Power and influence are essential in life. Both can be used either as a force for good or a force for evil. In most cases, power-hungry people use their power for evil, whereas those motivated by righteous ideals use power for justice and service.
Power and influence ignite strong emotions. On occasion, I’ve heard people reject the notion that power is a worthy goal. They basically stand on the sidelines in life, claiming that they “have no need for power” because they are “simple and want to live a quite humble life.” I can understand their sentiment, but it’s flawed. We all know that evil happens when good people do nothing. So, when it comes to power, we all need to consider how we use it and what happens as a result.
There are two types of basic power. The first is what I call high power: merited power used for good. Less often high power is unmerited power (circumstantial) but also used for good. Low power is unmerited power (circumstantial) used for bad purposes. In rare circumstances low power is merited power but used for destructive reasons.
A great example of unmerited low power can be witnessed when people drive their cars. While some folks daydream in the fast lane, others will intentionally go slow because they want to be first in line. They will block others from passing in order to hold power over them. Some people’s need to feel powerful is remarkable. This happens in countless other passive aggressive ways. Someone who is upset with another may intentionally not answer a call or email that requires a reply. His motivation is not because he’s busy but because he likes the feeling of controlling the other person’s timeline.
Low power is destructive because it serves only one purpose: to fuel the ego of the person levying it. Imagine a police officer who has earned his rank, therefore he has merited power. If he witnesses a crime in progress, he helps the victim by whatever just means necessary including force. He exhibits high power, using merited power for good. On the other hand, if he holds a prejudice of any kind towards the victim and allows the crime to take place, he uses his merited power for evil.
It’s easy to identify low power because low power situations usually don’t make sense. This is a person who in all other ways demonstrates responsibility and competence, then suddenly demonstrates irresponsibility and incompetence, backed up by excuses and other strategies to claim innocence. One of those strategies is deniability. People who relish low power use excuses such as, “I didn’t know” or “there was nothing I could do.” Low power users like to confuse their victims, often by pretending to be concerned, all while doing nothing or, even worse, causing the problem themselves. We know that God is good and he’s the giver of clarity not confusion. Satan, on the other hand, is the father of confusion.
Whether or not power is used for good or evil, it’s generally applied the same way. Power itself is neutral. There are many ways we can exercise power, and in most cases, power is synonymous with influence.
We all have access to many tools in the shed of power and influence. Among them are actual authority (by way of rank or status), knowledge, emotional force, threats and negotiation. Not everyone has authority, yet everyone has power and influence. If you choose to learn more than others on any given topic, you will influence them because of your knowledge. This is a good thing, especially when it’s combined with virtue. The result is merited high power.
The challenge with knowledge is that it tempts the ego. Many people inclined to low power make the mistake of trying to influence others on topics or issues that they know nothing about. They posture and lie to influence others. This is always regrettable, not only for the spiritual toll it takes on people but also because of the temporal effect. Once you’re known to be a liar, you will either lose or degrade your power to influence.
Like knowledge, emotional force can be a source of high power, yet it’s unmerited. We don’t earn our emotions but we do control them. That’s why emotional force, when combined with virtue, is an unmerited high power. We all respond to passions and convictions. Conviction is expressed with emotion, albeit sometimes subtly.
Threats and negotiation are usually used when power and influence are challenged and/or disregarded. This is why merited high power is the greatest way to negotiate or, if need be, threaten. In any case, living in grace and being guided by the Holy Spirit are essential.
DAVE DURAND is an author and the CEO of Best Version Media, LLC.