Power is intoxicating. This is just a fancy way of saying it makes us lose our heads. We gain power and we get stupid. It gets into our blood stream and affects our thinking and our actions.
Likely you don’t think you have power. Think again. If you are parent you are a concentrated force of power. Teachers, coaches, and managers all wield significant power. Anyone in a position of authority does, but so too does anyone who is respected or looked up to. The salesman who can talk a negotiation into his favor and the pretty lady who can get her way with a bat of the eye lashes are both powerful. If you are richer, smarter, or more disciplined than others you have power. Really, only infants and the desperately poor lack any sort of notable power.
As Ben Parker once said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” He was right, but he missed something significant: with any power comes great temptation. As sinful people we constantly look to gain the approval of some at the expense of others. We look to climb over those we can to gain higher heights just to make ourselves feel better. We abuse the power we have.
We threaten our kids and yell at our kids to get them to obey. We intimidate and coerce those in our influence. We manipulate those we see as weaker. We treat people weaker than us in ways we would never dream of treating our equals. Basically we do things we wouldn’t ever do if we were in our right minds. Kind of like a drunk person.
We need to know our limits. How much power can we handle without getting tipsy? When over-do it, what kind of dumb choices are we prone to? It won’t be streaking, a regrettable tattoo, or bowing to the porcelain god with a wicked hangover. More likely it will mean someone is hurt badly. Power intoxication doesn’t leave cars wrapped around phone poles, but it will leave relationships in burning ruins.
We can’t always help what power we have, but we can handle it responsibly. We must know ourselves enough to know when to walk away or back down. Intoxication comes from abuse, from over-doing it. Know your limits. Be willing to say no thanks, even (especially) if it is just to yourself. The damage of power-drunkness is incalculable.