Authority Day By Day

A Authority and Power entry published on August 25, 2009

I know a lady who often tells me, about her relation with her three children:
“These children have to respect my authority”.
She insists in saying this in front of them.
And I tell her: “No, they have not!”;
And this drives her crazy.

Watch the paradox:

“These children have to respect my authority…”

Look at the sense of obligation and obedience in these words.
She is not talking about authority, but rather about power and control.
Remember: power demands respect, whereas authority obtains it naturally.
She does not know the meaning of authority.

I tell her:
“When you will become a wise mother, when you will start showing your kids that they also are an authority as individuals and not just soldiers to your orders, only then will they start respecting authority;
Any authority, their own, yours and others.”

This lady confuses power with authority.

From a practical point of view, how can you use this distinction between power and authority day-by-day?

Let me give you an example:

Your mother gives you an order you don’t agree with.
She is using power. It’s her right to do it. She is the boss.

What can you do?

As a human being and also as a son/daughter, you have the right to express your opinion.
Hence, you can tell her: “Mum, I don’t agree with your decision/order.”

Just say you do not agree.
Do not qualify her order.
Do not judge her.

Do not say:
“You are a tyrant. You think you’re always right. You always pretend you’re the boss.”
If you do this, you’ll have a conflict and a war. And, in a war, the biggest power wins. It’s not a good idea.

Just express what you feel.
Use the I message: I say what I feel.
Do not use the You message: I criticize what You did.

Be an authority.
Speak out what you feel frankly.
Show your self esteem, but do not accuse her.

As long as you are able to use the I message, you will not start any conflict.
It’s only when you start using the You message that problems may occur.

Thus, you manifest your disagreement.

Yet, your Mum maintains her decision/order.

This is a crucial moment.

Here, you need to remember what authority means.
She is your Mum. You live with her.

There must be a reason for you to live with her.
She must be enabling something in your growth.
Indeed: she washes your clothes, she feeds you, and this makes her an authority for you.
Therefore, you need to align, to respect and to accept.

If you do not align, then you need to leave.

You cannot expect to stay at someone’s when you do not respect his authority.

I repeat:
Either you accept the order, or you leave.
There is no in-between.

Respecting, accepting and aligning does not mean you can’t use your I message.

You should use your I message, but then shut up and accept.

1. You decide to stay, to align and to accept.

It can only be for two reasons:

First reason:

You are a coward and you are afraid of her; you submit, you obey.
It’s a possibility.

Second reason:

You think it is fair enough.
She enables your growth.
It’s best for you if you stay.
You take a conscious decision.
You choose to stay.
You realize she enables your growth in some important things.
You also realize she is not enabling your growth in other minor things.
You evaluate the situation and you decide to align and accept.
That’s alright.
It’s your free choice.

2. You decide to leave

When you evaluate the situation and conclude that your mother does not enable your growth in the more important things, then you need to leave.
That’s also alright. It’s also your free choice.
You may not be leaving for ever.
It can be for some hours, or a couple of days or even a month.
It can also be forever.
That is not important.

But remember that leaving does not mean to cut the relationship.
You’ve left, but try to keep in touch every now and then.
No need to do it frequently, but don’t you kill the relationship.

As I said:
Either you align or you leave.

Let’s now imagine that you decide to leave, but your mother prohibits you from leaving.

She does not accept your decision.
She does not respect your authority as a human being old enough to do what he thinks is best for him.
In fact, she hates the idea that you do not recognize her authority anymore and thus, she uses power even more.

By prohibiting you from going, she is using power.
This, of course, makes your respect for her authority decrease even more.

Why does she use power?

Because she is afraid.
People who use power frequently are people who are very afraid.
In this case, your mother is afraid that you do not see her as an authority anymore.
It’s an end of a cycle that she can’t stand and wants to avoid.

Every human must accept the moment on which others stop seeing him as an authority.

It’s a tuff moment, but we need to accept.
We need to let go.
We need to dignify the end of a cycle.

He who runs his life based on the sense of authority always lets a way out to others.
Only hard and brutal people do not leave a way out to others.

The example I’ve just given can be applied for a school teacher and a student.
Either you align to your teacher or you have to leave; to leave the class or even the school.

If you wish to stay, you need to align, to accept and to respect.
But you always have the possibility to go and tell your teacher, privately, how you feel.
As long as aligning does not violate your essence, you must stay.
It’s only when you’re losing your dignity and your respect for yourself that you must leave.
And there is absolutely no shame in this.

Separation can sometimes be the noblest of all attitudes.

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