Dr Arne Rubinstein ( mbbs, fracgp ) Jan 2014
All men have power in many different ways. They have power in their families, in their relationships, at work and in the community. They also have power to act and make decisions in their own personal lives. Whether and how they use this all this power is what defines a man.
Power is a responsibility (coming from the words “response ability”), and those with the most power have the most response ability. Some men use their power with boy behaviour. They simply want more, they really only think about themselves and they have a very short term inwardly focused view of the world.
As I was growing up my father used to say,” Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. Think of a politician like Robert Mugabe, elected by the people with great hope that he will bring equality and justice to his country, who then sells out, steals the wealth of his people and lives an outrageously opulent lifestyle while the man on the street struggles and can barely feed his family. Or bankers who were exposed after the financial crisis for practices that made them incredibly rich whilst those who trusted them lost all their money.
So, while all men have power, all men can abuse that power. At work men in senior positions can be bullies or try to avoid responsibility when things don’t work out by blaming others. In homes there are men who are violent to their wives or regularly shame their children. And there are men who abuse themselves through alcohol, drugs and over eating.
But as much as I love my father I don’t agree that by definition for all men power corrupts. There are those who use their power with real man behaviour. They are the men who will stand up for what they believe even if it doesn’t make them popular. Men who won’t enter into unethical business deals even if it would make them lots of money. There are men in senior executive positions who genuinely foster the professional development of their juniors without fear that those same juniors will one day take their job. There are men in wonderful relationships where the needs of their partners are as important as their own, and of course there are fantastic fathers who make the effort to be genuinely involved in the lives of their children.
Increasing numbers of men are recognising that they have more and more to give than they ever imagined. They are discovering an unexpected joy in using their talents and their influence to help those in need, to pass on knowledge, to get involved in great projects and to have genuine connection with their families.
The old rules of what it means to be a man don’t need to apply in today’s world. Creativity has enormous value and we can choose how we want to live our lives and what is important to us. We can redefine success to be so much more wholistic than just financial wealth and include fundamentals like supporting others, happy families and a great relationship.
There are growing numbers of men who are seeking their fulfillment by doing what they believe in with their lives whilst being great contributors, committed partners and active fathers at the same time. It is resulting in much deeper connections to those around them, genuine collaboration at work, deeper feelings of love and greater passion about life. It’s easy to recognise those men, they are the ones who look the healthiest and seem to be having the most fun.
Being a man also includes looking after and taking responsibility for the next generation. We are witnessing a crisis right now as we see increasing numbers of young men and women undertaking inappropriate risk taking behaviours, we have unacceptably high levels of suicide and mental health issues amongst our youth and we are currently introducing tougher jail penalties in an attempt to combat king or coward hitting.
It is time for men in power to step up. To stop hiding behind their desks and mobile phones claiming they are too busy and their job is more important than anything else. We need these, and all men, to show by example what it means to be true mentors, to respect women, and importantly to engage in real discussions with teenagers in order to help them find their gifts and what they are passionate about. We older men need to find ways to be active in their lives so that they are supported through the critical years as young adults finding their way in a complex world.
We can’t all leave our jobs and we don’t all have great wealth, but we do all have power and we can all make a difference.