Do you know who John Emerich Edward Dalberg Acton was? He was an historian and moralist who lived from 1834-1902. I would venture to say that no one reading this (including myself 45 seconds ago) had any idea about the identity of Mr. Acton. However, I’d wager good money that you have heard this famous quote which was first attributed to him:
“Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Great men are almost always bad men.”
Do you agree with J.E.E.D.A.?
My goal here is not to judge the veracity of this famous quote, but I think I have an idea of why Acton made this observation. It’s something that has been stirring in my mind for several weeks. It has to do with the gas can of authority.
Authority throws gasoline on whatever spark is burning in your heart.
Are you a person who wants to be in charge? Do you want to be the boss? Do you want to make your own rules? Do you want to be accountable to yourself? Do you want others to answer to you? Would you like to be “where the buck stops?”
Here’s a warning: authority is like gasoline. It’s an accelerant that propels any small spark within you into a roaring flame. This is why some of the worst “leaders” ever are those people who want to be in charge. The Monday morning quarterbacks, the sideline peanut gallery sitters, and those who take issue with the way everybody else does it, these are the ones who flame out and cause damage when they get authority. Authority is like gasoline, and whatever is burning inside you is going to explode when you get it.
It’s not all negative though. If the sparks of humility, integrity, selflessness, a true desire to serve others, love, and a commitment to God’s kingdom are present, when you add authority you get exciting results. Gasoline is a good thing when you pump it into your car.
But when arrogance, selfishness, a hunger for prestige, position, or glory burn deep within a heart, authority can cause catastrophic damage.
Often times the best leaders, those who handle authority with the most grace, are those who would rather not have it. They are the ones submitted to God’s word, simply striving to live it out every day with humility and integrity.
Authority is like a gas can…approach with caution.