Where love rules, there is no will to power, and where power predominates, love is lacking. The one is the shadow of the other.

Carl Jung

I used to collect Jung quotes like a kid collects McDonald’s toys. Thrilled beyond words, I’d unwrap the cellophane, and after a day toss it to the bottom of the basket because it was just kind of useless. But every so often I’d find a gem, and I’d play with it feverishly like that miniature Barbie until its painted plastic eyes wore off and its teased blonde hair snagged.

This quote was the former. It honestly confused me. Why couldn’t love and power coexist? I understood the obvious, that if you love someone you don’t try to control them. But that didn’t seem Jungian enough of an answer. So I cast it aside. Just maybe he was wrong about that one.

When I “got” it, it wasn’t painless. (“There is no coming to consciousness without pain,” after all. Gem.) I didn’t get it before not because I wasn’t smart or wise, but because I wasn’t ready. My arrogant dismissal was the tell that it was more appropriate for me than I could bear (denial). At that time I needed to feel powerful, especially because I was in pain. Having power implies that pain can’t break you. Power is not the need to dominate someone else. It’s the need to dominate all the unbearable aspects of yourself.

There really is no place, then, for love. When my husband and I were picking out readings for our wedding, we came across the overdone 1 Corinthians 13:4-13, “Love is patient, love is kind,” etc., etc. For the first time I read it without the screen of derision, and I realized what it describes is powerless love, i.e. true love (romantic, platonic, familial, whatever). Love is selfless, not because that’s altruistic, but because love is the recognition that you and the other are one. Meaning, because you’ve felt pain, you have compassion for theirs. Because you’ve had joy, you wish it for them. There is no separate self, then, to sacrifice, and you grant your sufferings and joys their true equal significance. Love is not a gift, it is not something whimsical, nor earned. Love is unity. If you and I are unified, if we are one, if we recognize each other as manifestations in the same extraordinary spirit, power becomes obsolete.

I won’t lie, it took a lot for me to learn this lesson, and who knows how long it will take me to really be able to practice it. I was preaching love all over the place and still acting out of righteousness (“I am better, I know more, I am more powerful.”) That is the journey. You screw it up ad infinitum until something comes to you just when it’s right and whispers, “Hey! I’ve been waiting for you. Time to get real, huh?”

Power is not strength. It is not necessary to live, and it does not make you more worthy or important. Battling for power will always rip the love out of you, and then love becomes like a joke, a sweet fantasy for fragile little girls. No, strength is the ability to silence your need for power, because you instead choose love.

Love is always the brave choice.


Photo by skedonk