Our Internal Struggle with Power

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I have a confession: my wife and I enjoy binge watching Scandal. Similar to other TV series we’ve watched like Revenge, Prison Break, and Breaking Bad, something about the suspense and over-load of twisted details keeps us ever engaged and always wanting more.

I can’t watch them week by week, mostly because my mind can’t keep track of all the intricate moving pieces that weave the story into the twisted plot that keeps me addicted. My wife is much better at this. We may have a several month sabbatical from one show while waiting for the next season to release (or line up in our queue) and before sitting down to watch it, she can recall the entire story line (including names and details) of the previous episode in perfect detail. I usually have to watch the final episode of the previous season anyway. My brain does not have a strong enough storing cabinet for such details. But thankfully, she indulges me.

Finishing the final episode of Scandal’s most recent season caused me to ponder the kind of society we live in that has created such a strong pull for these type of shows. Then I realized, if you put them side by side, you see one common theme throughout them all: the corruption of morals due to a lust for power. These people blind-side, back stab, and even brutally kill in cold blood to climb their way to the top of political power and the social status ladder. These characters are somehow convinced that doing so will make their life more fulfilled.

What kind of world are we living in? I asked myself more than once as I saw eerie similarities between some of Scandal’s most recent season and our current political climate.

It’s shocking, and often horrifying, what people will do for money, power, fame, reputation, and appearance.

But scale it back a bit and these shows really aren’t that far off from our everyday life. Now, hopefully none of us would ever even contemplate physically murder someone, especially as coldly as Huck or Jake Ballard do. But I bet each of us has done something dishonest or something that goes against our morals/values in order to gain power or maintain appearances.

Perhaps it’s the white lie you told to your boss that made you look better, but took the credit away from another co-worker. Or maybe you embellished your skill set to make yourself more marketable for the next rung on the corporate ladder. Or perhaps you threw a friend or family member under the bus to maintain appearances in front of your “cool” friends, or snubbed someone you felt was beneath you just to make yourself feel better. Maybe you even convinced your LGBTQ child to stay in the closet to protect their reputation (or your own), or introduced your son’s partner as a “friend” to your own circle of loved ones in order to guard yourself and keep the peace. If we look closely, don’t we, just like the characters on TV, somehow convinced ourselves that doing these things will make our life better? More power-full? More fulfilled?

Which then begs me to ask the question…WHY aren’t we fulfilled?

What is it that keeps us always reaching for the next best thing, even when it exhausts us day after day?

We’ve all said or done things we regret in order to make ourselves look better than we really are. But it comes at a cost. Think for a moment about how the “other” person–the one you snubbed, the friend you didn’t side with, the person you beat out of a job, the child you silenced–felt. Think about the way your actions dented their own spirits, hurt their feelings, or bruised their self esteem.

And then, think about this: what if we were simply content?download

What if, instead of wanting what other people have, we were thankful for what was already present in our lives and right in front of us?

What if, instead of putting others down to make ourselves look better, we brought them up to our level by speaking more highly of their skills than we do of our own?

What if, instead of making our child or someone we love suppress who they are in order to make us comfortable, we instead put our own reputation on the line and fiercely stand by them in alliance?

What if, we believed in each other, valued one another, and put others needs ahead of our own?

Then maybe, just maybe, that lust for power and position and money could be replaced with things like equality and justice and love.

And maybe, we could change the world and in turn, make it a more fulfilling place to live.

Because Love Makes All the Difference,

Amber

Scandal, Mercy and Grace

Every once in awhile I enjoy using my creativity to imagine what some of the stories we read in the Bible must have really been like. For my blog this week, please enjoy my take on what this story of scandal and mercy must have been like for the adulterous woman who encountered Jesus…

The setting is ancient Israel…a riot takes over the crowd in the marketplace. Men in leadership, Pharisees, are leading in their pious way through the street, robes of dark crimson flowing as they make their way to the town square. Following quick behind them are more of the same, dragging a young, exposed woman for all to see. She was naked, her body completely bare, save for a thin sheet that was quickly thrust at her as they snatched her from her home. Taking the long way through town to the square, the Pharisees had it in their nature to publicly humiliate those “not as righteous as them” as much as they possibly could before reaching their destination. Doing so only exceeded the height of their status in other peoples eyes, or at least, so they thought. Arriving at the center of town, the girl was thrown to the gravel as those nearby began to make a mockery of the scene. All the woman could see were the dozens of sandaled feet covered in a reddish brown dirt several layers thick. She didn’t dare look up at the faces staring down at her. She didn’t want anyone to recognize her in this moment of such shear shame, embarrassment, and humiliation. Men threw jokes at her like dung in the face, as if to let her know that was all she was worth. Women looked on with compassion for the girl, while covering the virgin eyes of their young. Some of the voices she swore she recognized. Fighting back tears so as not to show weakness in the midst of an already unbearable moment, the woman kept her eyes unmoved on the ground before her.

Suddenly, a hush came over the crowd as a man walked through the mobs of people. Who he was, she did not know, only that his very presence held the power to silence a crowd. Using her long, dark brown hair to cover her face, she waited for what she knew could be the last few moments of her life. For at any moment, she knew she could be stoned for the accusations against her. Lying with a man other than your husband always carried a penalty of death. And now, she fear death awaited her.

The man that passed through the crowd seemed to be headed straight for her. Was he to be her first accuser? Stopping just short of her, he knelt to the ground and began to write in the dirt. Uneducated as she was, and unable to read or write, the woman could only wonder what it was that was being written. Her death sentence? A negotiation? A man in the crowd broke the silence with a rough tone and said, “Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. The law says we must stone such a woman. What do you say?” Teacher? This man was a teacher? The pieces slowly began to come together in her mind. Jesus! This is the man that so many had been speaking of! The one who made blind see and lame walk. Jesus. Could he help her? Would he help her? The moments that followed awaiting an answer were quiet enough to hear a piece of dirt scrape on the gravel as the man called Jesus knelt back down to write in the sand again. The few moments that followed felt like decades as the woman waited in anticipation for what was to come. Questions began to rise from the crowd, more vigorously now than before and Jesus answered them all with one convicting requirement… “Anyone who is without sin may cast the first stone at her.” All voices ceased. Without sin? Fists raised in anger began to drop to their sides, realizing they didn’t qualify. Stones ready for execution, held a moment longer as if some thought they might be exempt from the statement. Yet after a couple seconds, dropped one by one to the ground with a thud in the sand, breaking the heavy silence. Starting with the eldest of the group, wise enough to know their own sin, all the way down to the youngest standing, the crowd began to slowly disperse.

Still desperately afraid to raise her hazel eyes, the woman couldn’t help but feel relief as she heard each stone drop to the ground, each one releasing more of the breath she’d been holding. In just a few moments time, the accusers were gone, leaving only her and Jesus at the scene. He knelt to the ground once more, but this time not to write, but to gently lift her eyes to meet his. The moment they did, her heart was overcome. His eyes held such peace, such calm, such love. The tears she had earlier refused could no longer be held back, and she began to weep. With compassion Jesus asked, “They have all left, has no one condemned you?”

“No one sir” she replied with tears and disbelief.

“Then neither do I condemn you,” Jesus said. “Now go, and leave your life of sin.”
Written by Amber Cantorna
Copyright 2016

Ron DiCianni

Painting by Ron DiCianni