It is only fitting that after discussing the abdication of power that now we discuss the use and abuse of power.

A History of Violence: Turning the Tide on the Spiritual Path

The long history of abuse of power is staggering. It takes the very heart out of you. It sucks out the soul. Depending on who you ask, the total number of deaths by violence is in the 100s of millions for the 20th century. One site places the total somewhere around 262,000,000 deaths. Wikipedia offers a number of ranges for different conflicts and horrific events. If you’ve ever heard some of the spiritual teachers like Eckhart Tolle talk about how horribly sick humanity is, then perhaps that above number gives you a frame of reference. Can you imagine so much death. Many countries don’t even have that many people. It would be like 9 out of 10 people in the U.S. all being dead.

Abuse of Power: Facing the Sickness in You

But we’re all carrying this meglomaniac little ego inside of us, you know. It’s different for each of us, and it has it’s different disguises. You’re all peace and love until someone hits you, and then it’s on. I remember an Aikido instructor talking about the practice of still sending love and kindness to someone who is attacking them. It’s an amazing practice, and one worth pursuing if you’re drawn to martial arts. Or another scenario is when someone challenges you on a core belief like saving the environment. Quite quickly, this other person is the enemy, and you are SO noble and SO right in your belief to save the environment that you’ll do anything to defeat that other person. There is a difference between making a stand on an issue and verbally or physically striking out against someone who differs. But to the ego, it’s always about being right.

Types of Abuse: More Then You Might Think

There are more types of abuse than I care to list, but if you’ve been an abuser, you may need to see some of them listed out before the light goes on, before you can realize what you’ve done.

  • Physical abuse. This is the easiest to spot in someways, but it’s also more prevalent than you think. Murder, rape, beatings, stabbings, shootings, and other violence fall in this category. But so does most of sports. Think about it. How quickly do sports fall out of “Who cares who wins?” into the category of “You don’t want to be a loser, do you?” Yes, professional sports is a prime example of how we glorify physical abuse, needless competition, and ego desire.
  • Emotional abuse. Ah, this one may be more subtle, but it’s equally toxic. This refers to all the yelling, guilt-tripping, shaming, verbal humiliating, degrading, retraction of love, bad-mouthing, and many other emotionally damaging things that people have done. Almost all of us have emotionally abused someone in a conscious or unconscious way.
  • Intellectual abuse. You can watch this on TV just about any time day or night. We call it debating. Essentially, you make someone feel stupid and take apart their arguments, identities, or other mental pattern purely for the sake of winning an argument, your own self-gratification, or because you like to inflict this pain on others. Yes, yes. There are friendly debates, but it’s up to you to decide if you’re having a friendly debate or if you really just want to be right.
  • Spiritual abuse. This is kind of an oxymoron because spirituality is never about abuse. But in essence, the ego is using spirituality to get what it wants. For every pope or imam or other spiritual leader that used their religion to send out people to die for that leader’s gain, horrible things have happened to people’s spirits. Subsequently, many people don’t even want to associate with religion because of how terribly it’s been used and abused through the centuries.

Masochism: A Hidden Abuse

Many of these abuses are focused outward, but many people also abuse themselves. They tell themselves that they aren’t good enough, smart enough, beautiful enough, and so many more awful things. Anorexia, bulimia, and other disorders are some examples of the inner abuse manifesting on the physical level for an individual. You’re using your own power to hurt yourself, and it’s not okay. This typically falls in the victim category, which I already talked about, but it’s important to outline it here as well as yet another abuse of power that is keeping all of us locked into cycles of pain.

Competition Gone Horribly Wrong

There’s a type of competition where you know that you’re not really competing. It’s fun. Who wins doesn’t matter. Being a loser doesn’t matter. But instead, especially in the business world and in the U.S., competition has become this Holy Grail of concepts. We seem to think that it’s made us better. It has not. It has gotten us more money, but not one more second of peace, love, or kindness. Just look how scared we are. While 9/11 was a horrific event, to think that Afghanistan or Iraq really posed a huge threat to the U.S.’s way of life is asinine. Fight their armies compares to me taking out two 10 year old girls down the street. If you saw a six foot four man do this, you’d call the authorities. That’s the level of fear in the U.S., and I wouldn’t exempt other countries in fearfulness. We see threats greater than they actually are. All this competition has made us scared of losing this pile of money that we sit on, and in truth, we are already losing it.

Listing Out Abuses of Power

This is where it gets brutal. It may be time to list out all the ways that you’ve hurt yourself and others. This is the start of the reckoning, and this is where the major clean out gets going. When you hurt others, you hurt yourself. When you hurt yourself, you hurt others. We’re all interconnected, and so long as these pains stay locked inside, festering, we will continue to murder, rape, steal, and hurt countless millions more. And then we’ll justify ourselves and bury our shame and actions under a pile of justifications and intellectual concepts. The time has come when we can’t wait any longer to face our abuses. We are a horribly sick people. No shiny building or occasional lump sum donation to the Salvation Army can hide the horrible miasma and reek of a past of death and destruction.

You don’t want to feel guilty, and you don’t want someone to tell you that you’re a bad person. I’m not telling you that you’re a bad person, but you have to be accountable for your actions for your real beauty to emerge. Because if you aren’t accountable, you won’t be ready for that beauty. You’ll be overwhelmed. You’re run away. You won’t feel like you could deserve something so wonderful after what you’ve done. So really, what I’m telling you is that the only way to be somewhat prepared for a spiritual awakening is to proactively start to heal. Because in the final analysis, no one will care about what you’ve done if you’re standing in your light. They will just see the light, and the darkness will melt away.

Next blog: Atoning for Power Abuse: Ego and the Path of Penance


I'm a spiritual teacher who helps people find freedom from suffering.

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