Posts Tagged ‘Power’

What is true power?

Friday, June 27th, 2014

I remember in my public school teaching days running across students in various locations.  It was always startling in a way to be seen outside of the high school’s “habitat.”  Odd no doubt for the student as well.  Seeing a teacher in civilian garb, one person noted, was as odd as seeing a dog walking on its hind legs.

Maybe part of it was being separated from the normal structures of power, or what I supposed to be “power.”

I think power though is far different now than the formal structures that sanctioned my ability to discipline students within the confines of the high school’s walls.  Power, simply put, is more subtle and more profound than the ability to give a student a detention.

Emanuel Swedenborg captured it in these words.  “Spiritual power is to desire the well–being of another, and to desire to give to another as far as possible what is within you.”

That is big.  That is universal.  That is humanity.

A friend on finishing up cooking at a Franciscan Homeless Shelter felt that power. “At the end of the dinner I thought WOW they will do this all again tomorrow and every single day…. 365 days a year. An amazing place!!!”  That is spiritual power worthy of celebration.

Power and Love

Tuesday, May 21st, 2013

It is so easy to confuse power with love.  Fr. Richard Rohr points to the core challenge and the new paradigm God calls us to …

Any exercise of power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but any claim to love that does not lead to using that as power for others is mere sentimentality and emotion. I must admit, it is rare to find people who hold both together in perfect balance—who have found their power and use it for others, or people who have found love and use it for good purposes. I think the Reign of God includes both love and power in a lovely dance. I think that is what Jesus means when he tells us to be “cunning as serpents but gentle as doves” (Matthew 10:16). It is a beautiful combination of both authority and vulnerability.

A loving person then is not as focused on power as they are on empowerment.  There lies a key.  And it is an emancipatory key that takes one out of the crass business of being a gate-keeper.  It moves towards opening doors, not closing them.  Power and love grow then as we give them away.

Relationships of Power, Relationships of Love

Thursday, September 23rd, 2010

Clear from the New Church, that the Chrisitian perpective is about moving to a loving place – big stuff given that it redefines traditional Christianity around an expanded view of “salvation.”   Emanuel Swedenborg wrote of this fact, “People in whom the life of love and charity dwells have the Lord‘s life within them. Nobody can be joined to Him by any other way.”  Love and useful service is simply how we connect to God.

That loving place however is arrived out via an often rather arduous road.

This is where “power” comes in.  We often involve ourselves in “power” relationships, figuring out ways in which we can either be powerful or associate ourselves closely with those who possess power.  That does appear to be part of human growth – for better or worse – a natural proclivity, a natural attraction to what judge as power.

And at some point, after gaining power, we must freely give it away.  Into that breach, love arrives.  As one good friend noted, this is not about an un-boundaried “Free to be you and me” type of love.  It is actually a love that knows and understands power AND gains its power from having given it away.  To quote Richard Rohr …

“Power apart from love leads to brutality and evil; but love that does not engage with power—and become a whole new kind of power—is mere sentimentality.  It often becomes a destructive kind of powerlessness.  True love is not naïve, but is a conscious and intelligent gift of the self.”

This again, pulls us right back to Easter and the power of the temptations faced by Jesus on the Cross, over what we now call Easter.  Many Christians view the Cross as the symbol of salvation.  Maybe there is even more space to view it as empowered love.