Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Power and Responsibility

From everyone to whom much has been given, much will be required; and from the one to whom much has been entrusted, even more will be demanded. ~ Jesus Christ (Luke 12:48, NRSV).

With great power comes great responsiblity. ~ Voltaire (Oeuvres de Voltaire, Volume 48).

I've spent much of my life feeling powerless. Now I know that I was wrong - I am not, nor have I ever been powerless; I just didn't own my personal power. I was busy giving it away, mostly because I didn't know what it was, or even that I had it. The culture I grew up in was not conducive to deep self-knowledge or belief in personal power, especially for women. I grew up believing that my most important role was one of support to any man who happened to be in my life, whether that man was my father, my brother, or - eventually - my husband. I was a secondary consideration, a second-class citizen, even to myself. I look back and see that some of the inability to access my own power came from the way I was brought up, but just as much came from the media, and from other cultural sources like teachers, preachers, and other adults in positions of responsibility. No one made it a point to teach me that I should matter to myself. Maybe no one knew I would need to be taught.

Now the point is moot; my journey has taught me that I have as much personal power as I care to claim. In learning this, I have also learned that with great power comes great responsibility. There was a time when I felt overly responsible for everything - that is a function of having codependency - but that isn't what I'm talking about today. I'm talking about real responsibility. Here are some examples.

I own guns. I like my guns. I enjoy target shooting. I like having my pistols around for self-defense and just for the fun of going out to the range and sharpening my aim. Firearms are powerful, and they impart power to their users. But with such power comes responsibility. I am not at all threatened by the idea of background checks and permits. I already have a carry permit, for that matter, and I'd be happy to fill out paperwork and be checked before making a new gun purchase. I wouldn't mind a waiting period - it's not that big a deal, and there's no firearm on the planet that I need in such a hurry that I can't bear to fill out paperwork and wait for a week to obtain. I abide within the law and I have nothing to fear from such requirements. It is a responsibility that I welcome and even invite.

I have daughters. I can't raise them the way I was raised. The world has changed and is changing more swiftly now than perhaps at any other time in the history of human life. We can't afford to raise our children in the vacuum of our own childhoods. I can't let my daughters grow up unaware of their own personal power. There are two lives in my hands, characters that I will shape. If that isn't power, I don't know what is. I have the responsibility to make sure they understand their own worth and never, ever question it.

I am a survivor of violence. I am no longer a victim; I have a voice and great strength of purpose when it comes to advocacy for those who suffer. With this power comes the responsibility for speaking out, for raising awareness, for working toward a better world. If I ignored or failed in this responsibility, I'd be telling myself that there is no purpose to be found in my past, and no reason to struggle and strive to heal.

We all have the power to change what is around us. It starts within us, not without. We have the power to look at who we are, what we believe, what we live for. We have the power to ask God what wonderful things are happening, and that we might somehow be made a part of them. We have the responsibility to work toward something better. Wherever we are, whatever lives we touch, we have the ability to affect change, to light candles and push back the darkness. With great power comes great responsibility. We can't afford not to act. Look at the world we live in and begin the work of discerning how it can be made better. Speak up. Vote. Call your state and federal representatives and let them know how you feel. Treat other people the way you hope to be treated. Perform random acts of loving kindness. 

Remember that you are powerful and honor the responsibility that comes with power. It won't be easy, but it will always be worthwhile.

No comments:

Post a Comment