Ambivalent About Power

Benazir Bhutto quote, power has made me suffer

Power has made me suffer too much. In reality I'm ambivalent about it. It interests me because it makes it possible to change things. But it's left me with a bitter taste. Benazir Bhutto

Benazir Bhutto was a remarkable leader in Pakistan. She was remarkable for many reasons, but high on that list is that she was a woman in a male dominated society. She was a global citizen living in a nation dominated by religious sectarianism. She was an advocate for progress when her adversaries wanted to regress to an oppressive status quo against civil rights. For an overview of Benazir, you can read this article. For a longer article read the Wikipedia entry.

One of the reasons Benazir has been on my mind is due to another remarkable leader who shares many things with Benazir. That of course is Malala Yousafzai. Of course Malala does not share the socio-economic family history with all its privileges that Benazir had. But on so many other things, they are cut from the same cloth and fiber. Even down to the assassination attempt on Malala that failed.

What is of interest to me is this profound insight about the nature of power. Bhutto indeed suffered because of power. To hold the office she did, and to have the worldview-agenda-cause she did, in a culture-climate where many opposed her - power was indeed a double edged sword. She needed power to act for the changes she believe. But to wield power and hold to one's integrity and goodness, that was the peril. And that is the paradox of power. We need it and yet it is risky for the one who has it. Leaders, are by definition, those who wield power and authority. Yet, that very power, used by a heart in which evil exists - will be corrupted by that power.

Whether it was Lord Acton's famous quote... or the lengthy trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien, the one right of power is indeed a terrible thing. In Tolkien's universe, only the wisest and good (Gandalf, Elrond, Galadriel) have the will to say no to that power. Only the most humble can carry it for awhile (Frodo and Sam). 

We cannot get away from power, and using it. We must be highly intentional about cultivating a heart that is wise and holy, if we are to use it well.

Brian K. Rice
Leadership ConneXtions International