From Prisons to Prisms…The Power Within

“Care about people’s approval – and you will be their prisoner.” – Lao Tzu 

Julie Diamond, Ph.D. researcher on the topic of power offers a distinction…

Social Power is also known as positional power. This is an outward orientation to power based on social status, external values. This type of power creates emotional and psychological dependency. It eventually weakens the person and their sense of self (core strength). 

Personal Power, the power of the true self, relies on honesty, it is “the innermost strength found in the essence of who you are and forged in the fires of life experiences (Diamond, 2016 pg. 71)”. This type of power is not dependent upon person, place or thing. It is the trust of an internal source (including a higher spiritual power). 

In the human development journey we move from an external orientation (social) to an internal one (personal). This is no easy shift and does not come without owning our shadows.

Take the story of the man below…

Born in 1869 this man grew up in a colonized town where his people were ruled by Great Britain. Privileged within his community, he had access to education and went on to become a lawyer for the very system that colonized his people. Though he questioned the law in his educational journey – he still dressed, spoke and became what he was supposed to become. He enjoyed many perks including traveling First Class. Despite his polished attire, his high degree of education and wealth he was thrown out of First Class and off the train at a railway station in South Africa. He had climbed through the social ranks by every means necessary to attain social status but he was still not one thing: white.  As he matured he turned his attention inward choosing his values, his way of dressing (including weaving his own clothes) and vision. He attained personal freedom and also played a critical role in the Freedom of his country. His name was Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi.

The human transformation of external to internal power is not just for the visible and famous social reformers. It is accessible to everyone.  

At 33 a near death experience woke me up to the lie of externally oriented power, though comfortable and seemingly stable…what is it worth to gain the whole world for the price of your soul (Matthew 16:26)? 

Reflection: What is your greatest source of power? If it is based on an external source, what would happen if that source disappeared?  What is your greatest power leak (where you give power away)? 

Our Prison can be transformed to a Prism – illuminating the beauty of who we really are…quirks and all.