Down We Go: Diffusing Power

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Owning it, so we can give it away

By Kathy Escobar | Twitter: @kathyescobar

“Justice and power must be brought together, so that whatever is just may be powerful, and whatever is powerful may be just.”  – Blaise Pascal

The thirst for power and control is deeply engrained in the human DNA, and it continues to cause damage in almost every strata of society.  Power in the real world is a given. Even though I am an idealist and wish they weren’t, I expect corporations to be power-hungry. They don’t exist to save the world; they exist to make money.

The problem is when our churches, ministries, and communities inadvertently adopt the world’s thirst for power into our culture, our homes and the fabric of our lives. The upside-down message of Jesus is radically lost and we are sucked into the same fuel the world thrives upon.

When I use the word “power,” I think of these words: leadership, value and voice. 

Leadership, value, voice. 

Let these words sink in a little.

Do they scare you or inspire you?

I know for me, they used to scare me.  I knew I had it, but the religious systems I was in, didn’t really appreciate it.  I always felt I was too loud, too strong, too whatever; the message that seemed to keep me trapped was that I was either too much or not enough. So I kept power–my leadership, value, and voice–under wraps.  Over the past decade or so it started to come more alive. It has rocked a lot of boats. It has freaked other people out. It has freaked me out.

But I am more convinced than ever that until we can own our power, we can’t really give it away.

And a lot of people are in desperate need of power because they’ve never had any for all kinds of reasons that are far beyond their control.  Gender, socioeconomics, geography, educational opportunity, skin color, and a host of other factors keep people disempowered.

One of my dreams for us as Christ-followers is that we would learn what it means to diffuse power – to give away leadership, value and voice as much as possible, and as deeply and creatively as possible. 

This is incredibly counter-intuitive to what so many have been taught in terms of leadership, which tends to be centered on retaining power, protecting ourselves and climbing upward.

It’s also kind of confusing to some of us as women, because we aren’t that used to even owning our power in the first place.  In so many religious systems, women have been second class citizens, having our voices silenced and our gifts underutilized.  Our leadership, value, and voice have been greatly diminished.

Yet, power is there. Waiting to be fanned into flame.

Not so we can hoard it or lord over others with it.

But so, once we own it, we can give it away.

A life of descent invites us to give away power as much as possible.

For many of us, though, we need to step into it first.

And even if others don’t recognize it’s there, we must.

As I began to engage a downward path and a life more framed by the Beatitudes in the past chunk of years, I was struck by how many people don’t have power and how much I have, automatically. I am white. I have an education. I have health insurance. Right off the bat, I have power that some will never know.  Socio-economics, race, mental illness, disability, lack of education, gender and life circumstances that have kept people paralyzed, all rob people of power and strip them of their leadership, value, and voice.

We often think of power in a negative way. But Jesus embodied the best use of power I can think of: He gave it away. He used it to restore others’ dignity. He went down, not up.

Genuine power diffusion means giving it away to people who aren’t typically influential.  The least. The last.  The marginalized. The oppressed. The not-quite-as-pretty or talented, educated or socially accepted individuals.

Diffusing power means making room for others at the table, welcoming others instead instead of keeping our gates tightly shut.

-It means handing our microphones to someone else, so they can use their voice, too.

-It means seeing God’s image in someone even when they can’t see it and intentionally calling it out in them.

-It means noticing who’s not included and should be.  Who’s not invited and needs to be.

Power is not meant to be retained. It’s meant to be given away.

God, help us step into our leadership, value and voice and play whatever part we can in passing it onto others. 

_____________________________

My dear SheLoves friends, I’d love to hear:

  • How are you starting to own your leadership, value, and voice? Is it easy or hard for you?
  • How can you use the power you have on behalf of others?  
_____________________________

About Kathy:
Kathy Escobar co-pastors The Refuge, an eclectic faith community in North Denver dedicated to those on the margins of life and faith. She blogs regularly about life and faith at www.kathyescobar.com and recently released her book called, Down We Go–Living out the Wild Ways of Jesus in Action. She lives in Arvada, Colorado with her husband, Jose, and five kids.

 

Image credit: Red on Blue, by MeanestIndian on flickr.

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Idelette McVicker
I like soggy cereal and I would like to go to every spot on the map of the earth to meet our world’s women. I dream of a world where no women or girls are for sale. I dream of a world where women and men are partners in doing the work that brings down a new Heaven on earth. My word last year was “roar” and I learned it’s not about my voice rising as much as it is about our collective voices rising in unison to bring down walls of injustice. This year, my own word is “soar.” I have three children and this place–right here, called shelovesmagazine.com–is my fourth baby. I am African, although my skin colour doesn’t tell you that story. I am also a little bit Chinese, because my heart lives there amongst the tall skyscrapers of Taipei and the mountains of Chiufen. Give me sweet chai and I think I’m in heaven. I live in Vancouver, Canada and I pledged my heart to Scott 11 years ago. I believe in kindness and calling out the song in each other’s hearts. I also believe that Love covers–my gaps, my mistakes and the distances between us. I blog at idelette.com and tweet @idelette.
Idelette McVicker

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