It appears that far too many accept the idea that power and authority are synonymous. It seems to be an underlying assumption that those who possess authority also possess power, or that mortal authority grants power. From my perspective these assumptions are faulty.
Having the physical and mental power to drive a car does not grant authority from the state to do so. Having authority to step to the plate during a Major League baseball game does not guarantee the batter will have the power to hit a home run. You may have the power to go into your neighbor’s home and do as you please but without proper authority, your display of power may make you a criminal.
Believing authority grants power can also bring disappointment when those in authority are unable to work the miracles we assumed their roles implied. We may be even more disappointed when we find ourselves in positions of authority. A new title may grant us expanded access but it does not necessarily endow us with additional skill or wisdom. In the absence of active power, authority is all but void.
On the other hand, power alone is not enough to govern anything. Those who use their power to demand authority, that is not rightfully theirs, or those who attempt to take it by force eventually fall. Power is slippery in the hands of those who want it most.
Those who seek power unlawfully often put themselves on a course to gain a little authority and not long after they begin to drift (or sprint) off course. Sometimes the drift is subtle and sometimes it’s surprisingly bold. In the end, if they haven’t made adjustments, they lose the power and authority they prized most not only at great personal expense but sadly, and more importantly, at the expense of others.
Most simply, authority is a gift of trust and power is ability. How the two are obtained makes all the difference.
Today, as I look across Atlanta from my desk, my thoughts are drawn to the challenges of life. When I consider the thousands of people within my view on the downtown connector, in office buildings, and on the streets I’m led to ask this question; do we know enough? Do we know enough collectively to solve the big problems. Problems like violence, dishonesty, and apathy.
I’m optimistic. I believe we know enough to end dishonesty and violence in all their malignant forms. The question is; do we want them to end?
Here is one example. Are the millions who say they would never steal or kill willing to give up the rush of violence by proxy? It seems to be a great contradiction to praise peace while conditioning the heart and mind to enjoy brutality via the entertainment industry. If digital thieves and assassins are the heroes, who are we?
Of the thousands of people in my view every day, how many are suffering right now because the rest of us are slightly off course? Is our fast paced proxy culture distracting us from fulfilling our human design?
Are we willing to examine our collective appetite and make personal changes?
I’m not suggesting more laws or regulations. I’m suggesting we stop and ask ourselves if we know enough to make more of a difference with our time and our talents, than we’re making today.
We are each endowed with the right to self regulate. What will be our social foot print?