Tell Me What’s It All For, If You’re Not Terrified To Fail

It must be candidly admitted that some of us, myself included, have the tendency to take ourselves far too seriously, or at least far more seriously than our modest achievements and complicated natures deserve to be taken.  As someone who spent a great deal of time watching the behavior of people in authority, I have seen that this affliction is a deeply common one [1].  One of the appeals of high office for people, in spite of the high degrees of stress that come with managing those who are not generally willing to be led and are capable of being poked and prodded and motivated often under the most extreme coercion and duress, if at all, is the fact that having offices of responsibility and authority carry with them a certain degree of respect.  Even where others do not give one respect, the possession of an office gives one a feeling of self-respect and personal dignity that can be a salve to many feelings of bitterness and frustration.  In light of that, it is little wonder that people should be so tenacious in holding on to even those offices in which they are ill-equipped to hold by nature and temperament and in which their conduct is most to be blamed for its ill-effects on others.

Why would someone like myself, someone who finds the pursuit of political power to be sordid, and finds the exercise of power to be often terrifying, bother to spend so much of my limited time and energy wrestling with questions of power and authority?  As is so often the case in life, my keen observation of power and people exercising power has not been so much the fuel to or result of blind ambition, but rather is a move made in self-defense.  Given that a great deal of the drama and difficulty of life have resulted precisely from a tragic imbalance of power between me and between those who have given me the most trouble in life, the pursuit of power in some fashion has been of great importance in defending myself from those who would abuse and exploit me, or exploit any weakness I may have.  As people in positions of power have often been the gravest threats to my own well-being and rather highly developed sense of dignity, the gain of power, even if that power was dependent only on my flamboyantly expressed God-given gifts and force of personality, such power could not be considered as without significance, but rather must be something taken into account in the calculations made among those who dwell in the halls of power and in the circles of elites.

It is striking and unsettling that issues of power and authority should be so deeply enmeshed with questions of psychology.  In the book of Judges [2] there is a parable told about various plants that gives us a fascinating and somewhat dark glimpse into these matters in a way that is more sophisticated than most people realize.  While running for his life from his murderous half-brother Abimelech, Jotham the son of Gideon gave the citizens of Shechem a primer in political science.  He painted a scene where various plants were asked to rule over the other plants, and where most of the plants turned down the offer flat.  Their reason for rejecting the offer was rather striking, in that they preferred the useful pleasures of doing what they were put on this earth to do than the ego trip of ruling over others.  Oh, that we human beings could be as wise as those plants, for it was only the bramble, that plant devoid of use to mankind, that wished to rule over the other plants.  By comparing Abimelech to the tyrannical bramble, the speaker of this deeply profound parable was pointing out that those who seek power the most assiduously are often those who are the most ill-equipped to use that power to serve others, because if they could serve others through their behavior they would be doing so without the need to exercise rule.

This is a strikingly different view than our world often has of the pleasures of power.  When there were disputes over the fairness and equity of the distribution of the daily allotment of food to the widows of the various different types of Jewish brethren in the early Church of God, it is striking that the apostles themselves had no interest in increasing their own power base by involving themselves in the power of logistics.  Instead, they viewed this power as merely waiting on tables, this power that leads people to want to increase welfare so as to increase the number of those dependent on government largess, and so had a septet of faithful Hellenistic Jews, most notably Stephen the Martyr and Phillip the Evangelist, set over this business.  Our world views the pleasures of power and administration to be among the chief areas of business in this world to do, rather than the productive labor that actually benefits other people by serving their needs.  It is little wonder, given the fact that power is sought by those people who are the most defective in their own feelings of safety and consequence, that power should be wielded so poorly.  The only people who can handle authority well are those who have no interest in ruling over and dominating others.  Anyone who gets a pleasure out of administration and management and inflicting discipline on others should be strictly forbidden, with gates barred by archangels with flaming swords, from such offices where those pleasures may be found.  Our world would be quite different if it was preferred to engage in those actions where we served others out of the gifts that God has given us rather than seek to rule over others for our own pleasure and feeling of immense self-importance.  It would be a much better world as well, but unfortunately a world that we are not equipped to make for ourselves.  We are far too insecure to humble ourselves to such an extent, and that is a great shame.

[1] See, for example:



About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God, Musings and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Tell Me What’s It All For, If You’re Not Terrified To Fail

  1. Pingback: A Circle Can’t Fit Where A Square Should Be | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Willie Out West | Edge Induced Cohesion

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