I am always curious about the types of missions people are on during their life-times… the purpose of their being here and what they agreed to learn during this time. One lesson has caught my eye; that of ‘power’ and here, I define power as authority, influence, rule and control.
We have all heard the expression ‘power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely’ (Lord Acton) and have seen countless examples of this throughout history… Napoleon, Stalin, Hitler, Henry VIII, Castro and even our own John Kerr the Governor General in 1975. Political power is easy to understand for politics, power and corruption have become one and the same. George Bernard Shaw’s response, however: ‘power does not corrupt men; fools, however, if they get into a position of power, corrupt power’ paves the way for even greater understanding.
Like Shaw, Plato said that ‘the measure of a man is what he does with power’ and if we look to those in positions of power, how might we measure these beings? Is it not interesting that those who have agreed to learn how to use power by and large are unable to find balance because their focus is not on mastering themselves, but on mastering others?
History and the political arena are filled with fools but what of Mr and Mrs Average who hold positions of power within schools, companies, families and indeed all walks of life? What do we make of their contributions? Rightly or wrongly, we are all judged by our actions. If one chooses to use their position to exert any influence and control over others in negative ways, and sees no harm in their manipulation, then they have corrupted their power. One can only learn something from anything if one is willing to do so, and change within action bears witness to this – just as Plato described.
Where does one’s perceived right to treat others in any manner they wish come from, and why is it so common for people to want to exert control over others? This is the one constant element isn’t it, asserting themselves as being more important than any others. Is this their motivation then? Do those who hold power do so to dominate and prove that they are better than anyone else? In the animal kingdom, asserting dominance is a survival instinct that ensures the longevity of the species but is done so with balance, for balance. Nothing in nature is out of sync or purpose with each other, only interference creates this. The only threat humanity has is from itself. Is it possible then, for humans to hold power and maintain balance?
What are those who need to understand themselves through lessons of power not learning? You and I are included amongst this discussion too for we are also accountable for exerting our will and might over others any time we argue with someone. We have all been both the receiver and the giver of power. I believe these beings have not yet understood themselves or the purpose of sharing their lives with others. Ultimately, I believe our goal (regardless of the lesson) is to master the self… to understand who we are and what it is to love. Therefore, I believe attaining and using wisdom is the key to our existence. Ralph Waldo Emerson suggested that ‘before we acquire great power, we must acquire wisdom to use it well.’ I believe he is right.
Therefore, question the intent behind people yielding power towards you. Indeed, question yourself also. Consider if someone (including you) is acting in the best interests of everyone and whether or not their contribution is a positive one. Self interest, delusions of grandeur, a need to control, it’s my way or the highway, all of it is far removed from compassion, wisdom, love and the ability to serve humanity.
There is great choice in power. One can become a dictator as easily as one becomes a great leader. One can be feared or, an inspiration. There is no middle ground with power. Rather than equality, communicating effectively and seeing visions implemented, we are told what to do and pointed at a lot. Misused power is filled with ‘ought’, ‘must’ and ‘you will’ and followed up with ‘because I said so’ and ‘how dare you question me.’
Yes, all power and our ability to handle it, is a choice and a means to self awareness. If we allow our ego to control us, corruption is inevitable.