Politics and Love

What It Means to Be Powerful and Why You are Powerful

I believe you are so powerful. I believe I am, too.

And I also believe that when we properly understand this power, we do amazing things in the world.

A Misconception: The Power as Force Paradigm

A lot of people have misconceptions about power, and they think that being powerful means being able to force, manipulate, or seduce people to do what they want.

It is understandable why we have this misconception.  Most of human history has been a brutal struggle for survival.

We have been trying to make sure we had enough to eat, that we could shelter ourselves from the elements, and that we could protect ourselves from hostile animals and strangers who were competing with us for scare food and shelter.

When we are just trying to survive, we become ruled by fear. We are scared about having essentials taken away from us that ensure our ability to survive and thrive. The Power as Force Paradigm becomes very attractive in situations like these.

After all, the Power as Force Paradigm works to some extent. There is certainly a type of efficacy in force, manipulation, and seduction, but it is an inferior and unstable power. Here is why: When we force people to do things to have some advantage over them, we lock ourselves into patterns of fear, aggression, and domination.

After all, once we exert this kind of power against someone to have an advantage over them, the only way for them to regain an equal footing with us (and ensure their own survival) is to use the same kind of force against us. Therefore, the Power as Force Paradigm always puts us in the fearful position of losing our power or having it taken from us.[1]

Living a fear-driven life drains our power.

What is the Alternative?

The alternative to the Power as Force Paradigm is to view Power as the Power To Be.[2] Our Power To Be is something we don’t often think about (or hear about), but I think it is essential we change this.

The Power To Be is the power to flourish in our unique human capacities.[3]

VP #8

The unique thing about human beings is that we have ethical and moral decision-making capacities that allow to make the world more just, more beautiful, more humane, and more safe for everyone and everything. When we focus on developing these capacities with each other and our practical world, we transform the world in the most awesome way possible.

We heal emotional and physical diseases, we broker peace, we support human rights, we promote equality. There are examples throughout all of history of us walking away from the Power as Force Paradigm and embracing the Power To Be.

The Power to Be

A lot of our problems in the world are caused by people resorting to the Power as Force Paradigm. Wars, abuse, racism, discrimination and other forms of violence and destruction are all consequences of people living according to the Power as Force Paradigm. These continually deplete internal and external resources.

But there are signs that people are beginning to realize that Power as Force is a losing battle and that it is time work on our Power to Be together.There are signs that people are beginning to realize that we don’t have to worry about just surviving anymore. We can focus on flourishing together.

Why don’t you join the Power to Be party! It’s a great party.


One of my favorite books about the good kind of power is The Courage to Be, by Paul Tillich.


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Note: in future posts, I will include reflection questions and activity ideas for building the Power to Be. Stay tuned!  For right now, you might like these posts:

Is Unconditional Love for Ourselves Dangerous?

Is Believing in Love a Good Idea Since There are So Many Horrible People in the World?

[1] Of course parents must exercise control over their children because children are too young to know what is best for them. But in this case, parents aren’t exercising force to have an advantage over their children. They are exerting temporary force (which decreases as children mature) for the good of their children.

[2] The notion of the power as the ability To Be is influenced by Paul Tillich (see Love, Power, and Justice); Paulo Freire (see Pedagogy of the Oppressed); and bell hooks (see All About Love).

[3] You can read about love, wisdom, and creativity here. And you can read about exercising these capacities together to make the world a better place here.

5 thoughts on “What It Means to Be Powerful and Why You are Powerful”

  1. I think that I’m getting more aware of the ‘power to be’ as I get older – it feels like self-fulfillment and possibly the way to contribute something to community too.

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