Love and Power: can we have both?

POWER. What does it really mean?

I was recently listening to a talk by the Sakyong Jamgon Mipham Rinpoche on bravery, in which he challenged our view of what Power could be.  

As a woman, I often see the word Power used to assert our feminine right to be heard. There is a growing movement calling (if not expecting) women to harness and roar with our feminine nature, to be a “badass” warrior/goddess, to be fierce and fearless. 

These are empowering ideas – and ones which I’ve run with – but are they the only way to be Power-Full? Is Power JUST about Strength? Is Power the only way we can feel in control of our destiny, and are those things the only way to feel valid? I don’t think so.  Besides, trying to be Powerful, in that sense of the word, sounds exhausting.  What about warmth and kindness – can we be those things AND powerful?

“…the word power actually just means “the ability to DO something”. There is no reference to control, influence, dominate, manipulate or swindle. It is simply our energy in action.” 

The Sakyong almost seemed to suggest that Love and Power have, ironically, become enemies over time. Love is associated mainly with softness, gentility and compassion, whilst Power potentially the opposite. Can I Love AND have Power? The Sakyong’s teaching encouraged me to think when he said that the word power actually just means “the ability to DO something”. There is no reference to control, influence, dominate, manipulate or swindle. It is simply our energy in action.  

Photograph of a Man and Child, taken in Chile Source unknown


Back in the 60’s and 70’s I think, we saw men and women uniting under a banner they called Love in the name of Peace. At the same time though, they seemed to invite a war against Power, viewing Power as “bad”.  Power was – and still is perhaps – seen as a perpetrator, the cause of all our problems. 

Power, as with Love, can be abused in the “wrong” hands, or at least in the hands of those not truly awake to what they are doing. Today, Power is a synonym for greed (certainly money), tyranny and, essentially, corruption. And what of Love?

A while ago, I spoke of Love as a means to healing, starting with self-compassion. I was surprised by a comment I received where I was seen as naive, passive and, interestingly, as if I was giving away my Power by suggesting Love is an answer. In their eyes, what the world needs is Power, and they’re not alone.  If you read this article about authoritarian leadership, this could be how Brexit came about and how Donald Trump became the 45th President of the United States.  Only time will tell what this sort of Power looks like. 

People seem to have become distracted by these new (mis)interpretations of the word Power, and we are, once again, in a world divided – not just divided as men and women, or how we vote, but our definitions of what it is to Love and what it means to have Power.  

Having said this, back in the 70’s, the cause behind the Peace Movement was as relevant then as it is today. The world needs to find Peace. But you can’t “fight” for peace. You have to “peace” for peace.  

Perhaps we don’t have to give up our right to Love when we choose Power, or our right to Power when we choose Love – as the Sakyong said, one can be infused with the other. You don’t have to choose between one or the other, you can have both. What do you think?

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