Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Power And Dignity


"I can drop a bird from the sky." An expression used by persons who believe that everything they desire comes true. A person who believes in their power. A bird flying naturally in the sky is not usually dropping from the sky. Those with power can believe they are omnipotent, a misunderstanding of power. The priest head of a diocesan human rights committee has an article in Bible And Life magazine on Power and Dignity summarized briefly below.

Power is the right to make others obey or control them with public authority. Competency is the limitation in which that authority may be exercised. In a democracy, all power (authority) is limited by competency. Putting this in another way: power must be directed to the common good limited by duty, and responsibility, and checked by law and structure— restrained by competency (capacity). But in our world, we often experience: "I can drop a bird from the sky."

In society, we see the separation of competency and power. In fact, they should be equal. Like the second, minute, and hour hands of a clock all working together to tell time. He gives some examples of what is meant. A politician is doing his job for the people, concerned for their good, this is his competency but when he is looking for personal gain the office is one of power. Prosecutors and judges when they punish the guilty and free the innocent they are acting within their competency, when they free the guilty and punish the innocent we have a show of power. Journalists are to report the news as is, but when they report what is not as if it is, they are using power. Police dealing with criminals confront them, this is competency but when they confront innocent citizens for no good reason this is power.

However, the discussion continues on whether a person's office is to be regarded as the power of position or competency. We need not look at the office of presidents or legislators for all around us those whose position can be considered a little bit higher than others, competency or power may easily be exhibited. This desire for power may be seen not only among politicians or officials but among farmers and inmates of prisons.

Why do people desire this power? Jesus was tempted with this desire for power in the desert. Even his disciples fought over who was first among them. There has to be a reason for this power search. What is it? Is it not our desire to be respected, our desire to make known our dignity? 

We all have dignity. This is all-natural and proper. We all want to be respected. My dignity comes from the respect I have for another person. My dignity is demonstrated by the other person's respect for me. The pursuit of power will be an act to satisfy this desire for dignity only through comparison and discrimination with others.

When we talk about human dignity often we hear it is because we are the lords over creation. This idea of dignity because humans are visibly the most developed among all creatures seems natural and plausible at first glance, but in fact, it is seeking the opposite of human dignity in comparative advantage. If the reason for dignity is because we are higher than the animals when we come into the presence of someone with better qualities than I have, does that mean I lose my dignity?

No the reason for our dignity is because we have been made in the image of God. It doesn't depend on what we have: material goods, education, place in society, pedigree, gender, we are all made in the image of God.  


'If one of you wants to be great, he must be the servant of the rest' (Mark 10:43). These words of Jesus, Serving God, and serving our neighbors are the only ways to break free from the lust for power of comparison and discrimination. It is a teaching that informs us that there is only one way. It is also a unique guideline for all powers in the world to be reborn with true authority for the common good. God, who is the most dignified above all, serves people. Who then can reign over people?

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