Occasionally when I write and speak about peace I am chided on my naivety. The implied message is that peace is passive and even reckless in the face of powerful and destructive forces.
There is truth to this assertion. Adam Kahane, author of 'Power and Love' writes of the impotence of love when it stands alone without power. He quotes Martin Luther King Jr. who stated - "Love without power is sentimental and anemic." King adds, "And power without love is reckless and abusive." The task before us is to combine power and love. King says -
"One of the great problems of history
is that the concepts of love and power
have usually been contrasted as opposites
so that love is identified with the resignation of power,
and power with the denial of love.
It is precisely this collision of immoral power
with powerless morality
which constitutes the major crisis of our time."
I think King and Kahane have something important for us to consider. In both my personal and professional life I've witnessed the effect that love and power can have when they are out of balance. I have lived much of my life with more emphasis on love with the result that I've often experienced anger, resentment and frustration at my own powerlessness. And I've witnessed the effect that power without sufficient love can and does have on humanity. All wars, conflicts, and assaults are a consequence of too much power and not enough love.
So, why is it so difficult to balance love and power?
The reason is we have not been taught how to balance power and love. Many of us have abandoned our power, either through witnessing the destructive results of power and not wishing to align with it, or being convinced by our media, religions and leaders that we really have no power anyways.
And much of our love is narrow and conditional. Most all of us love only a small core group of people (family, extended family, race, religion, culture, Nationality). This places the majority of humanity on the outside of our love. And, more commonly, we love others while they are nice and loving, and respond in unloving ways when the other fails to love fully.
Upon reading Kahane's Power and Love I've identified five actions we might want to take if we wish to improve the condition of humanity on the planet. I offer these actions for your consideration:
1. Claim our Power
Recognize that we are powerful beings and have the capacity to act. More than having the capacity to act, we have the responsibility to act. Claiming our power means shifting from "someone should" to "I will". It means recognizing that life is a result of the choices we have made individually and collectively, and owning our responsibility for choosing better. Our capacity to address our toughest social challenges depends on our willingness to admit that we are part of the problem.
"If you are not part of the problem,
you can't be part of the solution."
Professor Bill Tolbert
2. Expand Our Love
We need to expand our love to include everyone - no boundaries, borders, limits, or conditions. All boundaries and borders are artificial and man made. It is our perceived separateness that allows us to cause harm to another. All wars begin with a distancing and objectification of the other so that harming 'them' is justified. To solve today's challenges everyone must be valued and uplifted.
3. Build Our Capacity for Co-Creation
One of the discoveries from nature is that 'collective intelligence' is higher than 'individual intelligence'. Scientist have discovered that a hive of bees, a school of fish, and a flock of birds is fifty times more responsive to their environment that any individual bee, fish or bird. The same is true for us. Group intelligence is always higher than individual intelligence.
"If you want to walk fast, walk alone.
If you want to walk far, walk together."
4. Manage Our Fear
The root cause of man's destructive behaviour is fear. Fear is a consequence of living in an imagined future and telling oneself a negative story. I've learned we can always manage this moment. What we can't manage is our imagination about what might happen because it doesn't exist. Fear activates our reptilian brain, which is only concerned with 'fight or flight'. To solve today's complex social problems we need to activate our higher brain, which is able to be creative, intuitive, and collaborative.
"Power over happens when our fear of being hurt
exceeds our fear of hurting others."
5. Refuse to Choose Between Power And Love
Choosing either power or love is destructive. There is no future in either power or love, only in power and love. When we choose love or power we inevitably re-create the existing reality or worse. Power is never absent, only concealed. Concealed power is harder to deal with than overt power. Love without power deceitfully reinforces the status quo.
It is time to end immoral power and powerless morality. It is time for change. More of the same will only lead to further destruction and the end of life as we know it. The Chinese have a saying we would be wise to embrace -
"Unless we change our direction,
we will end up where we're headed."