Does Power Corrupt?

Power tends to corrupt and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men…
—Lord Acton

The above quotation is often cited, but does it hold true? Most people want more power, even if that power is only used to improve their personal situation. However, when people obtain power in order to control others, this power can make the powerful person feel arrogant and proud, and he may become corrupt in the sense that he does not do what is good for others, but only uses others for his own personal goals.

The crux of the matter is that powerful people may not realize that when they use and abuse others, they are also abusing themselves, for everyone is connected at a fundamental level. One person cannot suffer without causing all beings to suffer in some way. Likewise, one person cannot be blessed without all other connected beings being blessed.

Sometimes this equality of losses and gains seems to be delayed. The powerful person can seem to benefit while those he uses and abuses can seem to lose. However, differences only exist in time, and these differences disappear when things are seen from an eternal perspective. Meanwhile, the powerful person may be affected by fear or apprehension because, at least unconsciously, he feels that he will be attacked by those who want revenge.

Powerful people who use others may seem to be accumulating a lot of bad karma for themselves. However, as with all people who make mistakes, their mistakes are not eternal, but can be undone when they change their mind. When they realize that all beings are one, they will realize that using others is not to their ultimate benefit. After they awaken to oneness, they can help other “bad men” awaken also.

Those who may have been abused by the “powerful” people do not improve things by resenting the powerful people and wanting to punish them, for that is the way that the cycle of guilt and attack is perpetuated. When the “weak” become “powerful” they are tempted to punish their former abusers. However, if they can realize that this punishment does not improve anyone’s situation, then they can also help to stop the cycle of victimhood and abuse. In addition, those who are abused by a tyrant may feel like a victim, but they may, in turn, abuse those in their own household. Therefore, the line between abuser and victim is not always clear, for everyone can be both.

The quotation below discusses the call to return to God, which the Holy Spirit makes. The Holy Spirit, which shares God’s power, does not command, demand, or overcome. In this way, the Holy Spirit exemplifies power that is not corrupt, for the Holy Spirit is completely peaceful, knowing that the eternal cannot be threatened, and that everything that is wrongfully done in this world can be undone because it is not real like the eternal.

The Call to return [to God] is stronger than the call to depart, but it speaks in a different way. The voice of the Holy Spirit does not command, because it is incapable of arrogance. It does not demand, because it does not seek control. It does not overcome, because it does not attack. It merely reminds. It is compelling only because of what it reminds you of. It brings to your mind the other way, remaining quiet even in the midst of the turmoil you have made for yourself.
A Course in Miracles: Complete and Annotated Edition (p. 202).

To conclude, differences in power among people are only temporary. When the desire for revenge is replaced by the desire for forgiveness and oneness, then all beings will realize that their power can be used for the benefit of all. The cycle of fear and abuse will end, and all will live together in unity.

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