“What is needed is a realization that power without love is reckless and abusive, and love without power is sentimental and anemic.”
Martin Luther King, Jr.
Power or Love?
Activating the best of our humanity doesn’t just occur by itself; somewhat surprisingly, it requires active cultivation. The biggest surprise to me though is that there are obstacles in the path that can almost make it feel counter-cultural to reach for the best within ourselves and inspire others to do the same.
More than two decades ago, I read Teresa Amabile’s, Brilliant but Cruel research and it has stayed with me ever since. Amabile uncovered our bias to associate negativity and criticism with higher intellect. In her research, those who were perceived as positive were seen as less intellectual. If you have ever been in a meeting with a group of experts of any sort, you likely had a front row seat to witness this bias in action!
To further compound things, some of our most beautiful character strengths are misconstrued as weaknesses. With Kofi Annan’s passing, Jens Stoltenberg said “His warmth should never be mistaken for weakness. Annan showed that one can be a great humanitarian and a strong leader at the same time.” The assumption here is that if not redirected, readers would believe Annan’s warm and loving humanity made him weak.
The dominant cultural message is that if you want to be viewed as smart and capable, you need to be critical and cold. How did being positive, warm and humane become so unexpected and unconventional?
If you want to live your best life and contribute to a positive future for our world, every ounce of your heartfelt and powerful intensity will be required. It may sound odd, but you must be fierce. Fierceness isn’t aggression. It is being committed, persistent, and unyielding in your effort to reach for human goodness at every turn. By fiercely activating your character strengths, you can make a dramatic shift in your life and the lives of others.
But there are even bigger stakes involved. You can also make an urgently needed contribution to the larger world which seems to be moving at a clip too fast for our humanity to keep pace. As we fiercely attend to character strengths and human goodness, we have the hope of bridging these two worlds. Read more here.