Don’t Ever Surrender Your Power

A few months ago I met a man—we’ll call him Johnny—who touched me deeply.  He’s a friend of a friend, whom I’ll call Bill.  As you probably can tell, I don’t want to embarrass either party.  Bill had spoken to Johnny about me long before I met him, so when our conversation began Johnny knew a lot about me even though I knew nothing about him.

“So how’s retired life?” he asked.  We were at a backyard barbeque at Bill’s house.

I smiled, told him I wasn’t really retired, that I was working harder at my writing and speaking career than I ever had in my advertising business.  “What about you?” I asked.  “Are you still working?”  Johnny is in his mid 60s, a few years younger than me.  He’s a man of medium height and weight, short-cropped gray hair, and deep blue eyes.

He grimaced, said, “I’m doing a little volunteer work, but that’s about it.  I was quite sick for a while and couldn’t work anymore at my old selling job.  Hoping to get another sales job soon, but it isn’t easy to find work at my age.”

I sympathized with him, especially about being seriously ill; I’ve dealt with heart disease since I had a heart attack at the ripe old age of 30 and gave up my right kidney to kidney cancer 15 years ago.  The job situation seemed secondary to me.  “What happened, Johnny?” I asked, concerned for the man.

He looked at me for a couple of seconds, then leaned closer to apologetically whisper, “I don’t like to talk about it; hope that’s okay…?”

Taken aback, I said, “Sure, I didn’t mean to be overly personal—I apologize.”  I wondered what he could have experienced that caused him to be so reticent about discussing it, but it certainly wasn’t any of my business and I wasn’t about to push it.

He smiled warmly and the conversation went to books, movies, sports, politics, etc.  I was enjoying Johnny’s company; he was a thoughtful, articulate, intelligent man.  A little on the nervous side, but I chalked that up to his recent illness—whatever that was—and lack of employment situation, which obviously he wasn’t happy about.

Suddenly, out of the blue, he leaned towards me again and whispered, “I don’t like to talk about it, but I suffered a nervous breakdown.”  The sad look on his face could have made me cry.  I wanted to hug the guy, make him whole again, because now I could tell he was hurting badly.  It was time for me to go to work, help this really nice, lost man back, find his way.  I did just that, spending the next half hour talking about his personal power and why it was so important not to ever surrender it to anyone because of the subjective feelings of shame and embarrassment over what had befallen him.

If Johnny had experienced a bout of cancer like I had, he probably would not have had those feelings of shame and embarrassment; but because it was a mental illness, he did.  At that point it didn’t matter what anyone else thought: Johnny didn’t need any external forces to bring him down; alas, he did the job quite adequately all by himself.

I made him promise that never again would he surrender his power to negative subjective feelings.  He smiled, promised fervently he would follow that direction.  He seemed like a new man, I’m pleased to report.

How about you?  Do you keep your power sacred, or do you, too, surrender it to negative subjective feelings when you’re down, hurting?  I’d love to know your thoughts on the subject.