Sunday, August 13, 2017

Power and Influence

Charlottesville showed me the difference between power and influence.  It was about 2:30 pm and my my son was watching the news with me.  He said, "why do they do that?"  His "that" meant, "fight, hurt, and hate."  His "that" was white people that look like him, then yell, scream, and fight, other people that do not look like him.  His "that" was signs that our country had reared it's ugly head again and he did not fully understand.  He knew it was wrong, he knew he should have a reaction like mine of disgust.

He needed to be given permission to be disgusted, I had that power.

He also needed to be given the words to use, he needed to be showed by a person of power over him how to feel and what to say.

He needed to be told what he would say to people who think like "that", if he ever encounters them. He needed to be given his own power over himself.  

He needed to be reminded he did not think like "that" and if he ever did, he needed to come talk to me.

He needed to be instructed if he ever needed to have a conversation with another white person and disagreed with their bigoted stance, I would support him and have his back.

I have power over him, I can control his thoughts to an extent, he loves me on a different level, I love him on a different level.  Our relationship is stronger than I have with any other male on the planet.  I know what this responsibility means to me.

Not much was said while watching the news, not much was needed.  He clearly understood where his mother and I were coming from when we responded to his "why do they do that?" question.  Without hesitation and with true conviction, there was no grey area.

It just so happened that we had a 30 minute car ride soon after watching the news. He and I rode together, just the two of us.  He had never seen news like this, he had never seen white people act with so much hatred like this.  We have talked about other situations where black, hispanic, muslim, etc. have been damaged and targeted, but never a large group that looked like him, fighting like this, with so much hatred.

This was somehow different, and he is going into 4th grade, so he is much more aware of his surroundings now.  For the 30 minute car ride, he did not talk, which is NOT like him, he stared out the window, he looked forward, he stared at me.

He was thinking...  I did not ask him about what.  I am sure a lot of it was about what he saw before we left the house.

I have power over one.

I have influence over a lot of other young people, staff, and to some extent as I go into my 4th year, the community at large.  There is a responsibility to influence them to use their power over who they are able.  This influence is not just to treat everyone with love, fairness, open arms, etc., but also to address comments, hatred, and bigotry every time they hear it.

I was forced to realize when I saw my son's reaction and our subsequent short interaction that power and influence are different.  They are so different.

I wish I had more power, I wish I could change minds, ideas, and thoughts with just my relationships and words.  I know I can influence thoughts, ideas, and minds, but only if I allow them to tell me how they are feeling and for them to ask questions like, "why do they do that?"

Allow those conversations, allow the questions, allow the feelings, then use your influence and if you are lucky, your power.  I hope that I can influence others to use their power in this way.  I hope I can influence the younger easily influenced and those that work with them.  We have to influence them now, so that when they have power, it is used the way I have chosen to use mine.      


  1. This was so good Doug in understanding the definition of both words. I am sorry your son gad to witness a sad reality but I trust your power to lead him into always siding with Right!

  2. Thanks Valerie, I appreciate our connection and sharing of ideas!