Wrestling with Power
Thee have been reminders in the news this week of the abuse of power particularly by men. In my own experience I am having to wrestle with the power I have as well as the feeling of powerlessness to bring about change.
The headline in my paper yesterday was “Violent crimes against women hit record high”. The article drew on the annual report by the Crown Prosecution Service on violence against women and girls. But there were also two other separate stories this week of rapes. One of a twelve year old girl in a park and another of a woman who had gone to help a man only to have a knife used to threaten her. The power that men can exercise because of their physical strength is abused when dominating and exploiting others. What is worrying is the continuing perception by some men of women being objects for sexual gratification.
Another media story was of the number of children trapped in the Calais camp with little hope of escape. Coupled with a report that many refugee children have gone ‘missing’ it leads to a sense of despair and powerlessness that such inhumanity persists.
I have had to wrestle this week with how others perceive my power, and how I can be more sensitive to the way I behave. Knowing that I can do something that needs to be done is not sufficient reason to go ahead and do it. Others may see this as unhelpful, denying the opportunity for others to develop and play their part.
I am reminded of the writings of Walter Wink in his series of books on ‘The Powers’. He draws on the imagery and language of St Paul in the New Testament of ‘powers and dominions’ to reflect on the way institutions and societies can abuse power and need to be redeemed. He helpfully points out that powers need to be named, unmasked and engaged with. He is confident that change can be achieved, and that there can be healing and redemption for corporate structures.
The connection between societal change and individual change is a matter of recurrent debate.There has been significant improvement in relationships between men and women in legal, economic, political and social spheres in some societies. But the struggle continues to treat each of us as a person: women, children and men. That means that each of us has to exercise the power that we have with sensitivity to the vulnerabilities of others. It also means that we cannot abdicate from involvement in trying to bring about change in the way that our society behaves.
Most of us will feel powerless to bring about shifts in perception on a national scale, whether it is attitudes to refugees, children, or women. But each of us by the way we behave can show respect to one another, and give room for others to contribute their gifts. We can look for the good and encourage it. We can listen to the promptings of love and truth and act on them. Each person is precious.