Today’s lesson is about power and responsibility. And quite frankly this should be a lesson that every parent teaches their child, but one which few do–probably because they themselves were never taught. You certainly weren’t. They say great power comes with great responsibility, but that’s not true. The power has come to you, and the responsibility? Well. It’s all absent really. From your ignorance of international diplomacy to cyberbullying, you tweet what you want, when you want without taking a beat to reflect on the possible consequences. Why should you care? Because you want to be a superhero, don’t you? Or maybe you believe you already are. The superhero of the common man. But you are not a common man. You are a man who has great power.
Those who support you might say, your tweets are part of your honesty. Your humanity. And to be clear, I did not and do not support you, yet I agree with them. Because power does not come with great responsibility. Power comes, and then we learn how to manage it, at least in the best cases. And if all was logical and consequential in this world, no more power would come before we’ve learned how to manage what we’ve already got.
Yet we find ourselves in a situation where you has been given the keys to the kingdom before you were ready to govern it. If you’re able to be honest with yourself, you might admit in your most private moments that you are in no way ready. And yet this process in itself is how we grow. Toddlers learn to walk, then they learn about how and when to stop walking–for example at the intersection of a busy road. Usually they have parents who teach them this, but not without a few scares which reinforce their own mental models. In your case, the fallout from your Twitter not only risks yourself, it risks others because that is the extent of your power. So where are your teachers? What teachers do you need? You have sought out those who have used their power irresponsibly. Megavillains. And this is what you have become to the majority of us.
As I writer with a growing voice, I have learned–painfully and not only to my own cost–that the power in my words affects lives. And that whilst I am not responsible for the actions of others, what I say can perpetuate harmful stereotypes. It can incite oppressive behaviours. I am responsible for my own confirmation bias, but it is very difficult to see it myself, because I like every other human being on the planet, operate subjectively. This is why anyone with power, must surround themselves with many diverse representatives who can provide perspective–perspectives which are their own subjective opinions. You must surround yourself with people outside of the greedy, manipulative yes-men you are recruiting whose only desire is make yourself feel good about yourself so they can get more power themselves. In order to become the great man you want to become, you must listen–as far as it is possible to listen, without judgement–to perspective. Because being the president of the United States gives you power over millions of people who know their own lives and who will always know their own lives, better than you know them. Your actions directly affect them.
Before I respected writing as a craft, I once self-published. I thought, Why should I have a filter on my words? They’re my words. These were the thoughts of an emotionally immature person. Because I learned the value of an editor. Of beta readers. Of reviews and reviewers. Without them my work was used to justify other people’s irresponsible behaviour. I realised that I had the power to change at least some of this, to influence perception. It’s one of the reasons that my first book The Husband Swap will soon be republished and include the Lessons I learned, under it’s new title A World in Us. Because whilst I am not responsible for the lessons people take away from my work, the power I have won through writing makes it necessary for me to step up and try my best to expose the consequences of my previous mistakes. It makes it necessary to take responsibility if I want to empower others instead of destroying them (it’s the difference between a superhero and a megavillain).
You’ve heard it in so many wise texts; power is a gift, use it wisely. And what is wisdom? Wisdom is understanding that you know very little and that that is a natural consequence in being human. You are human. And you know very little. Humility is a natural consequence of this. It is not shameful. If you want to be respected for your wisdom, you will acknowledge that you know nothing of everyone else’s experience because none of us do. And your power cannot be used wisely until you realise this… at least this.