Sunday, August 24, 2008

Power and Trust

(written at the end of July)

I once thought safety and progress came from power - now I see these as only partly true. Remembering that I'm wired for progress, as sure as the sun rises, then I was always looking for power. Unconsciously, subconsciously, but nonetheless, it was a key theme.

Back Then my notions of power were centered around the intellectual, emotional, sensual and sheer loudness factors. I abused my first husband with intellectual prowess, and the second with emotional superiority. Neither served me or the marriages well, and I now see that it was foolhardy at best. Destructive at worst. (Can I get a witness!?)

I've tried the traditional forms of power, and found that many men, friends and family wanted to stay with the "witty factor" or the "intimidation game". I can strongly report that in the long run these are false idols, easily crushed in the light of introspection. Sure, it's fun to be witty or sexy, etc. but in the long run it takes too much energy to be edgy or svelte at all times.

It's like faith. Surface things come and go, but G-d is consistent, as is true power.

Today I see power as something that best comes from harnessing our fears and working from a place of compassion and peace. There is a profound difference, when you are willing to crack yourself open for love, to work from kindness, and set good boundaries.

Authority from this place of authentic power strengthens all those who receive it, learn under it.

It's interesting to watch how much energy people put into their particular favorite forms of power. If they are all about being funny, or smart or sexy, I know that they are still looking for authentic power. It's usually a side-effect of immaturity, but not always. Sometimes it's a defense mechanism :)

In serious intentional relationships we have to start with trust and build from there. This means mutual power and mutual interest (which affects power). You have to trust the Other to at least give a damn, Scarlet.

And be smart enough to see your blind spots.

Nothing else makes any sense without the context and foundation of "I believe you" at the base. This includes the corollaries, "I believe in you." and "I believe you care about me enough to not hurt me intentionally."

What happens without trust? Suspicions, accusations and conflict. Relationships fall apart, deals are broken, clients lost, marriages fail, children leave angry and bitter.

So what engenders trust? Certainly acting faithful, trustworthy. Just as love is not a feeling, but an action; a series of a million acts, trust is a billion acts of ethical lovingkindness, both to ourselves and to another.

How do trust and ethics link up? Simple, if someone is ethical you trust them. When they aren't, you don't. Even if you can't understand why you don't trust them, if you really pay attention you'll realize it was some unethical, or untrustworthy act.

Now consider people you consider to be very ethical. Normally that translates to deep trust as well. These are the people you set up as executors of your estate, AND you sleep at night.

But being trustworthy is also about being capable. If you trust someone to administer your estate because you know them to be ethical, but they've never touched complicated financial matters, you may be naïve (at best). And you're setting yourself up for disappointment and maybe even resentment.

This brings us around to the very large question of what are people capable of? We never really know, do we?

Dr. Randy Pausch, who died recently, said to give people time, and they will impress you. I absolutely agree with this. And yet look at how little time we give to those around us to do it better.

This is where that loving support in a relationship comes up. Let's call it compassion in action. If you can replace frustration with compassion, you've simply changed your frame of reference.

And even if someone doesn't respond, at least you know you approached it - the misunderstanding, the conflict, or broken promises - the best way possible. With loving kindness. Let's face it, not everyone wants to see their blind spots. (grin)

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