Bonnie Bing: What do you associate with the word ‘power’?

05/22/2014 4:41 PM

05/22/2014 4:42 PM

Are you one of those people who will sit and play a card game or a board game for hours? I wish I could say yes, but there is no way. A word game? Oh yeah, come on. But not Scrabble.

I like games that prove people can hear a word and be miles apart on the definition. Word association is truly fascinating. That’s why my favorite thing in the Wall Street Journal Magazine is “The Columnists,” where six luminaries of varied walks of life are asked to weigh in on a topic. Recently the topic was “power.”

Kevin Durant, an NBA basketball player, talked about how mental power, mental toughness, is 50 percent of the game.

Television and radio host Ryan Seacrest said he has come to the conclusion that people are powerful because of their capacity to change lives for the better.

When I asked Todd, a 5-year-old boy, what power meant to him, he said, “My dad’s car. It’s fast.” Well, horsepower does have something to do with power.

After seeing the article, I started asking people what they think when they hear the word “power.” In fact, when I had the pleasure of speaking to the Women’s Guild at Plymouth Congregational Church last week I asked them to write down what came to mind when thinking of power. Many jotted down one word and others wrote quite a bit.

Lisa, 52, agreed with Seacrest: “Power is being able to influence others to become better human beings, better at helping, better at caring, better at living.” Sherry, 74, said you’re powerful when you give a smile or share a smile – or, for her, power is getting out of bed each day.

Some of the one-word answers were: communication, energy, enthusiasm, control, responsibility, electricity, politician, mom, technology, president, confidence, rocket, God, guilt and authority. Karen, 46, wrote down “corruption.”

Jane, 69, said: “Me. I think of myself as powerful because the years have brought me to the realization that true power is within the power of love. First, last and always.”

And several women thought power could be described as “women of today,” like Jeanne, 67, “a working mother,” and Elaine, 63. Alberta, 72, said: “I have the power to do what I strive to do. Maybe I have to push myself but I can do that.”

Mary, 92, said she finds power rather illusive: “Power is something I’m always striving for – the power to get up. The power to read the paper. The power to appreciate the efforts of others to make someone’s life a little sunnier.”

Power can be horsepower, man power, wattage, etc. It can be influence, it can be force, it can come from love or from fear. Power can come from the loud person with the big title or the quiet person who works nearly undetected.

Think about it. Are you powerful? Even without a Superman or Wonder Woman cape, you probably are. For some, power means ruling a country, and for some it means they have the power to get out of bed and face the day with a smile. When it comes down to it, isn’t the only power we have is the power we think we have? And the only power we do have has to come within, or it will be fleeting.

So get out there and be powerful! Not feeling it? Go do something nice for someone. That’s a guaranteed power boost for anyone.

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