We tend to demonize the word “power” in our culture. But of itself, power is simply the capacity to act, a kind of energy to accomplish what must be done. Power in this sense can lead to magnificent and creative solutions to difficulties, wonderful breakthroughs and great progress.
God gives us all a certain degree of power to act. We have capacities, abilities, talents and charisms. And these powers, these capacities interact with our will and freedom. It is here that power can bring about great good or go terribly wrong.
Power gone wrong leads us to dominate and impose our self on others in a self-serving way. And power used in this way can lead to unimaginable human suffering and misery and the wars, conflicts, genocides, killing fields and high death tolls of the last century show. As many as 100 million people were put to death in that bloody century in the name of many secular ideologies, of ushering in secular “utopias” and the quest for raw and dominating power.
In the video below we see power gone wrong. A man comes to apply for the job of “superhero” and he is put through certain tests to discern if he has the temperament to handle power for good.
The first few tests seem to go well. But suddenly his use of power goes to his head and he gratuitously kills someone he is supposed to protect. Things go off the rails quickly and the result is utter destruction.
How did this happen? As already stated his power has gone to his head. He has forgotten that he has power for others, not for himself.
It frequently happens in history that those who stage revolutions for the “good of the people” or to end injustice, rise to power and then usher in their own reign of terror. Secular utopian notions of the last Century and their leaders while claiming to be “for the people” often created worse oppression and dictatorships than they claimed to replace. Iron curtains fell and a loss of freedom ensued, as killing on a mass scale was ushered in all “for the sake of the people.” Hitler killed millions, as did Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others.
There is a subtlety to the video as to how the power goes to his head. For on the face of it his turn to darkness is quite sudden. But I would suggest it is not and that we could see it coming.
How? In the fact that our “hero” uses deadly violence to solve every problem presented in his test sequence. It is not enough for him to rescue the victim, he must destroy the threat. Finally a threat sees his prepared response and back down. He has won without destroying. But by now he has a lust to kill. He must get the kill! But the kill has evaded him by retreat. Thus he turns his lust for power, his lust for the kill on the one he is supposed to protect. From there it is all downhill. No one will limit his power, tell him what to do or keep his blood lust in check. Power has corrupted him. He is addicted to it and must use it.
Here is power gone wrong in miniature, in a cartoon that well illustrates the dark side of power. Power is not wrong, but power can go wrong when it interacts with our sinful nature and its use is no longer measured, or its object is no longer helping others but merely serving the self.