Monday, November 16, 2009

Powers Used For Good or Evil

I once heard a friend at church jokingly exhort his daughter, Remember Rachel, we want to use our powers for good and not for evil!

This phrase has stuck with me ever since. It's a delightful expression. It can be said seriously, it can be said facetiously. At the core of it is the idea that we can choose what to do with our talents, and that we can decide on the side of "Good" just as easily as the Ill.

So we have a quick wit. Do we want to merely entertain ourselves and our friends? Do we want to use our wit to put other people down and make people feel badly? Do we want to write poisonous essays? Or do we want to use our wit to diffuse an awkward or tense situation? Or maybe to help someone or ourselves past a difficult spot. If we have the skill, we can decide.

Maybe we are not using our skills for *evil* per se, but for dubious or self-serving purposes. Or maybe we allow other people to misuse our skills for their own dubious ends. Or maybe our skills are merely wasted, not serving much of a purpose at all.

Say we have a knack for capturing a scene. Do we use that for mockery or to show beauty? Maybe we just have to do our job, and we don't have the luxury of choosing for The Good.

What are some skills that we are allowing to be ill used or underused? What are other skills that we use to good effect, for The Good?

I can stand up for myself and for ideals I believe in. I once stood up to someone who was trying to run roughshod over the privacy of several hundred people. But I am aware that I am capable of shredding someone in the process. I have to be careful to dial back the assertiveness sometimes so I don't end up with people feeling ugly. Maybe someone is clueless and they need more gentleness, not me crashing in like an avenging angel.

I can be a good artist. I have a lot of skill (although some of it is out of practice), and a lot of background and skills. Many of those skills are out of practice because I've moved into new areas of creative expression. Some of those are a little underused. In a former life, I was sometimes asked to design things I wasn't sure of their validity. One has to make a living, yes. One does not gain respect by questioning clients on their motives for a project. Yet sometimes I had to ask myself - it this the best use of my talents and skills? Sometimes we move away from some careers and jobs because we feel our skills are being wasted. It can be hard to find the right fit.

I have a lot of knowledge about many unrelated concepts because I read a lot and am curious about the world. I can share that knowledge and spread that curiousity and enthusiasm. I can also look down on someone for being less informed than I am about a topic. (I've seen that from others - I think it's distressingly common.) I sometimes have to remind myself to use that knowledge for the good, not the evil.

Simply having a skill is not enough. We can nurture it and shape it, and use it as a tool for meaningful purpose. It's up to us whether that will be "for Good" or "for Evil."

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