What kind of power do you have?

One way I’ve been thinking about injustice lately is through the lens of power. Injustice is many things, and just one way small way to think about it as the inequality of power.

In a perfectly Just and Good society, power would be shared and borrowed and given. It might not be exactly equal, but only because some people with more of it would choose to give large amounts of it away until they ended up with less than others. Like Jesus did over and over again.

What is power? Agency to act in the best interest of self + community. Freedom to make choices for oneself. Access to a healthy range of choices. Education about those choices. Energy and will to act. (Can we say that the opposite of power is vulnerability?)

As a side note: Years ago I heard Andy Crouch speak on authority and vulnerability; I’ve never been able to get his ideas out of my head. This is a tiny blip of a similar talk: https://www.christianitytoday.com/pastors/2014/september-online-only/andy-crouch-authority-and-vulnerability.html And I haven’t read it, but I’m almost positive his book Strong and Weak: Embracing a Life of Love, Risk and True Flourishing is based on the same ideas.

When I think about power, it is forever tempting to compare my power with that of others. Which inevitably leads to my finding how much less power I have, pitying myself for it, and then grabbing at power wherever I think I can get it. But comparison of power is mostly unhelpful. Comparing only produces Good when it leads to my seeing how much more power I have than others, letting it lead me to gratitude and reflection on how I can be generous with my power.

What kinds of power are there? The quick answers are: Physical strength. Political voice. Possession of the biggest guns. Skin color. Gender.

But there are other kinds of power as well: Woo. Good looks. Well-dressed. Self-confidence. Relationship. Network. Rapport. Education – the higher, the more power (usually). Emotional fortitude – and its evil twin sister emotional manipulation. Articulateness. Persuasiveness. Influence – an audience or platform. Nice house. Hospitality. Parenting. Respect of others. Money and means. Generosity. Service.

This week I’ve been thinking: What kind of power do I have? How can I use them for the greatest Good of self + community? Here are a few of my ideas:

As a parent, I can demand rote and unquestioning obedience or I can give my kids power by listening and reasonably considering their thoughts and ideas.

As a social contact / friend, I can hoard my network and relationships to myself or I can introduce others and multiply connections.

As a superior at work, I can bully those below me like a buffoon or I can put them in leadership positions (even over me!) so that they can grow and learn.

As a person with more assertive self-confidence, I can brush past less-confident people in order to secure what I want or I can bring them alongside me to make sure both our needs are represented.

I can’t say I’ve done any of the above Good on behalf of anyone else. But I thought of them because they’ve all been done for me at one time or another – other people sharing and lending me their power.

What kind of power do you have? How can you use them for the greatest Good of self + community? Who do you know who has less power than you do in a given category? How can you share and loan and give away your power – especially to those with less power?