The dictionary defines the five lettered word POWER as strength, energy or authority and most of us also associate power with richness or control over others. But power has many guises. Imagine changing a community just by being yourself, by being genuine.
When I think of power I think of St. Francis of Assissi who gave up a pampered life to live in poverty while comforting the sick and the poor. And I think of Mohandas Gandhi, who used what is called the ‘truth force’ in the freedom struggle. What do the individuals who with Gandhi, participated in the struggle have in common? They all spoke and acted as themselves, resolutely standing up for what they believed. They had the inner purity of people true to their ideals. In other words, they were authentic.
Many critics today decry the ‘be yourself’ philosophy as leading to selfishness. But authenticity doesn’t lead to selfishness. It proceeds from the centre of a person’s life but is not self-centered. It sets a glowing example for others and moves them to action. This is its uncanny power, and it is available to all of us.
The concept that we ought to know and be ourselves goes back to the first time a human wondered ‘who am I’. Socrates taught to ‘know thyself’ is the basis of all knowledge. We seem to be asking ‘how can I make my life count for something’ all the time. Authenticity makes each person’s life count by restoring power to the individual. To be oneself is a natural human and universal power, which brings with it a cornucopia of blessings. Authentic people recognize the directions in which their lives are meant to go. They also mobilize the energy of others by inspiring them .
Power of self love – A person who respects and values oneself is much more likely to be able to do the same for others. When we are not sure who we are, we are uneasy. We try to find out what the other person would like us to say before we speak, would like us to do before we act. When we are insecure, our relationships are governed not by what they need but our needs.
Power of the spirit – No one can summon spiritual powers just by wanting to. But it seems to come often to those most centered on the deep self where discovery begins. I think of Martin Luther King, Jr, marching between the swinging police club and the baying dogs to Selma, Alabama and electrifying a huge audience in Washington. It was impossible to be with him for any length of time without realizing that the spirit was the spring from which he took his life’s responses. Few of us can be great leaders, but any person true to oneself enhances their access to this power of the spirit.
Striving for authenticity is not easy. Its a lifetime endeavor and nobody makes it all the way. It is a becoming rather that an ending, something we learn day by day. Here are a few ways:
1. Pay attention to what is going on in your life, inwardly or outwardly
2. Accept the idea that nothing is wrong with being different from others and we are all equal. The truth is that all of us are different and we are meant to be. ‘ Each on of us is a unique being confronting the world in a unique fashion’ wrote philosopher Paul Weiss. Seek out your deepest convictions and stand by them, live by them.
3. Spend time with yourself. Solitude is at the heart of self-knowledge, because it is when we are alone that we learn to distinguish between the false and the true, the trivial and the important. Nietzsche said ‘Solitude makes us tougher towards ourselves and tenderer towards others’.
As with the splitting of the atom, opening of self gives us access to a hidden power. Authenticity, is a self sensitizing and blessed power. It comes with a feeling at home with oneself, and at home in the universe. It is the greatest power in the world – the power to be ourselves. Don’t you think so?