5 Reasons People Abuse Power

“Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” No doubt you’ve heard that quote many times. I’ve never questioned that statement before. But then Captain America came to mind. Before Steve Rogers was injected with the serum that made him Captain America, he was told that the serum emphasizes everything inside of us. Good becomes great and what’s bad becomes worse. So, does power make us worse people, or does it just magnify what’s already there? Does power corrupt us, or does power reveal—or perhaps provide a platform for—our corruption? Power isn’t inherently bad, just like money isn’t bad. However, both sure do tempt our character, and abuse of power is all too common.

No matter the answer to that question, it’s obvious that there are often people who abuse their power. People use their power to bully, coerce, and intimidate. There are deep emotional and psychological costs for the victims. As dads, we are given power over our kids and the last thing we want to do is use that power in a harmful way. So we need to think about why abuse of power happens in order to avoid it. Here are 5 reasons people abuse power.

1. They don’t have accountability.

Dachner Keltner, author of The Power Paradox, discusses studies where people who are given power consistently displayed arrogance and entitlement. Accountability holds these attitudes in check. That’s the primary reason the American founders set up a three-branch government. As dads, we need to make sure we invite and listen to the critiques of family, loved ones, and friends about our parenting. It doesn’t mean they are always correct, but we need to be open and discerning when criticized. We may need to make some changes.

2. They’re afraid.

Fear of how we’ll be perceived as a parent when our kids step out of line can cause us to be harsh and controlling. We might be afraid of the future and again, feel the need to control. Like a wounded animal we are more prone to lash out when we’re afraid. This is why unearthing and confronting our fears is so important. If you’re having trouble overcoming your fears look into counseling. A professional can give you the necessary tools. Also, pray about your fears. Ask the God who created you to give you insight, strength, and courage. Psalm 34:4 says, “I sought the LORD, and he answered me and delivered me from all my fears.” Do you think God can deliver you from yours?

If you have been rejected, abandoned, or betrayed, it does not determine your worth.

3. They feel weak or insecure.

Raising kids can feel like pure chaos. The less we feel grounded and secure in who we are, the less we’re able to handle the craziness in a healthy way. We can instill fear in our kids to make ourselves feel more more firm and powerful. If you have been rejected, abandoned, or betrayed, it does not determine your worth. That’s not your identity. Deuteronomy 31:8 says, “The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you; he will never leave you nor forsake you.” The God of the universe wants to be with you. That’s how much you are worth.

4. They’re simply repeating how they’ve been treated.

Typically, those who abuse have been abused themselves. They perceive the way they were treated as normal and continue the pattern. We need to consider the fact that some of the ways we were raised are not worth replicating and could even be harmful.

5. They’re selfish and lack empathy.

People who refuse to think beyond themselves will typically walk over others to satisfy their own interests. Since they won’t or can’t see the world from different perspectives, they lack empathy. Do what you can to see the world through your kids eyes. Study them and gain understanding. Ask them questions, listen, and have patience.

Final Thought

People who abuse power end up losing power. If you want to maximize your influence on your kids, the best way to do it is to use your power to love, listen, serve, teach, and, yes, discipline—but do it with patience and gentleness.

Sound off: What are some other reasons for abuse of power?

Huddle up with your kids and ask, “If you ruled the world, what would you do first?”