Power and powerlessness

Lazarus and the Rich man

We were led by Sergio into a reflection on power. Specifically, we considered what we understood it to be, this included wealth, freedom, influence, eloquence, strength, good looks, manipulation, and all the manifestations of outer success.

Then we considered “inner” power, and listed things like dignity, love, authority, non-resistance or passive resistance. We spoke of Ghandi and Jesus, and how the might of empires had no hold on them, for their power lay within. We were reminded that no one can take our inner power away, regardless of changes in circumstances where our outer power is apparently stripped, such as in job loss, divorce, or other times of tragedy.

We then thought about inner and outer power from the male/female perspective, and noted that the real power in families often lay with the women. They have “considerable emotional and relational power” and that the men who had much of the overt power did not de facto rule their homes. Sergio’s notes go on to state: “Masculine power which is seen as direct, structural, functional and logical, while feminine power is intuitive, emotional and indirect”.

It was also pointed out that in trying to understand power, we often confuse roles with uniqueness. Generalising, while women have come to terms with powerlessness, so they have a better balance between their roles and their true identity, men (especially white westerners) are in crisis because their traditional role as “powerful” is under threat, and they are underdeveloped in acquiring inner power.

In small groups we were asked to reflect on our own power:

  • was it from a masculine or feminine aspect?
  • could we risk operating from the lesser side?
  • what is it like to feel powerless?

With respect to the last question, answers included shock, confusion, fragility, and devastation.

This post is part 3 in the series Richard Rohr “From wild man to wise man” with Sergio Milandri of relating.com. The session was held on the 9th November 2009 at Sans Pareil, Hout Bay, South Africa.