You are not a doormat!
What comes to mind when you hear the word authority? Do you picture the image of a person with a badge and gun, a government official or agency, a parent, a customer, your boss, or his boss? What about God and the Bible? There are numerous sources of authority and power in life, and many are needed to live a life of peace.
Yes, authorities must exist in our lives. We are often under someone or something’s authority and have personal authority over ourselves. There are times when we give some of our authority to our spouse, pastor, friends, colleagues, relatives, and others for our benefit. However, we must be careful in giving up our personal authority because of the potential loss of control.
As we begin our discussion of personal authority, let’s first look at the definition of authority in the Oxford Languages dictionary:
authority — noun
1. the power or right to give orders, make decisions, and enforce obedience.
2. a person or organization having power or control in a particular, typically political or administrative, sphere.
3. the power to influence others, especially because of one’s commanding manner or one’s recognized knowledge about something.
It is clear in this definition that authority is power, command, and control over something or someone. Another way of saying this is the one with authority is in charge, making them responsible for an outcome. Most of the time, that is.
“You can delegate authority, but you cannot delegate responsibility.” Byron Dorgan (1942-present)
While the dictionary definition points us in the right direction, it provides little insight into the meaning of personal authority.
One of the better definitions I have found for personal authority is:
“What constitutes “personal authority”? Stated most simply, it means to find what is true for oneself and to live it in the world… Respectful of the rights and perspectives of others, personal authority is neither narcissistic nor imperialistic. It is a humble acknowledgement of what wishes to come to being through us.” James Hollis, PhD (1940-present)
Hollis speaks truth in his words, and to develop this definition even further, look at what Psychology Today has to say:
“Personal authority does not come from unkept promises but rather by truthful actions and deeds with decent and fair purpose.” Alexei Orlov (1737–1808)
Taking personal authority over your life is essential for living to the fullest. By exercising personal authority, you take control and responsibility for your life, your body, what you do, how you act, and many other things.
Yet, too many of us surrender our authority when it would be far better to maintain it. This leads one to ask, where do you have power over your life? Are you in charge of your life? If so, over what parts? If you have chosen to surrender your authority in some areas, allowing someone or something else to control you, for what purpose have you done so? Should you take control back? So many questions!
“The disappearance of a sense of responsibility is the most far-reaching consequence of submission to authority.” Stanley Milgram (1933–1984)
Certainly, you exercise control over much in your life. You control what you put in your mouth and allow it before your eyes don’t you? Yet how many of us give up this control over our appetites? Who is in control, you or your appetite? Do you allow your appetite to control what goes in your mouth or before your eyes? But then, you and your appetite are one, or are they?
In what other areas is it possible to give up your authority or power? There are far too many to list here, but a few include:
- your job
- your emotions
- your finances
- peer pressure
- the news media
- various routines and habits
Is it possible you have given control to someone or something else in some or all of these areas, even when it’s to your detriment?
“No man has any natural authority over his fellow men.” Jean-Jacques Rousseau (1712–1778)
Take your authority back
How can you regain control or authority over your life? It’s as simple as one-two-three.
- Make two lists — one of where you have maintained personal authority in your life and one where you have surrendered or given it away.
- When you understand where your personal authority lies, consider what you want to control and what you are willing to give up.
- Take decisive action to regain control where you must while maintaining control where possible!
Expect friction to develop when you begin taking control back from areas you had given up.
What are a few areas of personal authority you can consider retaking?
- Time spent on the job
- What you allow before your eyes
- What you listen to
- Rest and relaxation
- Time spent with friends
A few examples of regaining authority include:
- A child has you wrapped around their little finger, and you spoil them. You know it is not a healthy way for the kid to grow up. Take charge and change it immediately!
- Your finances are out of control due to your and your spouse’s spending habits. Have a conversation immediately. As mature adults find a responsible path forward, enlist a professional’s help if need be.
- If you allow work to consume your life, take charge and find a way to get it under control. There are a thousand and one ways to do this. The main thing is to give it careful thought and begin taking action. Control it instead of aimlessly allowing it to control you.
- Take control back if a friend takes up too much of your time. You may hurt their feelings, but they’ll get over it if they are mature enough. If they don’t, well, you win some, and you lose some. Friends, that is — time itself is inelastic.
This is the reality of life. It is your life. You only have one shot at it. No one gets a do-over! It is up to you to be the mature, responsible adult, becoming as true to yourself as possible, regardless!
Think about this — if you don’t take control of your life, who can? Someone else will if you don’t step in and step up, I can assure you of that!
I am not saying go around like a bull in a China shop and destroy everything in your path as you take back control over your life. Use your ability to think and act as an adult, not as a child or bully. Especially not with your spouse or kid! Treat them in a kind, firm, responsible, mature way with the love they deserve. But stop letting anyone or anything walk all over you. You are not a doormat!
“Authority without wisdom is like a heavy ax without an edge, fitter to bruise than polish.” Anne Bradstreet (1612–1672)
I hope you take away some new thoughts about personal authority by reading this article. Give serious attention to where you maintain control, have surrendered control, and should regain control. Knowing this information will firmly position you to begin living a fuller life of purpose and dignity, enjoying a better future.
When you take full responsibility for your personal authority, you create a better world for yourself and those you love. What a great gift for both you and them!