Jay Rifenbary

Jay Rifenbary's Blog

The Thirst for Power - A Social Catastrophe


What is the lure of power, and why is individual power so important to so many? As the span of local to world events continually unfold it is increasingly evident how the need for power is taking precedence over human decency. Two definitions of power are, “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events," and “political or social authority or control." The catalyst for desiring power can be both positive and negative. When it is solely self-serving it is negative. The implementation of such control over others destroys trust, mutual respect and efficient communication. This can wreak havoc on the effectiveness and productivity of institutions, organizations, societies and relationships.

One’s need for power added to an individually driven agenda is a recipe for destructive and self-centered behavior. Its negative influence can easily corrode the foundation of a morally good person. Interestingly, the need for power by many individuals’ stems from their own personal insecurity, and the belief that dominating others will negate that insecurity. How wrong they are. We, as citizens, consistently witness the destructive aftermath of those who strive for power at the expense of colleagues, family, friends and others. Destructive power can dismantle the necessity for personal accountability among those in power. They use their power to threaten those who may question a decision made, or a behavior displayed. It is also interesting to observe how individuals of principle tend to pose a threat to those who use their power in an unethical, or less than professional manner. It may force accountability for their actions. Power can also be a cloak to cover up personal dishonesty. The requirement to be honest is suppressed when one holds power over another, because they control the potential progress of that person, family, company, community or country.

Dr. Rollo May, (1909-1994), a renowned American existential psychologist defined power as “the ability to cause or prevent change”. Change is the key word in the definition, because change can be a threat to an individual’s maintaining of power. He also proposed two negative types of power, Exploitive Power and Manipulative Power. These two powers are extremely destructive. When used, it is a true indicator of ones personal and professional insecurity. Exploitive Power is the most destructive form of power and it is when power is used “on” another. The aggressor allows the victim no options in the exchange. For example, exploitive power may be making demands on a victim while threatening his life, or a demand that if not followed through with may result in the firing of the individual, i.e. no options. Manipulative Power pertains to persons who are unequal in their power and resources, and is used “over” another. The person with more power influences the other’s behavior. For example, in regard to human relationships, manipulative power may include unfair interactions between parent and child, manager and employee, teacher and student, therapist and client and husband and wife. These destructive powers are also initiated when one senses a loss of control whether it is with a person, or situation.

When one is not threatened by their own insecurities or the principled behavior of others; and lives a life where healthy core values are adhered to, the necessity to use these two types of power is nullified. To exploit or manipulate another to prevent not doing the right thing is the worst expression of destructive power. When in their own mind superiority justifies abuse and unethical behavior, it is a disgrace. It is a true sign of a lack of genuine character, leadership and personal honesty. There is no doubt that power can be used for the greater good. It is an important element in creating change, with the hope of improving our quality of life, workplace and society. It is ideal to think that all leaders would use their power in a selfless and caring manner for the benefit of others, but for those of us in positions of leadership and power there is no justification to exploit, manipulate and threaten those who are subordinate to us. It is an example of our own weaknesses, rather than displaying the strengths of an effective leader.

A Commitment of Love


30 years ago tomorrow, March 14, 1981, I exchanged marriage vows with a beautiful woman named, Noni. We made a commitment to honor, love and cherish one another till death do us part. Reflecting on our thirty years of marriage, I am humbled by my wife’s dedication to her family, her moral fortitude, and life long support of our journey together. Actually, I should submit her application for sainthood for having the steadfast loyalty to still be with me. I can honestly state that if it were not for her internal strength of character I would not be the man, father and husband I am today. This is a tribute to all couples that believe there is strength in togetherness, and share a mutual belief in the values that make a positive difference in the lives of those around them.

Through the peaks and valleys of any relationship it is, and will be, a couple’s common core values that creates the resiliency to persevere through the doubtful and difficult times. I have learned over these many years, or maybe I should say have been trained, that it is also a couple’s display of mutual respect that illustrates an appreciation for one another. Personal honesty is another key to any relationship’s survival. To be honest with yourself eliminates the potential to blame your partner for your potential discontent, self-doubt, and lack of self-respect. When we take advantage of those we love, and point to them as an excuse for our own insecurities, it destroys the very fabric of mutual respect, trust, and lasting commitment. Disappointment with ourselves is not the fault of those we love, or those who love us. Using our relationship, or our family, as rationale for not taking ownership for our own behaviors and decisions is self-destructive.

Commitment is defined as, “dedication; application, a pledge or undertaking”. I am sure you would agree that marriage is quite an undertaking. However, as challenging as it might be, the rewards of healthy companionship, raising a loving family, and building a life together encompasses the human experience that provides added purpose and meaning to living each day.

In celebration of this auspicious moment I thought I would share some selected insights from others in regard to their thoughts on marriage.

“Men marry women with the hope they will never change. Women marry men with the hope they will change. Invariably they are both disappointed.” – Albert Einstein.

“Do you know what it means to come home at night to a woman who’ll give you a little love, a little affection, a little tenderness? It means you’re in the wrong house, that’s what it means.” – George Burns.

“In my house I’m the boss, my wife is just the decision maker.” – Woody Allen.

“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy. If you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.“ – Socrates.

“I love being married. It’s so great to find that one special person you want to annoy the rest of your life.” – Rita Rudner.

“Newlyweds become oldyweds, and oldyweds are the reasons that families work.” – Author Unknown.

“Never go to bed mad. Stay up and fight.” – Phyllis Diller.

“Don’t marry the person you think you can live with; marry the individual you think you can’t live without.” – James C. Dobson.

”Come, let’s be a comfortable couple and take care of each other! How glad we shall be, that we have somebody we are fond of always, to talk to and sit with.” – Charles Dickens.

“Some people ask the secret to our long marriage. We take time to go to a restaurant two times a week. A little candlelight, dinner, soft music and dancing. She goes Tuesdays, I go Fridays.” – Henny Youngman.

“What a happy and holy fashion it is that those who love one another should rest on the same pillow.” – Nathaniel Hawthorne.

As the years have passed I have grown to love my wife more each day. It has been a trip with twists and turns along the way, and moments of wondering what tomorrow may bring. Although not always a vacation, the adventure has brought with it a love and a friendship that will never end. I am thankful to have married up.

Saturday, August 15, 2020

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