Keep power in check

Abraham Lincoln is credited with saying, “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.”

I’m afraid of power; it may be why I’ve never been entrusted with it. I’m afraid of how I might wield it because I’ve had a very small taste of it in the past and I’ve felt how it can change me. There’s another word that is interchangeable with the word ‘power’ and that is ‘influence’. Your influence on people can easily change a persons actions, change their perception of you or how they view the world. Great men and women have influenced people to do and think positive things while others have used that influence for their own personal gain, to corrupt, defile and debase.

Often we give power to others, allow others to influence us because of affluence, intelligence, charisma, a physical presence. We forfeit our claim to influence and power to others when we feel a sense of inadequacy perhaps even shame. And there are those who would forcefully impose their will upon our rights, capitalize on our submissiveness and encroach upon our modesty.

Everyone has an agenda and yet there are a choice few who give me hope. People who do things without selfish desires, who act with kindness, reverence, decency and integrity. I fear sometimes that I may not fall in that category and I would readily agree with you if you feel that I do crave power.

People often mistake my reserved, restrained manner with melancholy or arrogance. In a room full of people I’m the guy sitting in the corner watching, observing. They mistake that for harsh judgement, criticizing and condescension on my part.

To be fair, I don’t blame people for thinking those things about me because I’ve thought the same of others. I’ve mistaken the intentions of others, wondering if their objectives are honest and honorable. After all, everyone wants power, right? Who doesn’t want power whether that power is good or immoral?

French mathematician and philosopher Blaise Pascal said of power, “Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”

How often have my desire for power been just and how just have I been when wielding power? Sadly, not very often. In my associations with my wife and my sons am I practicing unrighteous dominion over them? I sure hope not because I’ll have to answer to a Higher Power in that regard.

In my professional relationships, when I’ m volunteering my time to help others, when dealing with relatives, friends and strangers, do I practice humility, patience and gentleness or am I cold, intolerant and unbending?

If God is just he will deny me power and influence over others and I believe He will because He knows me better than I know myself. And if He is good and I know He is, He will give me the power to master my thoughts, control my desires, harness my tongue and use my talents to serve others. That may be the only way that I can justifiably influence others.

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