Today I found myself wondering why I don't talk to my local councillor or MP about the things that I do not feel are right in our local area. Reflecting on this, I decided that it is because something in me does not believe that they can make a difference. So feeling that they are powerless, I allow myself to feel powerless too. Our local MP is a Conservative; we have a Labour Government. In these days when democracy in England seems to be about the Prime Minister telling MP's in his party how to vote, rather than ordinary MP's exercising collective influence, I am right to wonder how much influence an MP has – particularly one who is not in the ruling party. Reflecting further, it seems to me that my belief about powerlessness may be wrong, but that even if the belief is correct it is not helpful to accept it!
As I talk to people, it seems that many share a view that they can have little influence on the society that they live in. For example some think that the only influence they have on the world of politics is through voting in a General Election every five years or so. So we seem to have a culture of powerlessness.
If people feel powerless, who do they think calls the shots? As Margaret Mead, anthropologist, wrote: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can change the world; indeed it is the only thing that ever has.” Is she right?
The Bible develops a similar theme: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity but a spirit of power and love and self control.” (2 Timothy 1:7)
I find Stephen Covey helpful on this to, as he writes in his book The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People about how we are concerned about many things, but need to focus on those which we can influence. He says this will not only result in us having influence in those areas, but discovering that the number of areas in which we have influence will grow. This contrasts with the common habit of moaning about things which we don't think we can do anything about!
One of the strengths of coaching, which I do, is that it leads people to discover the action that they can take to bring about the changes that they want.
So, I've decided not to collude with a culture of powerlessness.