So many of us have had negative experiences with power. It feels like something to fear, something bad, or something to avoid all together.
But what if God wants us to step into our power in a healthy way? And what if understanding the power we have is at the core of building healthy connections with other people?
Today's episode is straight from my heart and from my own tenuous relationship with power. Here's what I cover:
1. What is power?
2. Why we think of power as bad
3. What healthy power looks like
4. The problems that arise when we do not claim our own power
5. Different ways power is abused
6. Why women in particular tend to avoid their own power
7. The paradigm-shattering example of power in the birth of Jesus
Thanks to our sponsors:
Organifi —Go to www.organifi.com/bestofyou and use code BESTOFYOU for 20% off your order today!
Download Abide Sleep and Pray Meditation and text my promo code BESTOFYOU to 22433 today to get 25% off!
Music by Andy Luiten
Sound editing by Kelly Kramarik
While Dr. Cook is a counselor, the content of this podcast and any of the products provided by Dr. Cook are not specific counseling advice nor are they a substitute for individual counseling. The content and products provided on this podcast are for informational purposes only.
- Learn more about 6 Painful Parenting Patterns and 7 Friendship Red Flags in The Best of You, by Dr. Alison Cook
- To learn more about the parts of your soul, check out my book with Kimberly Miller, Boundaries for Your Soul
- Power - "the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events." (Oxford Language Dictionaries).
Podcast episodes Referenced:
- Episode 1: What is Narcissism Really?
- Episode 2: What should I know about gaslighting?
- Boundaries & the Bible Podcast Series
The Best of You Podcast: Managing Perceptions Vs Authentic Connection - Power
Episode 34 with Dr. Alison Cook
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Hey everyone, I'm Dr. Alison and I'm so glad you're here to discover what brings out the best of you. This podcast is all about breaking free from painful patterns, mending the past, and discovering our true selves in God. I can't wait to get started as we learn together how to become the best version of who we are with God's help.
Hey everyone, Merry Christmas. Welcome back to The Best of You podcast. This is our last episode of 2022, I'll be taking next week off. But I am so excited to be here with you today to wrap up this series on managing perceptions versus authentic connection.
I have a topic today that I think feeds right into the Christmas story, and the topic is power. And, especially for women, there are so many ways we have a tenuous, tricky relationship with power. Both our own and the power that we see all around us, especially, when it's been misused, which seems so prevalent, especially today.
Before we get into the episode, I just want to thank all of you who filled out this survey. Hundreds of you took the time to fill that out and gave me such helpful information, as we think about the next year ahead. Several of you mentioned, in the survey, that you wanted a place to find the resources mentioned in each podcast episode.
Well, I have such a place, so I wanted to take a moment and just remind you that every episode of this podcast has a page on my website. It's dralisoncook.com/podcast. All of the resources, books, Scriptures, and even the quotes mentioned in every podcast episode are listed on that episode's podcast page. We also provide a full transcript of every episode for you.
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As I said, I'll be taking next week off, but we're going to hit the ground running in the new year. With some exciting new episodes, as well as new ways to connect. New ways for me to engage with your questions on the podcast, as well as in some other new ways that we're excited to announce.
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So today is our last episode of this series, on managing perceptions versus authentic connection. And we started off this series talking about the many ways we tend to manage perceptions. Which means we try to get other people to see us in a certain way instead of showing up authentically, being real, being the person we really are. It doesn't mean that we don't have our guard up, in a healthy way. We don't just go show all of who we are just to anybody, trust has to be earned.
But even when you're protecting yourself in a healthy way. Even when you're going into a relationship knowing, "I need to be careful here." You can still show up, authentically, instead of trying to get that person to see you the way that you want. And this last episode gets into this idea of power. And power really underlies all of these ways that we manage perceptions because we're trying to get power.
So while this is an episode in and of itself, it also ties up in all these ways. Whether you are pleasing, producing, performing, perfecting, whatever method you use. What we're trying to do, these parts of us that do these things, these parts of us that perfect, please, perform, produce even power-over, which is the more overt one. They're always, "We're trying to get power. We're trying to get people to see us in a certain way." And that brings me right to where I want to start.
What is power?
We tend to think of power, often, as a bad thing. We tend to think of people who power-over as dominating, controlling. People who misuse power and, again, we have so many examples of a misuse of power. That I really think that we've begun almost to equate power with something bad. Power is someone who hurts other people to stay in control, to keep their own power.
But here's the thing, here's how the dictionary defines power. "It's the capacity to direct or influence the behavior of others, or to direct, or influence the course of events." So power is the capacity we all have to influence others. Think about that for a second.
If you're a parent, you have power to influence your child. It's scary and there should be a healthy fear when we think about power. I want to be clear about that. Healthy power goes hand-in-hand with a healthy fear and trembling, because we are fallen creatures. We will misuse the power we have, we are not God.
God has power and God does not misuse His power. God only uses His power to influence us, to influence the course of events for good. There's also an enemy. The enemy of our souls only misuses power, only influences us, influences the course of events for bad. That's the enemy of our souls. But God only uses His power for good.
Now, somewhere in there we, humans, are a mixture. We are a mixture. We can use our power for great good and we can do harm, because we're fallen humans. And I just want to name that, especially if you're a parent, because I started with parenting. That's the hardest one because it's the most obvious place where there's a power differential. We as parents have a lot of power. We have a lot of influence in our kids' lives. We have power in our friends' lives. We have power in our workplace.
Sometimes it doesn't feel like we have any power. We feel powerless, and there are many reasons for that. If someone else has misused their power to put us in a position of feeling like we have no choices, like we are trapped, that's a terrible place to be in. If you are feeling powerless, I want you to get help. I want you to learn to find small ways to reclaim your power. Because power, at the end of the day, is something we all need to have a relationship with.
We need to understand the power that we have so that we can use it wisely. So that we can use it for good. Now, in my book, The Best of You, for those of you who've read it, I describe six harmful parenting patterns. I also describe seven friendship red flags. And I get into these ways that we manage perceptions, and I also talk about how churches can abuse power. All of these chapters, where I talk about this, are getting into ways we can misuse power.
So instead of showing up, authentically, with confidence, even naming hard things. Even exerting healthy influence, that's healthy power. But instead of doing that, we pivot and out of our fear, and out of our insecurities, and out of our wounds, and out of our unhealed shame, we try to force people to do things. We try to manipulate other people's perceptions. We try to demand loyalty. And we might do this in forceful ways or we might do this in subtle ways.
There are the overt ways that power gets misused. The narcissistic power that tries to keep you always, only, focused on them. The controlling power that, overtly, tries to dictate your behaviors. The powering-over through gaslighting that won't let you get a word in. You have no say in the narrative, every word you used is used against you. Those are really obvious ways that power gets misused.
Now, listen, I mean, obvious, it doesn't mean it's not easy to get sucked into these because it is. But these are overt ways that we misuse power. There are more subtle ways we can misuse power through guilt-tripping. Through trying to get someone to feel guilty, so they'll do the thing we want them to do.
There's through manipulation ways that we can take advantage of other people's good heart. Ways other people may have taken advantage of you, of your empathy, of your kindness. And instead of humbling themselves to apologize, they start to manipulate you.
And there's the power of criticism, frankly, of being judgmental. We feel better about ourselves. We puff up our own faults, sense of power, by dragging others down. So there are a lot of ways that we misuse power.
Power is tricky and I think women, in particular, have a tenuous relationship with power. And I think for most women, not for all women, I'm broadly generalizing here. But many of us haven't felt that we have power. We haven't felt empowered. We don't understand what it means to feel powerful. In fact, we fear that in ourselves. We've been taught we're not supposed to have power. Isn't that bad? Why should I want power? Power is bad.
And, so. what happens is we stay at the mercy of other people, people who are okay with having power and wield their power. Now, hopefully, we get lucky and we're with someone who wields their power for good. But what I want to propose to you is this idea of shared power. What if we all have a little bit of God-given power and we can use it for ill? Yes. But we all have the capacity to use our power for good.
Remember that definition, "Power is the capacity to direct or influence the behaviors of others, or the course of events." You have power. Now let me give you a simple example. We're going into Christmas, I've been talking about this on and on, almost every episode, especially in the series on boundaries. But you have power on Christmas day. You have power over the schedule.
Now, you may not have ultimate power. You may not have complete power. I'm not saying that it's up to you to become a dictator, that would be a misuse of power. But you do have some power. You do have some power to say, "You know what? I don't want to do that this year."
Or "I need to minimize my exposure to that activity or that person this year." I have some power. Right now I want you to consider, "I have some power." I can make decisions that will be good for me and that, yes, might impact or influence the course of events. Which means that my decisions might influence other people. I might need to exert some power with my kids to say, "Hey, this is what we need to do this year. I know you might not like it, but I need you to trust me. This is what's best for our family."
You might need to exert your power simply for yourself, if you live by yourself. What power do you have to bring in connection?
What power do you have?
I know you may not feel like you have much. It's so easy to feel like we are powerless in our circumstances. But I want you to consider the question, "What power do I have and how could I use it for good?" Maybe for good for someone else, and maybe you need to use that power for your own good. To influence your own course of activities for good. Maybe you need to bring something good into your day. Maybe you need to say no to something that would make you feel even worse, even more lonely.
What power do you have?
And talk to God the author of power. The One who holds all the power and who gets inside and out, how to use power for good. Talk to God, "God, how can I use any shred of power you've given me for good this Christmas. In my own life and in the lives of people I love?[00:17:31] < Music >
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Alison: I am going to read a quote to you. This is a quote by Marianne Williamson and it's a powerful quote and I just want you to hear it today, as you even think about the holidays and even the new year. Here's the quote; "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.
It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, 'Who am I to be brilliant. . .talented. . .?' Actually who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you.
We are all meant to shine as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It's not just in some of us, it's in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence, automatically, liberates others."
And I want you to think about that. What about your own power, your own light, your own brightness, do you fear? What if you could use your power for good, not only in your own life, but in the lives of the people you love?
Now, listen, I have struggled with claiming my own power. I struggle with it to this day. I don't like to think of having power. There's something about it that makes me want to shrink. But here's the thing that I've noticed. If I don't understand and name the actual power that I have, I will do more harm. And this is where we get into, I will start to please, I will start to perform, I will start to produce. I will start to manage perceptions because I feel fearful.
And, so, I slip into these ways of manipulating perceptions versus simply showing up as my true self. As my God-given self, and trusting you to be your true self, your God-given self. And letting us each inhabit the powerful voice that God has given us to use for good in this world, in partnership with God's spirit.
Misused power is about misplaced attempts for connection. It all goes back to this deep longing for connection. And when we misuse our power, we are trying to subvert the healthy process of connecting to other humans. We need other people. We need to be loved, we need to belonging, we need trust, we need safety. But we have to go about getting those things in healthy ways. We have to use our power to forge healthy connections in healthy ways.
So how do we do that?
How do we learn to harness our power in wise, healthy, good ways, that forge authentic, beautiful, lasting, safe, good connections with others? Well, power used wisely starts inside you. It starts with naming your longings. "I long for this person to see me."
"I long to feel less alone."
"I long to be loved."
"I long to be trusted."
"I long for connection." We have to get clear that at the root of this all is our deep desire to belong, to be loved, to be valued, to be honored, to be seen. This is at the root of all of this. And until we're really honest with ourselves that what I really want is for you to get me, to understand me, to see me. To take me as I am in both my good and in my blind spots, and in my brokenness, that I'm still working on. That's what I really want here, out of this interaction, and whether you're saying that or not, you know it.
But when you know that you're going to be less tempted to try to manipulate, control, force, guilt trip. Whatever the thing is that we do to try to get those things that are not healthy. So it starts with naming, it starts with owning, deep in your core.
"What I long for is your love."
"What I long for is your respect."
"What I long for is for your forgiveness."
"What I long for is for your grace."
"What I long for is for your understanding. I can't demand that of you. I can't make you love me, respect me, forgive me, see me, understand me, I can't make you do that. I can't force it, I can't control it, it's what I long for."
And, so, what I can do is let you know that I hope that you'll give me a shot, that I hope you'll see me, I hope you'll understand me. I hope you'll give me grace when I mess up, but I can never demand that. I can't force that. Woo, that's hard. That's a hard place to be, and we first have to go there inside ourselves and with God.
We first have to say, "God, this is what I long for from this person. I want my child to understand where I've been coming from and to forgive me. But I can't demand that. I can't coerce that. I can't control that."
"What I long for is this friend to understand I didn't mean to hurt her. I want her to forgive me, but I can't demand that. I can't coerce that."
"What I long for is this person just to love me and see me. I want my parent, or this friend, or my spouse to get me, but I can't command that. I can't demand that. I just have to continue to keep showing up, as honestly and as authentically, and naming what I long for, when it's appropriate. That's all I can do, I cannot control the way other people respond to me." And that's vulnerable.
The flip side, the underbelly of power is vulnerability. It's vulnerable to want other people to love us, to see us, to connect with us. It's vulnerable, we can't control other people. And, so, we have to think about power from that place of vulnerability. Power used wisely is not weak. It's not being a doormat, but it's having the confidence to understand, "First and foremost, I long for this thing," number one.
And number two, "I cannot force someone else to give it to me."
So, number three, "What can I do? What do I have control over?" And this is where we have some power.
"I can apologize."
"I can communicate."
"I can go to someone and say, 'I adore you. I would love more of you in my life.'"
We can go to someone and say, "I value you and I'd love to make a plan to connect more on Christmas day."
"Your presence is really soothing to me; it means a lot to me. Would you be available to spend some time with me over the holidays?"
And guess what, that's vulnerable because that person might say no. They might say, "I don't have the capacity." But what we have power over is the ask. Power is got to flow from a deep understanding of what we need and what we want, and what we can ask for. And it also has to flow from the humility that we cannot force other people to get us those good things we crave.
It's vulnerable. So we've got to go to God first and say, "God, I'm going to do this brave thing. I'm going to use a little of that God-given power. I can use my voice and I may not get what I want." But guess what? It's powerful to have showed up on behalf of yourself and to have said, "This is what I need and it's okay if you can't give it to me, I'll be disappointed, but this is what I need."
There's also times when you need to exert power and you need to influence events. Which may influence other people and they may not like it. And this is when there's a power differential, when you're a parent is the best example. And you've got to make a decision because it's what's best for you, and your kids may not like it.
And, again, you're exerting your power for good when you name it and you say, "Hey, listen, this is the plan that we've got to do, as a family. You may not love this plan. This may not be your first choice, and I get that and I can honor that.
But this is the plan that's the best for the best of us. I've thought about what each person needs. I understand what you want, this is the plan I've come up with. And it may not be the perfect plan, but it is the plan we're going to do. And you are allowed, you get to have feelings about that plan. I get that you can be disappointed about it, but here's the plan."
So this is the power that you exert when you actually have some power. When you have power over kids, and you've got to make a decision that's hard. Or you've got power in your workplace and you've got to say, "Hey, I get that this may not be what's best for everybody else, and I'm sorry about that, that's hard.
But as the leader here, I've got to make this hard decision. So here's what we're going to do. I'm open to feedback, but for now, here's the decision. I've made it in the best interest of all of us, and I'm hoping you can trust me on that. And if you've got hesitations, you've got reservations, I'm open to input, but this is the best decision I can make at this time."
So there's a way you can make decisions and you can exert power, when you do have power over other people that still has humility, but that still has confidence. We got to make decisions in life. We got to exert power in life at times, it's just a fact. So we've got to do it with humility and with confidence.
There's so much more we can do on this and we'll dig deeper into this topic, in the new year. Because power is so much at the root of so much of everything. It's at the root of safety, it's at the root of trust. It gets into all these other things. If I've got power, I've got to earn trust, I've got to create safety. It doesn't mean being perfect, but it does mean really stewarding the power that we have.
So step number one is we've just got to understand that we do have power. But step number two, is how do we honor other people, as we steward the power that we have?
To close, today, I want to look at the Christmas story because here's the thing about this thing, this story that we celebrate every year, at Christmas. Did you ever think of it as a story of power? This is arguably the most powerful day of the year. Maybe Easter is more powerful, the resurrection of Jesus from the dead. The resurrection of Christ is a powerful, powerful moment in history, probably, arguably, the most powerful moment in history.
But when Jesus was born, there's also an example of power, and it's this humble power that I'm talking about today. It's this power that is the opposite of force, the opposite of coercion, the opposite of control.
It's the power of a God who chose to leave all the glory, and all the riches, and all the wonder of heaven, Philippians two, and come into the earth as the most vulnerable form of a baby. And not only a baby, a baby born into poverty, a baby born to a single mother, and a probably reluctant, confused stepdad in Joseph.
I mean, these were not powerful circumstances that Jesus was born into and, yet, this most powerful being in all the universe, God showed up in the most tender, vulnerable of circumstances. So as to bring safety to others and making himself so vulnerable, so tender, that He could therefore, then, bring powerful healing to others.
That tenderness of that baby brings powerful healing to others, and just pause on that for a second without me unpacking it. Think of your own tenderness as one of your most powerful assets. Because your tenderness, your ability to tap into those tender places inside of you, "I'm hurting, I'm lonely, I'm disappointed, I feel powerless." That is the start of powerful healing.
It's hard to get to the root of our tenderness. But that's what Jesus did, He became vulnerable, so tender, and in doing so, became a source of tremendous healing. The ultimate powerful healing for all of us.
So this Christmas, as you think about this baby, Jesus, who was born into a manger, into a stable, into poverty. By everything we understand historically into this mixed up family. That wasn't a socially acceptable family.
As you think about Jesus and that tenderness, I want you to think about the tenderness inside of you and just notice, before God, areas where you're tender. And instead of shoving those feelings aside; what if naming those areas of tenderness is a form of power?
It's powerful to name those areas of tenderness. It's powerful to name them in a journal, to name them before God. To name them to a safe person, a person who has earned your trust. There's power in vulnerability, it's a pearl. It's not a pearl you want to give to just anyone, especially, if you're in a situation where someone else is misusing their power. I don't want you to give the tenderness of your vulnerability to someone who's misusing your power. But I do want you to begin to name it for yourself.
Because the path to healthy power, to being someone who uses power for good in other people's lives. Starts with you using your God-given power for good inside yourself. To be tender with the parts of you that are hurting, with the parts of you that are vulnerable. It starts with you using your God-given power for good inside of you.
Jesus came into this earth and He went to the margins, He went to the hurting, He went to the poor, He went to the suffering. He went to this sick with the power of His healing and it started because He became the most powerless form Himself. He understood powerlessness in Himself and He was therefore able to walk into other people's lives with true power. With power that uplifts, with power that equips, with power that heals, with power that transforms lives.
This Christmas start with yourself. Be gentle with those tender parts of you. Be gentle with them, that is the beginning of unlocking your God-given power.[00:38:12] < Outro >
Alison: Thank you for joining me for this episode of The Best of You. Be sure to check out the show notes for any resources and links mentioned in the show. You can find those on my website at dralisoncook.com. That's Alison with one L- cook.com.
Before you forget, I hope you'll follow the show now so that you don't miss an episode. And I'd love it if you'd go ahead and leave a review, it helps so much to get the word out. I look forward to seeing you back here next Thursday. And remember, as you become the best of who you are, you honor God, you heal others, and you stay true to your God-given self.