Every day in our life's journey holds its own special treasures, if we have eyes to see...

Saturday, May 5, 2012

On Being Powerful

We have just ended soccer season in our community. For most of us, it was comprised of weeks of watching from the sidelines in all weather, which this year was predominately rain. Or should I say mud! In sun, wind, heat, cold, kids of all ages battle it out on the soccer fields while parents, grandparents, and coaches holler from the sidelines. Most of this is positive and even enjoyable, but I've got to say--when grown men or women begin screaming at the players or the referrees, projecting intimidation and out-of-control emotion, I am both offended and amazed. Seriously? Since when does bad-mouthing your fellow human beings and brow-beating your players make you powerful or turn your team into a winning machine?

And soccer is not the only arena we see this in, though perhaps it is one of the more public. It seems that the universally accepted definition of a powerful person is that the more willing and able we are to overpower other people by our words and actions, the more powerful we are. I'm guessing the assumption is that it's sort of like a stronger nation having the ability to conquer and then control another.

Whoa, whoa, whoa! Soccer teams, nuclear weapons and bullying aside, since when did being willing and able to push others around become synonymous with power?! That is like saying, "I have the ability to control you (usually by inflicting emotional, mental, or physical pain), therefore, I am powerful." How does controlling others make me powerful? What if I don't want to overpower someone? Am I therefore rendered powerless? Can there only be one powerful person in the equation? The deeper we dig, the more problems there are with the common assumptions about power.

I came across this description:

 A powerful person is one who is able to control him or herself. No matter what the provocation. No matter what the circumstances.

I didn't come up with this defnition. In fact, I am challenged by it. I find myself far harder to control than I like to admit. Maybe I don't rant at soccer games or stomp off the field, but can I tell myself what to do and do it?  Can I tell myself to keep my mouth shut when what I really want to do is have the last word? Can I tell myself to forgive an offense and actually let it go, rather than rehearsing it multiple times in a day? Can I choose to do a kindness for someone, when what I really feel like doing is telling them off?

Although I've had decades to practice, doing something with "me" is often still a challenge. I'm thinking this is because I've focused way too often on the wrong end of matters. "What am I going to do with me" is not a question I usually ask myself. Yet I'm realizing that this is where being powerful starts. It's not about how well we can manipulate people or circumstances to make our world all peaceful or exciting or full of purpose. It's about managing our own will, thoughts, and emotions in the face of provocations, obstacles, and opposing soccer teams.

Now that's powerful!

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