politicians or CEO’s of companies, but we will be placed in various situations where we will have to use authority.
What most people forget is that power is something that is to be stewarded. But things get pretty ugly, very quickly if that power is not stewarded well or if the power is in the hands of people who have issues.
But Seth, don’t we all have issues?
But there are particular issues or character traits that are more conducive for a person to abuse their power.
Let me list some (not exhaustive):
1) People who are insecure.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines, “insecure” as, “lacking self-confidence; plagued by anxiety.” People who are insecure are constantly driven by their fears and worries. This causes them to over-compensate for their lack of certainty. If they are given power, then they will abuse it in order to maintain control.
2) People who are proud. Pride is the cousin of insecurity or shall I say they are partners in crime. So much of our insecurities are fueled by our pride and our pride keeps us insecure. When people who are proud are given power, they will use it to feed their ego, and if there is anything that gets in the way, it will be eliminated. It is easy to eliminate things (people) when you have power. Disrespect is the trigger to detonate the nukes of a proud person. Try it and see the carnage.
3) People who are bitter. It is amazing how our past issues with people and relationships that did not go well affect how we deal with things in the present. When bitter people are given authority, they will always respond out of their hurts and pain. It is not pleasant being on the receiving end from people who fail to see how their past really does dictate their future.
4) People who are self-centered. It is interesting that in Greek mythology Narcissus died from falling in love with his own reflection in a pool. He could not depart from the beauty of the reflection. The sad part of the story is that he didn’t realize that it was a reflection of his own image. With self-centered people and power, the scary part is that everything is all about them. Therefore, authority will never be stewarded in order to help people or advance a cause outside of their little world. Anything that will allow them to get ahead, be lifted up on the pedestal, receive the glory, and advance their selfish ambition will influence how they will wield their power.
5) People who are control-freaks. In many ways, being a control-freak is more of a symptomatic behavior of all the above traits. Have you seen a control-freak lose control? It is as if the whole world is crumbling right before their eyes. The natural tendency is to grab on to things tighter in order to bring back the sense of order. This is why when people or situations disrupt order to the control-freak’s own world, it instigates the abuse of power.
For each of the above traits mention, there is a trigger that will cause power or authority to be used inappropriately or abusively. For the insecure person, it is doubt. For the proud person, it is disrespect. For the bitter person, it is distrust. For the self-centered person, it is dismissal. For the control-freak, it is disruption.
The antithesis to people with the above traits is Jesus Christ. Jesus had all the power and authority to use according to His pleasure, but He did what was so unnatural to us. In the word of Apostle Paul, we are exhorted to:
“Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what. Not at all. When the time came, he set aside the privileges of deity and took on the status of a slave, became human! Having become human, he stayed human. It was an incredibly humbling process. He didn’t claim special privileges. Instead, he lived a selfless, obedient life and then died a selfless, obedient death – and the worst kind of death at that – a crucifixion.
Because of that obedience, God lifted him high and honored him far beyond anyone or anything, ever, so that all created beings in heaven and on earth – even those long ago dead and buried – will bow in worship before this Jesus Christ, and call out in praise that he is the Master of all, to the glorious honor of God the Father.” (Php 2:6-11)
When people, who have power and authority are more like Christ, then we see what it can do to bless people and bring transformation, even to a nation.