Note: With the ugliness of the current U.S. election cycle reaching its peak, and so much fighting for and talking about power, in the political and economic realms as well as the personal realm, I felt it would be a good time to share a bit about what I’ve learned, and believe, about power. What follows is adapted from something I wrote in a venting, unsent letter last December in reference to an entirely different situation, but the heart of it is as applicable now as when I wrote the original piece, and broader in scope than I knew then.
Let me tell you a bit about what I’ve learned about true power.
What really gives you the power to change people, to change circumstances, and to change the world, is to care about your fellow living beings. Money, fear, blackmail, political clout, and such, the things that feed and drive the dominant cultural perception of power, only extend so far. Extension of goodwill toward others, however, can surpass most if not all limits when applied over time. Make space for the most closed-off person you have ever met to be themselves, and they will begin to open up. (I’ve seen that happen from the inside, having been one of those closed-off people, and I’ve also seen it from the other side of the equation, having been the person holding the space for someone else.) Caring about your fellow living beings above material trappings engenders respect, which, with most, carries more weight than any currency or method of coercion. Listening more than you talk, with a tiny pinch of patience and focused observation, yields more information, and more reliable information, than any interrogation. Love–agape (unconditional, spiritual love), fraternos (literally “brotherly love”, but extending to friendship), and/or eros (erotic or romantic love)—along with acceptance, forgiveness, trust, and support are superior to bank-issued currency, to policy, to employment, to party loyalty, to everything, really, because these forms of love are the things people spend their whole lives looking for, above and beyond any material trappings, even if they don’t know it. Fill that void, and you will find people will be capable of great things.
As for power over your own life and self, that comes from admitting your mistakes, accepting your past, liberally applying forgiveness, accepting and working with what makes you different, taking responsibility for your actions and inaction as well as accepting the consequences thereof, and the hard work of letting go of all that no longer serves you (including your deepest fears and insecurities) and staying tethered to the moment while making do-able plans with actionable steps. (I fully acknowledge that those things are a lot harder to live than to list. I still find it difficult to live that list.)
By changing the way power is viewed and wielded in the microcosm—in each our lives and situations we each experience on a day-to-day basis—I wholeheartedly believe the power dynamics of the macrocosm—the world at large, the world of business, politics, and policy—begins to gradually shift as well.
I dream of and hope for a more peaceful, kinder world for those that come after me and my generation. So how about we try to shift from threatening, fearful shadow power to heart-centered power motivated by our highest and brightest selves and put into practice by connection rather than division?