Reclaiming Our Seat At The Table

The service industry kept me alive in my early twenties.  A hostess, a waitress, an event planner—you name it, I did it. The experience taught me about human dynamics. The power of perception and the grip it has on the way we relate to each other. One of the most important thoughts I took with me was from a time when an older couple came to dine in at an establishment I was working for. They noticed that I was in a disgruntled mood. On their way out, they asked me what I was doing to make sure that my time on the clock was worth my while, I shrugged and told them that I didn’t make the rules, therefore, it wasn’t in my control. The old man looked at me and said, “Young lady, you must learn not to give your power away.” In the moment, I felt the profoundness of what he said on a soul level but I didn’t truly understand the weight of what he meant nor did I understand what not giving my power away looked like in practice. I had to start by understanding my power. Was it physical, mental, spiritual? How do we get it and who gives it?

I recently went to a prayer conference that had me thinking a lot about the power that we all have and how we choose to use it. I was reminded of the ongoing conversations about the mega-church culture. Pastors who lose sight of their original call to action and instead become fixated on the pursuit of wealth, worldly power and influence while taking advantage of the most vulnerable people in the community. They become unaware of the disparity between themselves and the people that they signed up to serve and lead. Some argue that this is manipulation at its best while others say that it’s an inevitable part of God’s blessings for someone who is doing the Kingdom’s work.

We tend to hold religious leaders to a moral standard, the principle applies to all facets of leadership. A politician who heads an Education system that he doesn’t send his own children to, a fortune 500 CEO whose annual salary could feed a Nation but implements CSR programs to fight poverty in re-developing countries, an NGO that sells poverty porn in the name of doing good but has nothing to show for at the end of their mandate. There’s a thin line between right and wrong and whichever way you flip it, there is always going to be opposing views, and there should be. This is the beauty of a diverse race with different perspective and different value systems. But in the midst of complaining and chastising, one truth remains— No reality that we see today happened without the exchange of power whether directly or indirectly. These dynamics exist because more than one group of people benefit on the survival of any given cycle or system.

To only shine a light on the leaders of our society is to discredit the people (read we the people) who validate their views and agendas, who give more power to fear than love and who do more complaining than correcting. The greatest commodity that human beings exchange is power. We give and take depending on where our interests lie. It’s been said that a leader is a reflection of the people. What we do or don’t do, what we say or don’t say are as equally important and they all come into play in how we are represented—be it as a community, society, nation or human race.

Rather than looking outward, let’s reverse the mirror and start talking about the day-to-day decisions we make to contribute to the realities we don’t agree with. How do we benefit from perpetuating imbalance and injustice? Which spaces and people are we giving our power away to and how are we using it to forge a harmonious world?

The only thing we ever have control over is our power. With any situation, we always have the power to either remove ourselves, engage or change. The rest is madness. I’m not talking about the type of power that we access through diplomas, wealth or network. This is a power that we all possess simply by being. Once we tap into the fact that we are source and therefore are powerful beyond measure—only then can we realise our power and what we are capable of doing with it.

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