Monday, December 23, 2013

The Art of Living: Influence vs. Power (A Christmas Story)

Influence vs. Power (A Christmas Story)

I recently had a conversation with a one of the wonderful thought leaders from Linkage.(Read More about Linkage) 
We discussed the urgency for real power among women. She pointed out that we needed more women in board rooms and as CEO’s making the decisions that would positively affect other women’s lives.

I agreed, but I also knew that being in a board room or c-suite was not enough so I told her so.

“We need purpose,” I told her. She reminded me that she had done the research and found women tend to be much more purpose driven than men and I agreed, but that’s like saying that Bill Clinton is more black than Hillary Clinton.

She asked what I thought the answer to the power struggle would be and I told her about my graduate school housemate’s research.

Dr. Bernita Berry (seriously, we were both accepted at Kent State, the same year; they thought we were the same person) wrote a dissertation that must be studied by anyone concerned with power for women.

She looked at the triple jeopardy theory which argued that if you are woman, poor and black, then  you have the least amount of power in the US. Bernita added age to the pot and studied old, poor black women.

She was surprised and delighted to find that these women were anything but powerless. They determined the buying habits of 3 and sometimes 4 for generations of folks. They demanded respect in their communities and churches and even when everything around them was rundown, they were held in high regard.

When you look more closely at the research findings, what you have are women with influence.Though invisible to the dominant members of society; these women were the real stake holders and were shaping the future.

They were like the women of Bahia in Brazil; the Irmandade Boa Morte, or Sisterhood of the Good Death, who from the time of slavery until now secretly work to set the captive free.
These women were the folks in the Bill Withers song Grandma’s Hands.
Grandmas hands, soothed a local unwed mother. Grandmas hand played the tambourine so well. Grandmas hands used to issue out a warning; she’d say, baby don’t you run so fast, might fall on a piece of glass, might be snakes out in that grass, grandmas hands.”

The women used whatever they had to make a difference.

So here’s the Christmas part; Jesus Christ was not born into a powerful family with position and wealth and yet thousands of years later, his message of love and kindness has influenced the world. The message is so influential that others have tried to claim it as their own for power.

Today, if you feel that you have less than what you’d like to have; be it wealth, power or prestige, think of what you can do to influence others and make a difference.

Whose heart can you heal? Whose mind can you change? What difference can you make?

Be you, be well, be influential.

Bertice Berry, PhD.

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