Power: To do good or to do evil?

By Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP on 04-07-2011

These days the point of a hot
discussion is why do people crave for power, and once they get to it, they hang
on to it till their last breath.  Power
always comes with its comforts and pleasures, but nonetheless the struggles and
pains. Some usurp power; some enjoy power; some abuse power and some use power
for doing good. Some people, in their 80s and 90s and even when on their sick
bed, are holding on to power as if it is their only source of happiness. Even
when the power-holders are advised and coerced to give up power, it is too good
for them to let go of it. When the power they hold on to is threatened, they
use all their resources to safeguard it and strengthen their grip on to it.
Some use the weapon of vilifying and destroying the character of their
opponents in order to eliminate the threat to their power bastion. Others use
deadly weapons and human shields so that the power they tasted would not desert
them. The root cause of most of the wars the world has witnessed thus far is
the craze for power between different players. But there are others who use
power for building up the society, creating harmony and helping progress. This
indeed is the purpose of power.

Although everyone knows what power
is, and everyone has tasted and exercised it in some form or other, it is a
difficult concept to define. Max Weber, the great German Philosopher defines
power as, “the ability of an actor to realize his or her will in a social
action, even against the will of other actors.” Power is exercised in different
spheres of life: society, politics, economics, military, community, family,
association, etc.

The ultimate source of every form of
power is God as He is the Omnipotent being. We can say God deposits a share of
His power on humans in order to maintain and continue the order and harmony of
God's creation.  Jesus said
to Pilate: “You would have no authority over me, unless it had been given
you from above” (Jn 19:11). The power that God imparts upon humans is meant to
use for common good and social harmony.

The problem starts when people with power begin to misuse it for their
personal gains, when they use power to harass, oppress and burden others. Jesus
had cautioned his followers against the hypocrisy of those who abuse power:
“The scribes and the Pharisees sit on Moses' seat; so practice and observe
whatever they tell you, but not what they do; for they preach, but do not
practice. They bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on men's shoulders;
but they themselves will not move them with their finger.” (Mt 23:2-4).

About The Author

Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP

Fr. Joe Eruppakkatt SSP is a Catholic priest of the Society of St Paul. He has been engaged in media activities for several years as General Editor of ST PAULS Mumbai. He believes in God's gift of beauty and goodness in every human being, in nature and in every religious tradition, and shares his views and opinions with others.