“I cannot accept your canon that we are to judge Pope and King unlike other men, with a favorable presumption that they did no wrong. If there is any presumption it is the other way against holders of power, increasing as the power increases… Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” —Lord Acton
How may we utilize our power and influence with godly wisdom, a Christ-infused humility, and a Spirit-led grace? One place to begin is by learning from many negative lessons about power’s corrupting effects on even the best of us. Here are seven suggestions on how we might wield our power (or if you prefer, influence) more wisely.
1) Be self-aware. When seeing the power abuses of others, beware of blithely blathering, “That could never happen to me!” It could. None of us is above temptation, fallibility, and sin. Paul warned, “If you think you are standing, watch out that you do not fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
2) Cultivate humility. Beware of temptation to think, “The rules don’t apply to me! I’m special. I’m irreplaceable! I’ve earned this.” Trust me, you’re not that special. And neither am I!
3) Listen to the voices of dissent. Even if you honestly disagree and are sure you’re right, remember they too belong to God. Leaders must be willing to respectfully listen to contrarians, to build bridges with those they disagree with, because Christ calls for no less from us.
4) Be self-reflective. Ask: “Is there anything I’m trying to hide? Is there anything I’m doing or saying that I don’t want to see the light of day?” If you’re trying to suppress information or spin a story, that’s not a good sign! Not without good reason is Alcoholics Anonymous famous for saying, “We’re as sick as our secrets.”
5) Empower others. Are you able to put others first? Does your leadership bless others or merely advance your own interests? Are you able to give away power, empower others, provide ways for them to use their gift? Are you able to take a secondary role, to not always have to be in the driver’s seat?
6) Beware of acting out of fear. Ask yourself, “Where am I behaving out of fear?” Jon Steinbeck reflected, “Power does not corrupt. Fear corrupts… perhaps the fear of a loss of power.” This is where you must be honest and accountable with trusted friends. Invite critique. Ask your friends, “Am I grasping at power or blessing others?”
7) Follow in His steps. Keep looking to Jesus, learning from his life and ministry. Jesus emptied himself. He lived for others. He took on the unjust and refused to use violence for his cause. He empowered his followers and entrusted them (us!) with the mission of the Kingdom of God!