Relationship Paradox: Personal Authority and Humility

By Michael Semon

March 9, 2018

Marriage Counseling Therapist Birmingham AL

How do you exercise personal authority and humility at the same time? While these seem to be opposites, they actually complement each other. Personal authority is the ability to be present having a quiet confidence transcending difficult circumstances. Parents exercise parental authority disciplining children. Police exercise legal authority keeping drivers safe. Similarly, personal authority exercised in adult relationships is necessary for two people to humbly listen and consider each other.

Infants have no ability to exercise personal authority because they are completely determined by their internal and external circumstances. Feeling cold, hot, hungry or thirsty an infant reacts to get his or her caregivers to meet his or her wants and needs. Adults allowing the demands of their day, the demands of others, fear of hurting other’s feelings, fear of being taken advantage of, or allowing guilt, anger or frustration to determine their reactions reveal a lack of personal authority.

Personal authority is not complying nor defying others. Complying, avoiding conflict, people pleasing, appeasing, placating or pacifying another is evidence of a lack of personal authority. Similarly, defying, withdrawing, distancing and retreating, as patterns of interaction is evidence of a lack of personal authority. These two patterns of complying and defying have been characterized as the quilt/anger cycle. Ironically, often adults exercise little to no personal authority because they are completely determined by their fear, guilt and/or shame.

Personal authority is a quiet presence that transcends feelings, impulses and circumstances. An example of personal authority is thinking something without saying it or speaking confidently about a subject. Maturity, mindfulness, consciousness, being thoughtful, considerate, and socially aware are indicators of personal authority.

Personal authority doesn’t presume you know what’s in your best interest. In fact, a person with personal authority recognizes he or she doesn’t know what’s in his or her best interest and can exercise the humility to be still, cooperate with others and think beyond their particular fame of reference or personal situation.

Humility is one of the clearest indicators of personal authority. Narcissists are devoid of humility because it requires stepping back from their particular point of view and humbling considering others thoughts and feelings. Personal authority is a prerequisite for listening in a relationship. Efforts to “balance the ledger” or “correct the record” in the moment can be emotional reactions that reveal a lack of personal authority.

Personal authority and humility develop as a result of resting in the confidence derived from knowing you belong and have significance in the universe. This rest grows from “knowing” your life is being lived with intentionality and purpose transcending words, thoughts, feelings, actions and reactions in any particular moment. Developing personal authority is critical for successful relationships.
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