"Power corrupts; absolute power corrupts absolutely." So goes the only teaching I have ever had on power. So I've left it alone, or thought I did. However, disdaining something and judging it....so not the same as leaving it alone!
And that could be why Power came looking for me this weekend.
Somewhere back in the annals of history someone made the connection between the word 'power' and the word 'manipulation.' This became the origin of my logic, my knowing, of the word power. My thinking went like this: If you were powerful, you were likely to be someone who got things done, at any cost. Power therefore equated to manipulation, the ability to control, force, demand, even change the natural course of a thing. It is the antithesis of everything I stand for.
This weekend someone mentioned that the work I'm doing, the research and the mentorships, "are very powerful." Oh my! I was thrown into the deep end, no lifejacket. We spent an hour discussing power and I emerged with my confidantes' beliefs ringing in my ear: "Everything we do, say, or think, must always be viewed at the very least as a ploy for more power. To deny this, is to be dangerous to ourself and others."
I've spent the better part of my life, denying power its due. Rejecting it, resisting its presence, I see now how I forfeited many opportunities to express myself effectively, to listen actively, and to show up. With new appreciation, I accept that Power IS the ability to manipulate AND it can both force an outcome and/or illuminate one.
With integrity, wisdom, and humility, we can step into our personal power, be impeccable with our words and actions, and illuminate and expand possibilities. It is when we aren't in right relationship - when we lack respect for all things and deny service to a common good - that we fall prey to the dark side: control.
The Native People have a saying, "How do you corrupt a righteous man? Give him one follower." In many tribes there is no word in the language for leader; each is a leader, by the fact of their existence, by original design. And that is the genesis of a deep sincere compliment expressed this way, "She is a leader without followers."
Now, today, when we are demanding accountability from our institutions, our governments, and our communities, take a moment to look to your own right use of power, to the moments when you sought first to clarify and illuminate, and, to those moments when you were impatient, 'certain' of the 'right' outcome, and determined to get it.
Notice the difference. Be a leader without followers.
Choose to illuminate.