Discover How To Handle Power Dynamics That Threaten

A friend recently asked ‘Do you know what the ‘Golden Rule’ is’?  He then went on to say that ‘He who has the gold makes the rules’. 

This is an example of  a power dynamic.

Power dynamics refers to the way power works in a setting. Whether that be within a marriage, family, church, workplace or really any place where humans relate.

If you live under the motto ‘If mama ain’t happy, then nobody is happy’ then mama is the one who holds the power.

What happens though when those living under oppressive power structures start to change and push back against the oppressors, bullies and tyrants.

The dynamics start to change.

Those holders of power start to become uncomfortable. They may well become angry and start to challenge the change. Threats come and try to tear down the work already done.

There are threats all around us. Threats that we may have no conscious awareness of. Power dynamics dancing unseen, pushing against the small sailboat of our dreams. Threatening to take us off our desired course.

In our journey with rebuilding expert Nehemiah we come to a stage where the rebuilding of the wall of Jerusalem was half done.

This was not just a rebuilding project of a physical wall.

It was also the rebuilding of a sense of security and significance.

I suppose in a way, the ego of city was being rediscovered.

There were threats though.

The very rebuilding of the people’s sense of significance and security meant that those around them were seeing that these were a people growing in inner strength.

That there was a change in the power dynamics of this relationship.

Perhaps the people of Jerusalem were no longer going to be such a push over.

They were no longer going to put up with being controlled by the bullies around them.

Rebuilding, recovery and change often brings challenges to relationship dynamics.

Not everyone is pleased about change. Some will want you to go back to the ‘good old days’ when it was good for them but maybe not for you.

And when your half way there people realise your being serious about your intentions. That you are gaining momentum and if they are going to stop the growth it needs to be done now.

Here is the section from Nehemiah we are looking at.

But when Sanballat, Tobiah, the Arabs, the Ammonites and the people of Ashdod heard that the repairs to Jerusalem’s walls had gone ahead and that the gaps were being closed, they were very angry.
They all plotted together to come and fight against Jerusalem and stir up trouble against it.
But we prayed to our God and posted a guard day and night to meet this threat. Nehemiah 4:7-9

Do you ever feel that others don’t want you to change? That they feel threatened by your progress?

I have talked with those who have worked hard on recovery for years only to find others still pigeon-hole them in the old categories. They wonder if it was worth the effort.

Here the recovery and rebuild was under serious threat because of exactly what the change would mean to the power structures the people had been under.

Nehemiah reports that the people took two actions.

  1. They prayed. The people brought their fears and anxieties about the threats to God.
  2. They Posted a guard. They took action. They didn’t just wait around to see what would happen. They met the threat with alert actioned awareness. They posted a guard, or perhaps guards, day and night always on the keen lookout for any attacks.

How does this apply to us?

  1. Recognise that not everyone wants a new you.

    In fact some will be dead against an empowered and rebuilt you. This maybe at a deeply subconscious level where there is an unawareness of why they feel threatened.
    Perhaps there is even within yourself a desire to stay the same. There is a comfort within the familiar, even if it is painful.
    Not everyone is going to be your cheerleader.

  2. The Need for Prayer.

    There is a need to connect with someone greater than yourself and the situation you are in.
    Pray that God will alert you to the threats. That you will recognise the subtle, and not so subtle, strategies being used to ‘fight against’ you and to ‘stir up trouble’ against your build. Pray that God will give you the wisdom to know what to do with those threats.

  3. The importance of ‘Posting a guard’.

    Do you have a couple of people in your life that keep a gentle watch over your progress?
    A couple of people who can see the threats coming.
    Perhaps they have been where you are now and know the likely dangers. Enlist some friends who know your Early Warning Signs of relapse.
    Who understand that the top of the slippery slope is always connected to the bottom.

  4. That prayer needs action, and action needs prayer.

    I have met many people who just pray about the struggles they are facing. They think that prayer is some sort of a spiritual bypass to the need of having to take action.
    Equally I have met many who just take action without the prayerful inclusion of God in the action.
    Prayer needs action and action needs prayer. They need each other.

    Unless the Lord builds the house,
        those who build it labor in vain.
    Unless the Lord guards the city,
        the guard keeps watch in vain. Psalm 127:1

We all live in a world of power dynamics. Some of which are very obvious, but for the most many are subtle and unseen. To all of these we need to pray and post a guard.

Quotes to consider

  •  Beneath what our culture calls psychological disorder is a soul crying out for what only community can provide. Larry Crabb
  • The greatest lie believed today is that one can know God without being known by someone else. Larry Crabb
  • Prayer in action is love, love in action is service. Mother Teresa
  • The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays. Søren Kierkegaard
  • I have so much to do that I shall spend the first three hours in prayer. Martin Luther

Questions to answer

  1. What are the obvious and not so obvious threats to the ongoing build of your life?
  2. When under threat do you rush to prayer? Why or why not?
  3. Who are your ‘guards’ that are watching out for any threats that would want to tear down your progress?
  4. What qualities do watching guards have?

Barry Pearman

Image by Steven Estes

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