One afternoon, Ardis Whitman, as a little girl, heard her teacher announce that there would be no school the next day because the old man who lived in the turreted mansion had died. She was puzzled. Many people died. Why close school for this man ? She asked Stuart, who was in the eighth standard and usually knew everything. “He owned the factory, didn’t he ?” Stuart said, amazed at her ignorance. “That’s about as powerful as you can get around here”.
Isn’t this how many of us think of power – The richest man in town, the man who can control others ?
But power has many guises, Ardis’s father, a kind and gentle clergyman, who had neither money nor fame, was invited by a church official to settle in their neighborhood on his retirement.
“We feel that we’d be a better community and better neighbors for having a man whose life is so genuine, living among us”, he wrote.
Imagine changing a community just by being oneself. That is power.
Socrates died 2000 years ago, for asking dangerous questions.
St.Francis of Assisi, gave up a pampered life to live in poverty, comforting the poor and the sick.
Mahatma Gandhi freed his people from the most powerful empire of his time without any force except what he called “truth force”.
What do these individuals have in common ? They all spoke and acted as themselves, resolutely standing up for what they believed. They had the inner purity of people true to their ideals. They were “authentic”. Authenticity sets a glowing example for others, and moves others to action. This is its uncanny power, and it is available to all of us.
The concept of being ourselves goes back to the first time a human wondered, Who am I ?
To be oneself, is a natural human and universal power, which brings with it a cornucopia of blessings.
Authentic people recognize the direction in which their lives are meant to go. When Albert Schweitzer, the great missionary doctor, was a boy, a friend proposed that they go up the hills and kill birds.
Albert was reluctant, but afraid at being laughed at, he went along. They arrived at a tree in which a flock of birds was singing, the boys put stones in their catapults. Then the church bells began to ring, mingling music with the bird song. For Albert, it was a voice from heaven. He shooed the birds away and went home. From that day on, reverence for life was more important to him than the fear of being laughed at. His priorities were clear.
Fatigue is a common symptom of people who have suppressed what is truly themselves. They think it is a loss of muscular power. Actually, it is a loss of power on the part of the soul. We are tired from the effort not to be ourselves. We are actors, trying to impress other people. That’s hard work.
By contrast, the authentic people feel alive, exhilarated because there are no internal conflicts, for they do what matters to them; they also mobilize the energies of others by inspiring them. By just being themselves, they make a statement about what is to be done. They waste no energies in protecting a shaky ego because they know who they are.
Striving for authenticity is a lifetime endeavor. Record the changes in your life – inwardly, outwardly. Accept being different from others. Seek out your deepest convictions; stand by them, live by them. Gain access to the hidden power in you, in solitude, for that, is the greatest power in the world.