Mentioned a multitude of times throughout popular culture, power is seen as something that a person must strive for. It’s the measure of success for many businesses, people and governments, but why?
The basic dictionary definition (as there are many variations) is ‘to act or produce an effect’. It is most often thought of though, as ‘having an effect on the surrounding environment, specifically: people’. When villains and protagonists alike mention it in films and books, they tend to reference the direct effect they have on the relationships around them. Power often is gained through control, and it can be granted by leadership or a specific item, more often than not that item creating fear of the individual using it.
Even the greatest heroes tend to desire an item to receive control over a situation and from that, power. In the novel ‘Lord of the Rings’, the craving for power goes so far as to tear the fellowship apart. In comic books and superhero films, both the hero and villain have abilities or technology allowing them to extend control over the world around them, gaining ‘power’. Much of the time, these story lines follow the path of the characters as they learn to successfully wield their newfound control, but they rarely discuss whether it is right, or even helpful, to have that power in the first place. The reference is found in a multitude of genres, from mafia films to children’s shows. Power, or the lack of it, tends to be the drive for both protagonists and antagonists.
In our reality, power is seen as a required attribute for leaders, but is it needed or even appropriate?
To answer this question, we must dive deeper into why power is desired. The goal, of course, is control. Why? Almost always, it is to deter pain and destruction. The most obvious events that a person would hope to deter would be death and disease. Power is also desired to increase joy and pleasure in one’s life. Does it work though?
Pleasure, when it is boiled down to its basics, comes from relationships. The oft-used quote ‘money is power’ is misleading, as it assumes that money is the fix. Money can be used to increase a person’s chances of gaining intimacy, friendship and enjoyable life-sharing experiences, but when gained this way, the effects are temporary. Pleasure and pure joy is found primarily in those three things though: intimacy, friendship and life-sharing experiences. The adjective ‘life-sharing’ is added here because experiences without the ability to share them are pointless.
Can power provide satisfaction in a person’s life? While it is able to temporarily increase pleasure, control does not offer any long-term solution. When taken to its most extreme, absolute control over our surroundings and future is boring and hollow. It elicits no challenge, and offers nothing in the way of a life-sharing experience. Without the back and forth of a relationship, there is no true relationship. Full control over one’s life is pointless and tedious. Power, in the end, is empty.
What then, should we strive for? If you hope to maximize your joy in life, then relationships are key. Specifically, love relationships determine a person’s life. This includes overwhelmingly powerful friendships, family relationships and religious connections. With respect to Christianity, this boils down to a full, trusting and transparent relationship with Jesus Christ. Nearly everyone is on the same path, to reach these full, trusting and transparent relationships, whether it’s with a family member or spouse or friend, but most are going about it the wrong way.
Even the best of us give in to the desire to control the people around us at one point or another. The greater control that we have over a friend, employee or family member, the less of a two-way relationship there is. With this lack of relationship, any meaningful affect one person has on another is minimized, as all interactions become based on fear and a desire for immediate pleasure. When we step back though, and allow ourselves to let go of that control, we tend to gain trust and eventually a greater influence in a relationship. Interestingly enough, when we give up power, we tend to find it.
Values, A Series: