restraint & power

Seems that the notion of power is on the minds of all three of us who write here. Maybe it is the season of conventions and the upcoming election(s), maybe it is the start of the school year and may be it is just in the wind these days.

I attended two talks at churches this weekend.

The first was a lecture by Michael Thompson, author of Raising Cain: protecting the emotional lives of boys and many other books, primarily on boys. While the book is over a decade old, he has continued in his research and the talk was engaging and thought provoking. While being focused on boys and sharing a concern for where we have room to improve, it was not anti-girl. As much as anything, his talk was pro-human with a stated focus of boys. He offered almost as many statements about protecting and nurturing girls well as he did about boys.

Thompson covered a lot in a very short window of time. He pointed out that according to the NAEP girls passed boys overall academically in 1982 and that girls pulled even or passed boys in math and science in 2003. He called for more peaceful lives for our boys, that we need to hit them less and expose them to less real life violence if we expect them to grow to be less violent adults. (Note: He did not say to avoid violent video games or rough physical play, he was clear that he was talking about abuse and actual physical violence that so many boys live with daily.)

One comment stood out to me, it was almost a throw away comment offered as he passed to another point. He said that dad’s (& men in general) are not just playing when they wrestle and throw babies and toddlers around. Rather, they are teaching through action love and restraint. They are powerful enough to do some serious damage, but the lesson is that having power does not mean you must use it. Having power does not mean I get to hurt you. In fact, love is shown by exercising power and restraint.

The very next day, we sat in church where the sermon was on Philippians 2 :5-8. The focus was on the restraint Christ showed in being fully God AND not exploiting this. In fact, the text goes on to say that Jesus humbled Himself. The invitation for those of listening was to recognize our own power and choose how to best serve others. The question was posed “Which is more powerful…the use of power or the restraint of power?”

I have been around powerful people. I have seen the best of what they may offer and it is beautiful. I have also seen others wield power like a club to press others down so that they may step over them and move ever higher. For those who functionally live using their power to put others in their place or move others out of their way, I pray they wake up to this abusive behavior and correct their ways. And whether they do or not, I pray for those whom they have abused. I know that I’ve need those prayers before.

Side note: For those of you who have more time than you know what to do with…go to the NAEP website and type “gender” into the search. Fascinating statistics for those of us who care about young women and men as we work for their welfare and the welfare of all.

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About Amy Jacober

Amy Jacober (PhD, Fuller Seminary) is a youth ministry veteran with ministry and teaching experience. She focuses on practical theology, urban ministry, theology & disability, and marginalized communities. She is a volunteer youth worker in her church and community, lead consultant with Youth Ministry Architects and serves on the Young Life Capernaum national board. In her free time she can be found playing with her three young children, husband, and oversized dog.