Steen mug shot

Steen

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said,

people will forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  Maya Angelou

I gave it away again.

I didn’t want or even mean to give it away.

It just happened.

Just a kid the first time I gave it away, I would have thought that in my 50s I would be a different (stronger) person. In some ways, I am, but in so many ways I, apparently, am not. 

Still, I survived and know I will do better the next time. Power. I’ve been giving it away for years because of how I’ve allowed people to make me feel. Maya Angelou was right — it isn’t what anyone has said or done, it’s how they’ve made me feel. How we let someone else make us feel can cause us to give away our power unless we are prepared with a few tools and a strong sense of valuing ourselves.

You don’t see the electric company having a sale or giving away their power, so why should I, why should you, why should we give away ours? You might be great about helping other people to feel empowered, but maybe you don’t do such a great job yourself. 

Maybe you don’t even realize you give it away, but if you are feeling unappreciated or resentful for energy spent, you are definitely giving someone else the power that belongs to you.

Your boss hasn’t said a word about your coming in early and staying late, though he definitely noticed the day you were held up in traffic. If you’re feeling undervalued, you have given away the power that is yours.

Your kids forgot to call on your birthday, and your feelings are hurt. While it makes sense that you’d feel slighted, letting those feelings take over is a sure sign you’ve given away your power.

The committee is taking all of your time, and you are exhausted and exasperated. Yes, not setting boundaries for yourself can cause problems. It’s like setting a milkshake in front of someone and being upset that they drank the whole thing. If you aren’t setting boundaries and are feeling put out, you are definitely giving away your power.

Power is a funny thing. Yours is yours and mine is mine, and in the scenarios above we can see how we give away our power in small ways every day. No wonder we come away not feeling empowered.

Sometimes, though, one person chooses to take another person’s power. Maybe it’s a boyfriend or a girlfriend who wants to control who you see, where you go, or what you do with your time and money. As they exert their power, they take yours away. Maybe you need someone to tell you that is not healthy because it is not.

DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE   1-800-799-7233   DOMESTIC VIOLENCE HOTLINE

October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month. In fact, #VoicesHavePower is one of the hashtags being used. Domestic violence is about one person exerting power over another person in an intimate relationship. Whether it is in a dating relationship or a marriage, domestic violence is a very real part of our society that often remains hidden by the victim’s minimizing and the abuser’s denial and blame.

More than 12 million boys, girls, men, and women are victims each year.

  • “Does she always talk to you that way?” someone might ask. “No, she’s just had a bad day,” you respond. The truth is she beats you up verbally quite often.
  • “How did you get those bruises?” someone asks. “Oh, I’m just so clumsy,” you answer. The truth is he lost his temper and reminded you how stupid you are, again.
  • “Where have you been? You were gone for two hours!” he snaps. “I’m sorry. I lost track of the time, but I was just with my friend,” you reply. The truth is you were with your friend.

In all of these scenes, the power is owned by one person and intentionally withheld and even stomped out in the other person. It isn’t always a guy. It’s sometimes a lady, a girl, a woman. Look for signs when you have that gut feeling something isn’t right in your friend’s or child’s life. Someone’s power has been taken away, and in these situations, the victim is unable to reclaim it on their own

Power. It’s just a word, yet it’s so much more. There is the power you give away, the power you exert, and the power you take from others. And there is one last kind of power — the kind you use when you decide that writing an article should be set aside to be with a friend.

I didn’t do well with the service person who came to the house and wouldn’t leave — I gave them all of my power.

I, years ago, was controlled by someone else’s power and unsure of how to exert my own.

But today ... today I made a choice to take my power and walk away from writing to be with someone I cared about who was suffering. You have that power, too. (Let that sink in for a few seconds: YOU (read I) have the power. That deadline? If it’s not immediate, maybe you can set it aside long enough to be with a friend who needs (but doesn’t demand) your presence, a child who needs your attention.

Here we are with space for just a few more words, and maybe the most important reminder of power. You (and I) have the power to give someone else the gift of empowerment. Whether it is someone you empower by providing a great job recommendation, someone you empower by allowing them to make their own choices and possibly mistakes, or a victim to whom you help restore power, when you give someone else their own power, you can change lives. 

It won’t be what you say or what you do, it will be how you make the other person feel. That really is powerful!

Susan Black Steen is a writer and photographer, a native Tennessean and a graduate of Austin Peay State University. With a firm belief that words matter, she writes and speaks to bring joy, comfort and understanding into each life. Always, she writes from her heart in hopes of speaking to the hearts of others. 

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