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Power 03“You let people walk all over you.”  A friend recounted how an advice-giver told him to “get a spine.”  Seemed like good advice.  Being everyone’s doormat is not a good thing.

Although…  Power is funny because it doesn’t always give what it promises to its possessor.  

Power is good when a solitary individual powerfully takes on a large company that pollutes local water or mistreats its employees.

At other times it can be a curse such as when the same company powerfully uses its money to continue unfair business practices, pollute with impunity, or sue its detractors.

Power is toxic when it is used as a drug to compensate for feelings of inadequacy like when a chauvinist loser bosses around his employees or makes unreasonable demands on their work day.  Sometimes this power is used for sexual conquests or personal aggrandizement.

Power is hard to control and often explodes like a nuclear reaction gone rogue.  We’ve seen news reports about business, political, or religious leaders who use their position in ever-increasing acts of selfishness like a Bernie Madoff or Robert Tilton.

Power is sometimes associated with success.  In other words, if you have a lot of power you supposedly have done something right.  We look up to powerful people and sometimes even regard them as role models  in spite of the fact that their lives are often socially or morally bankrupt or both.

The mother of James and John, disciples of Jesus, misunderstood power.  Mistaken about what Jesus was teaching, she asked for her two boys to be able to sit at the right and left hand of Jesus in his kingdom.  She thought that these would be the second and third most powerful positions in Jesus’ kingdom.

Jesus response was simply, “you don’t know what you’re asking for.”  Clearly, his view of power was 180 degrees from that of James and John’s mother.  In other places Jesus blessed those who voluntarily gave up their power (meekness), who loved their enemies, and who gave away more than asked.  It was counter-intuitive advice.

My friend could probably afford to “get a spine” in the sense of getting more self-confidence but not by becoming overbearing or selfish in the way he uses it.  Power is like nitroglycerin; in small amounts it can be medicinal and helpful.  In large doses it can blow things up.

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