A Model for Compassionate Power ~ Blog 4

It’s a huge button pusher for me when I see people distorting facts, doing divisive things and then denying it all  ~  and so I’ve been having strong reactions to how I believe hatred is currently being fueled for political purposes. At the same time, I’ve been reflecting more and more deeply on how my own rages and rants  ~  Yes, I do talk back to the TV  ~  do nothing more than to deplete my energy and bring me closer to being like the people I’m judging. It’s so easy to justify judgement when we think we are on the “right” side of justice. My goal this year is to be more conscious of when my anger at injustice, or wanting to protect a person I care about, or being hurt by someone myself is tricking me into losing my power and to recover more instantly.  More . . While struggling this issue, I’ve had a strong pull to use an updated newsletter from several years ago as my first blog of 2013. I hesitated to reuse it until I saw that Vicki Dello Joio, a dear friend and mentor, had done just that with her blog on Musings for the New Year. It freed me to do what I was drawn to do.


I have an absolute belief that being willing to show our vulnerability in combination with giving honest feedback to others creates a powerful alchemy—one that is essential to a quality of openness that goes beyond personal agenda—fostering healing, moving us toward wholeness, ultimately giving us the capacity for living with enhanced compassion, integrity, and power.

When I saw the movie Invictus, I was overwhelmed by Nelson Mandela’s capacity for profound compassion and forgiveness after 27 years of unjust incarceration. Watching Morgan Freeman as Mandela, I saw his brilliance in choosing, against tremendous opposition, to use an almost entirely white rugby team as one way to unite South Africa at the end of Apartheid. I watched him see the humanity in each person he talked with, be honest in his feedback to them, while open and transparent about his intentions. He carried this attitude and presence both with white people who mistrusted or hated him and with black people who felt conflicted, even betrayed by what he was doing in his efforts to bring healing to the people of his county.

mandela_postcard

I was watching a man who embodied an utterly non-defensive essence, releasing the full magnitude of his enormous capacity for compassion, honesty and creative problem-solving. Elected president in the first election after the end of apartheid, he initiated the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which deal with crimes and abuses of the past using an extraordinary process that brought deeper layers of healing. Nelson Mandela enhanced his power with compassion and became a major force in preventing the outbreak of a bloody civil war—a task of such magnitude that I believe few people on earth would have given any odds for success.

As I watched the movie, I was jarred by a clear vision of  how often I still felt justified in hanging on to a quality of old, angry behaviors that scream “POWER STRUGGLE” when reacting to people with those attitudes and behaviors I think are divisive or hurtful. And in that moment of reflection, I became painfully aware of the strength of my desire to hold onto that self-righteous anger. My resistance to giving it up was paramount. I suddenly felt like a beginning student—one who is thinking he or she would lose power by being non-defensive. I knew in that moment that I needed to dramatically increase my motivation to change myself.

This year, my resistance to giving up the self-defeating anger is pretty much gone, but the habit is still alive ~ but not healthy and well! I’m working to remembering a lesson—that we change the macrocosm every time we change the microcosm. I’m paying more attention to standard little comments I make as important choices. I consistently ask myself questions now, such as:

  • How am I serving myself and/or others with this thought or that comment?
  • What impact does it have on my energy?
  • Does it inspire me or leave me angry, depressed, and/or drained?
  • Am I becoming alienated from others and/or myself?
  • Am I losing integrity?
  • Is this how I want to be using my energy?
  • If I weren’t using my energy this way, what else might I be doing?

As we make our way through 2013, I believe it is a good time for each of us to ask ourselves, “Where  and how do I still hold onto power struggle?” I believe it is a time to look at even our smallest reactions as choices that will be shaped either by power struggle or non-defensive power—a time to become acutely conscious of the extent to which moving past power struggle opens us to new horizons in fulfilling our potential.


“To be great, be whole; don’t exaggerate or leave out any part of you. Be complete in each thing. Put all you are into the least of your acts. So too, in each lake, with its lofty life, the whole moon shines.” ~ Fernando Pessoa, 1933


Link for information about the Truth and Reconciliation Commission set up by the South African Government after Nelson Mandela was elected President.


For thought provoking questions and a guide to prepare for the transition into the New Year that I love to use, see Vicki’s blog, New Year’s Musing

6 thoughts on “A Model for Compassionate Power ~ Blog 4

  1. The same day I finished this blog, I saw the movie, “Lincoln.” Despite their different backgrounds and experiences, I was so struck by the similarities between Mandela and Lincoln in terms of their ability to keep compassion and a drive for justice with the ability to be direct and forceful in creating an environment in which that kind of inconceivable change can take place. It makes me sad to wonder how much power Lincoln might have had, as Mandela did, to help heal the nation if he had lived longer.

  2. I was very moved by this the first time you posted it and appreciate this “booster shot.” Best wishes to you in this new year.

    • Hi, Janet. Several people have emailed me also who are seeing it for the second time and said they needed it right now. I’m glad because I know I needed it too. Have we met? Take good care, Sharon

      • Sharon, I discovered your book via a serendipitous series of events at a time when I was trying to figure out why marriage and parenting were so challenging for me. I’d never had even the slightest trouble with relationships before, not even with my parents when I was a teenager. It was still called “Don’t be so defensive!” back then, and and it was a self-help book that I could relate to because it offered specific things to say and do, and it was serious, not fluffy. Many years later I couldn’t believe my good fortune when my otherwise clueless Big Boss brought you in for an employee in-service day, so we have met but there’s no reason you would remember me : ) You added me to your email list that day, and I regret that I don’t follow your blog as closely as I’d like, but believe me, it’s a rare week that I don’t think of you and your approach to communication. Thanks!

      • Thanks for sharing your experience with me. It moves me very much to hear how you have valued my work. I hope we meet again another time.

  3. Pingback: Letting Go of Power Struggle with Vicki Dello Joio |

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