23 March 2014
"Power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anaemic.” Martin Luther King Jnr.
Human relationships are constantly shifting and changing. Just when you think you know what’s going on the other person says or does something you weren’t expecting and you need to ride the wave of change.
For as long as I can remember I have been curious about what goes on between people. What was it that caused my grandmother to be angry with my grandfather, or to care for him with such devotion? What is it that motivates a man to say to a close friend, quietly, slowly and with care and concern – “look, maybe you need to leave her…”. Or what is it that causes a wife to say angrily to her husband "you never listen to me"?
What are the big forces at play here?
I came across the above quote by Martin Luther King Jnr. about a year ago, and the more I have thought about it, the more I think he is pointing at something that is profoundly true. His words are inspired by the writings of the philosopher, Paul Tillich. For Tillich, love is about the energy of bringing together, of making whole; power is about the energy of self-realisation, of growth. Being alive is the dance of these two energies.
In the dance, the two dance partners need each other. Martin Luther King is saying love needs power and power needs love. Take one away, and the other is no longer effective.
This makes sense to me. I was raised by my grandparents. My grandmother was a proud, highly intelligent, energetic woman. She wanted to make her mark on the world. But like many women of her generation, having grown up in the 1920s and ‘30s, the possibilities for her were limited. She wanted to express her power as creativity. But circumstances were against her. So instead her power came out as annoyance at the world and at my grandfather. Instead of a healthy expression of power as self-realisation, it would be expressed as frustration and annoyance, and as power-over my grandfather. This also affected the quality of her love. She was capable of great love. She was devoted to my grandfather; she supported him to be successful. And she nursed him as he died. But what I saw as a child and teenager was a woman whose love – her wish to bring together and to make whole – became confused because her expression of power manifested as frustration rather than self-realisation.
If she had found a way to be more creative and grow her talent, she may well have loved more easily.
Love and Power – two energies that push in opposite directions, yet complement each other. The trick, it seems to me, is to learn to dance lightly with them. Not to get caught in either of them. But to flow between them as circumstances require. If your love isn’t accompanied by power as self-realisation, you might feel your needs and aspirations are being overlooked, and your love unappreciated; if your power isn’t balanced with love as connection, you might feel alone and disconnected from others, and your power unsatisfying.
Just like any dance partners, if one isn't in step, the other suffers.
How’s your dance going?