Some men are pigs. Some women are manipulators. I’ve witnessed plenty of displays of ugly masculine and feminine power. As a person who doesn’t naturally like conflict and who doesn’t consider himself a physically imposing alpha male, while also being compassionate and tender-hearted, I often end up torn by indecision when I witness ugly uses of power. It’s all too common to see ugly power being used by men over women, but it also happens from women to men, and from men to men and women to women, especially as relates to race. Whatever the direction and angle, when I see ugly power I want to step in and speak up, do what’s right. But I don’t always know how. I want to protect but I’m not always sure if I’ll be effective. I want to call out injustice but I don’t always know the words to say. I want to speak against the voices that slander and slime but I don’t always feel sure of my own power.
When I saw the advertisement that Gillette recently produced, “We Believe: The Best Men Can Be,” I felt empowered. I felt inspired. Someone had painted a picture of an ideal and it was one I knew I could reach. The shot where one man gently but firmly held another man back and said something simple but direct, like “Hey, not cool, not cool…” made me sit up in my chair and say, “Yes! I could do that too!” It gave me a demonstration of what my power can look like. It wasn’t much, it wasn’t complicated, but I benefited from that demonstration.
The irony is that most people are so caught up in trying to control the things they cannot control — other people, circumstances, or outcomes — that in the process they lose control of themselves. And here is the real paradox. It is only when you do take control of yourself that you will begin to have significant influence on those other things: people, circumstances, and outcomes. People in control of themselves do the most to influence everyone and everything around them to good ends, results, and profits. But they start with themselves, and that is the essence of boundaries. - Dr Henry Cloud
You and I were created to be powerful people. God guaranteed it when he used his own image as the model for humanity. He sealed the deal with the words, “Let them have dominion…” We are capable of incredible power but it must be bound by intentionality and purpose. What is our power’s best purpose? To love others, to serve them. Not to control, manipulate or destroy but to get under and help, encourage, transform. I think that’s why we love superheroes so much; deep inside we know we were created to handle incredible power and to use it to benefit others. In Captain Marvel, Air Force test pilot Carol Danvers must learn to embrace her humanity, connecting with her emotions and her deep self in order to unlock her power. Once she has unlocked her power, her natural inclination for the use of that power is to help others, because that’s what the inner heart journey does to us all. It produces compassion. Self-control disarms our need to control others.
Masculine power is not best used for violence or fear, it is best used for tenacious struggle; hard work; the pursuit of a worthy challenge. Feminine power is not best used for control or manipulation; it is best used for the creation of nurturing environments and the fostering of life in the face of extreme odds. And here’s the kicker: each of us have access to both masculine and feminine power regardless of our gender. It is the power of God himself who creates life out of nothing and then tirelessly pursues that life when it turns against him.
We must learn to control ourselves and orient our lives towards loving transformation of the world around us. We do this through a process of self-discovery and Christ-discovery. As Dr. Cloud points out, it’s only when we master ourselves and serve others that we actually have any real power at all. The power of toxic humanity is no power at all. Jesus showed us what true power looks like: loving self-sacrifice for the benefit of others. And his spirit is willing and able to take up residence within you today and manifest his love within you for the world around you.
Do you want to become powerful? If so, learn to master yourself. It is a process that brings each of us to our knees in humility. In the dust, staring at the feet of Jesus, you will hear him whisper that you are more beautiful and valuable than you ever imaged. He will clothe you with dignity and honour, and will unlock your power and potential in ways that you could never imagine.