Refining Power and What It Means for Personal Transformation
I have a confession to make. I love superhero movies. I’m a sucker for a good “unassuming, kind and humble person, full of integrity, accidentally gets exposed to toxic or alien material and becomes super-human only to fight for good and abolish evil” kind of story. There’s something about seeing justice served. About someone using their power only for good sans personal gain.
I find these movies particularly enjoyable when I’ve come through a tough week, when I’m fighting internal battles or entering into the battle with loved ones. I appreciate the opportunity the movies offer for a momentary, healthy escapism into a world where people live out of their internal power and wrongs are made right.
Society’s Definition of Power
Power. It’s an interesting word. One that conjures up different images and ideas of what is powerful. In our society, we hear “power” and often equate it to political connections, financial means, status, what friend group someone belongs to, their careers or even what church they attend.
Sometimes we associate power with physical strength, athletic ability, power to influence, fame and/or beauty. In almost every case, we tend to see power as something one “has” because of, or related to, what they “possess.” This idea is further perpetuated by what we see in media and what we celebrate as a society as being powerful.
But what does all of this mean in relation to the power we possess internally?
While there is and should always be room for conversations around societal power and power dynamics and how we can best serve and protect others through whatever power we do possess, for today, I’d like to talk about the idea of internal power and how it too can be conflated with image and possessions.
Truth is, real internal power, the kind that can effect change in our lives, can look very different from what society and media tell us to celebrate as powerful. That power is less about what we “possess” and more about what might be trying to possess us, internally; attempting to possess our sense of identity, value and worth.
The Truth About Internal Power
Are you with me so far? I’m checking in because what I’m about to say next might make you want to stop reading. But I hope you’ll choose to power through instead. (See what I did there? 😉)
Often, increasing our internal power must begin with submission. I’m not talking about submission to a person outside of yourself (although- I will come back to this in a minute). Rather, I’m talking about what it means to submit to the inner voice that is calling you into discovery. The voice that is asking you to face an internal struggle. To get honest about that relationship that’s harming you. Or to deal with something from your past that you’ve ignored for far too long.
Perhaps there is a legacy of powerlessness in relationships in your family, or maybe you weren’t permitted to have a voice or a sense of autonomy growing up. Any and all of these experiences are painful, and we often find ways to work around that pain.
We have this tendency to avoid, run away, over-compensate for or distract ourselves from uncomfortable things. Painful things. We think that if we focus on the possessions we spoke of earlier (fame, achievement, status, connections, etc.) then we can bypass the painful things. It’s a smoke and mirrors game we play with ourselves. We tell ourselves and the world, “Look at all I have and achieved. Look at my power.” But the frenetic pace required to keep this up doesn’t leave us feeling powerful at all. It leaves us feeling depleted.
There is no rest for the soul of the one who seeks acceptance in performance and accumulation. No matter how cool your cape is. No matter how much external power you display.
The truth is, for as much as I enjoy those superhero movies, virtually every one of them has some sort of inner battle they’re facing. Or in some cases “not” facing (seriously, there are some deep-seeded attachment wounds and unresolved traumas in those back stories!).
But you know what else most of them have in common? They have someone outside of themselves to talk with, let down their guard with. Someone who encourages and supports and champions them- even though they are the champions. Think about it. There’s almost always a sidekick. A behind the scenes person who has their back. Oh! And, a place to return to when they feel depleted and are in need of rest. (Secret lair anyone?).
Making It Practical
Ok. So, what does this mean for us? What can we do to begin exploring the idea of expanding our internal power in healthy ways? What I’d like to leave you with today, are some practical steps for reclaiming your power. Here are some questions I would encourage you to explore:
· Is there something I’m avoiding by performing, achieving, accumulating?
· Do I feel like others have power over me? (Test this by asking yourself: Am I afraid to say no or do I people please to stay in someone’s good graces?)
· Do I gain a sense of feeling powerful by being accepted and/or recognized for what I have or what I do?
· Do I feel an internal sense of exhaustion?
· Are there unhealthy relationships in my life that create a sense of powerlessness in me?
· Who is my person that I can trust to go to when I’m feeling vulnerable?
· Where is a place I can go to be myself and rest?
· Is there someone I’m willing to share my struggles with?
· Would it be helpful for me to find a counselor who could walk this journey with me?
For those of us who identify as believers in God, the idea of internal power gets a boost from our relationship with Jesus. That doesn’t mean we won’t struggle with this idea of power, avoidance or accumulating (in fact- an emotionally unhealthy spirituality will seek to hyper-spiritualize all problems and gain a sense of “power” from performing in the church too.)
If you’re interested in exploring this further, I will leave you with two of my favorite pieces of Scripture that encourage me, particularly as it relates to the idea of power and surrender and accumulating. It is my hope that they encourage you, too.
“Are you tired? Worn out? Burned out on religion? Come to me. Get away with me and you’ll recover your life. I’ll show you how to take a real rest. Walk with me and work with me—watch how I do it. Learn the unforced rhythms of grace. I won’t lay anything heavy or ill-fitting on you. Keep company with me and you’ll learn to live freely and lightly.” Matthew 11:28-30 The Message
“You belong to God… You have already won a victory… the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” 1John 4:4 NLT
I give you these encouragements not in place of doing the work of looking within. Nor are these intended to replace counseling, should you decide it would be helpful for you. Rather, I share them with you to offer a sort of “secret lair” for your soul. A place of rest and replenishment, and as a means of exploring what it means to tap into The Source of all power and goodness and love.
Take back your power today, my friend. Through surrender, exploration and letting go. And share this with someone who might have crossed your mind while you while you were reading. These journeys are always better when we take them together.
If you would like more information on the topics discussed today, or if you’re interested in working through generational dysfunction and trauma in your story and how it might relate to your internal power, visit ginabirkemeier.com or check out Generations Deep: Unmasking Inherited Dysfunction and Trauma to Rewrite Our Stories Through Faith and Therapy. To participate in a Generations Deep Story Group, inquire at firstname.lastname@example.org.