We tend to demonize the word “power” in our culture. Of itself, though, power is simply the capacity to act, a kind of energy to accomplish what must be done. In this sense, power 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 all have capacities, abilities, talents, and charisms. These powers interact with our will and our 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 will on others in a self-serving way. Used in this way, power can lead to unimaginable human suffering and misery; the wars, conflicts, genocides, and high death tolls of the last century demonstrate this. As many as 100 million people were put to death during the bloody 20th century in the name of many secular ideologies, in the name of ushering in secular “utopias,” and in quests 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 is put through various tests to discern whether he has the temperament to handle power and use it for good.
The first few tests seem to go well. But suddenly, though, his power goes to his head and he gratuitously kills someone whom he was supposed to protect. From that point on, things go off the rails; the result is utter destruction.
How did this happen? He forgot that he has power for others, not for himself.
It frequently happens that those who stage revolutions “for the good of the people” or to end injustice, then rise to power and proceed to usher in their own reign of terror. While claiming to be revolting on behalf of “the people,” the leaders of the last century, with their secular utopian notions, 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. On the face of it, his turn to darkness is quite sudden, but I would suggest that we could have seen it coming.
How? In the fact that our would-be superhero uses deadly violence to solve every problem with which he is presented during the testing. It is not enough for him to rescue the victim; he must destroy the threat. Finally, a threat sees the prepared response and retreats. He has won without destroying! However, by now he has a lust to kill. He must get the kill! He has been robbed of the kill by the retreat. Overcome by his lust for power, for the kill, he turns on the very person whom he was 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.
This is power gone wrong in miniature, in a video that illustrates the dark side of power well. Power is not wrong in and of itself, but it can go wrong when it interacts with our sinful nature and is no longer used in a measured fashion or when its objective is no longer helping others but merely serving the self.