Power and Empathy

Winston Churchill once said that people who aren’t liberals in their youth lack a heart, and people who aren’t conservatives as adults lack a head.

His keen observation wasn’t about political outlook so much as it was an understanding of our relationship with power. In youth, people see a world where progress is impeded by conflict, and respond by promoting cooperation.

Adults who’ve been down that path have learned that access to power is essential for getting anything done.

Thus the paradox – the path to power is usually paved with conflict. And once attained, power is a slippery beast. It will twist and struggle on its own, while others try to wrest it away.

Taming it and deploying it effectively requires a unique mix of skills. Possession of both power and empathy, a knowing head and a good heart, is an uncommon combination. Despite Churchill’s artificial duality, the combination does exist and is worth striving for. Teach children both. We’re not doing them any favors by keeping them “innocent”.