Is your love of power undermining the power of your love?
I heard a lecture this weekend by author Diana Butler Bass who is a scholar specializing in American religion and culture. She talked about how the Christian church has often been so caught up in the love of power that it forgot about the power of love. Whether is was the crusades in the 12th century or current concerns about the religious right or creeping secularism, a militant response seeks to gain power and control over others. The power of love to change the world and transform lives is lost in the process.
I couldn’t help but think about power dynamics in relationships. Many times, especially early in marriage we struggle for power and control. Not that it is always intentional or conscious; rather it springs from our internal sensitivities. We have ingrained ideas about how things are supposed to work in relationships and feel defensive when our partner challenges those ideas. We find ourselves fighting over things like how we handle money or every day issues like who cleans the litter box. The issues themselves often are trivial but they are connected to strong feelings and deeper agendas. Our responses are often militant in that we insist on our own way at the expense of the other’s sense of well being.
Breaking power struggles is possible, even easy, when we shift focus from the love of power to the power of love. In love we can learn to honor our self and our partner by speaking the truth about what we are really thinking and feeling. For example, “it’s important to me that we save more money because I’m afraid that if we don’t we’ll end up struggling in retirement just like my parents did”. This at least puts real information on the table and opens the door to talking about each person’s hopes, dreams, fears, and way of thinking. Love does not insist on its own way but seeks to find solutions that work for the best of all, which cannot happen if you make it about who has power.
When you find yourself in the grips of a power struggle consider these questions:
• What am I really feeling right now?
• Why is this issue so important to me?
• Why is it so important to my partner?
• In the big picture, what’s really important?
• What do I need to learn from this situation?
• How can I make this about love rather than power?
After all that you may be tired so go ahead and take a power nap. You deserve it!