Character and Power, what a concoction

By Hellen Ndongo. Hellen is a blogger living in Ottawa, Canada. Please read her article and leave your thoughts and comments below.

Referencing to my experiences and observations of the world, I agree with Mr. Lincoln statement, though I do oppose the beginning phrase that nearly all men can stand adversity.

Firstly, Abraham Lincoln ruled before women’s rights were as active. Hence, we can’t blindly read and believe that he was using the term “men” as a gender-neutral tone, let’s be honest, he was referring to males.  Men dominated, and women were considered to lack the intellectual and emotional capacity to employ such influential positions. With that said, the success of civil and political rights has changed societies’ attitude towards men’s mental and emotional expectations.

In Mr. Lincoln’s era, men were expected to be militant. Vulnerability meant shame to the family, no wife, no employment, and possibly be denied the right to serve his country, which was the most important job for a man in that time (versus this century) with all due respect to today’s veterans. Almost all the men in the 1800s or so wanted to leave a legacy where he was remembered as brave and courageous etc. While some men, especially those in European countries, would have wanted to escape, they could not because suicide was considered self-murder before it was decriminalized in the 1960s. Obviously, religion influenced the illegality of suicide. Survivors were imprisoned or sentenced to death by hanging, and the families of the successful suicide were at the risk of being prosecuted.

Fearing to be disowned by their fathers and communities, as well as imprisonment and hardship on their families, men had no choice but to shelter their pain and endure adversities. Some used it as a method to prove and maintain their masculinity, mainly when he wanted to impress the father of the girl he wanted to marry or to gain the favor of the man he aspired to be.  This can cause one to believe that nearly all men can endure adversity. If they had a choice to escape or even talk about it without being taunted, in my opinion, many would have taken that course of action.

In this generation, though it silently exists, men are not intensively pressured to such characteristics and can be expressive without diminishing their masculinity. In fact, a lot of women of late, desire a communicative man, which may have been a turn off to the 1800s women.

According to World Health Organisation (WHO), about 800,000 people per year die from suicide, giving us 11.5 per 100,000 every 40 seconds, and about 78% are from low to middle income. In 2015, suicide accounted for 1.4% of world deaths, making it the 17th cause of death that year and the 2nd for individuals aged 15-29, which is a high number.  For every death, there are 20 attempts. Other than physical and sexual abuse, some of the causes of suicides are life stresses, such as economic downturn, financial crisis, relationship breakup, critical injuries, etc. Also, the rate for men is three times higher than the women’s rate. This proves that using the word “nearly” isn’t advisable and should be replaced with the word “some.”

In my opinion, our youths are very focused on being approved and loved by everyone, and when that doesn’t happen, they question their worth. They desire a perfect life in an imperfect world, and the world will never be perfect because the population of imperfect people, who are entitled to their own opinions, live in it.

On the second phrase but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power. I unquestionably agree.

From a senior and political perspective:

During the campaign season, many African politicians participate in humanitarian activities. They visit remote areas and show compassion towards the villager’s concerns, and they make promises. Some even dance along the cultural performances. When elected, they rebuke their people and use the money for their luxurious lifestyle. Past financial documents reveal that theft and dishonesty have always been part of their character, and now they have more money to steal, and no one can stand up against them for the next four years.

This isn’t a jab at Mr. Trump, nor is it a political debate about whether you like him or not. I will use him as an example to support my argument because readers will grasp my concept better than if I use a Zambian politician.

Before his presidency, he swept his beliefs under the carpet and embraced every culture because a successful franchise depends on diverse customers.  Now as a president, he can blurt out his opinions as he no longer requires the minorities five-star reviews, and his position heavily relies on the majorities acceptance.  When he is no longer president and must operate his business, he will humbly attend cultural and racial events and pretend like the past never happened.

Some people may say it’s a smart political move, and that’s not who he is. It’s a lie because the world has encountered two of the most influential people that lived humbly; Princess Diana and Mother Theresa.

Princess Diana was in line to be the next queen. If she were a boastful woman, she would have talked ill of people and grieved her employees to quit. Instead, she took off her gloves as she greeted people, visited an area that was forbidden and neglected, etc. Some may say Mother Theresa was a nun. Therefore, humility was expected of her, which is true, but how many religious people in the past have used religion for personal gains.

Power doesn’t change people; it only enhances their existing personalities.

From a non- senior perspective:

My high school was partaking in a trade show, and every 10th grader in my country was required to come up with a theme for a grand prize of 100USD.  We were all nervous and excited about it.  Two of my classmates (will refer them as Mary and Kate) and I agreed to help each other with our themes.  Should any of us win, the winner will have $50 and $25 for the others.

A month later, during the Friday’s school assembly, Mary was the winner of the competition. We applauded as she went on stage to claim her prize.  As we were heading for lunch, I jokingly said, “we are going to party.” She turned around, waited for the crowd to get larger, and yelled,


I was embarrassed and speechless, and everyone was laughing at me, and her pride multiplied when she acknowledged that her behavior was entertaining. But I thanked God that I lost because if I had won, I would have shared my prize with liars.

She had the power at that moment and had to decide whether to live up to her bargain of the deal. Since she no longer needed me for support or financial assistance, her pride or “celebrity status,” overpowered her integrity. Two weeks passed, a day before the school’s three-weeks mid-break, Mary came to my dorm and asked for transportation money, because she used the money to purchase and sneak in alcohol, and the people she spent the money with refused to help her. Now, the power was in my hands. I had the resource she desperately needed to go home, and I had to decide whether to revenge or forgive and assist her, even though there is a possibility she may not learn her lesson.

Another example:

I was bullied from 8th to 9th grade, which started to dissolve after I decided to help new students integrate into the environment.  They were either bullied because they were pretty, or not pretty. Since I was no longer the “duck,” and my familiarity with the school and bullying experience, placed me in a supreme position of that person. I had to choose to use my superiority to either join the bullies to torment that individual or befriend that person and make their lives easier.


The sentence but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power; isn’t for people who solely hold influential statuses. Everyone in this world has power because we have privileges, strengths, and weakness. Our strengths are someone’s weaknesses, which makes us the leader in that case.  We can use our power to bring positivity into peoples lives, or we can create chaos. Your negativity may not affect the world, but it undoubtedly does impact the people around you. Even as a customer, you have the power.

We can test a man’s character based on how they:

  • Treat people who are in desperate need of their strengths but have nothing to offer in return. Also, their attitude when they present their help.
  • Treat people who they no longer need their support, intellect, or expertise.
  • Respond to individuals who seek their refuge when they don’t deserve it. It’s not easy to remain humble or forgive.


5 comments on “Character and Power, what a concoction

  1. Liya on

    When I thought of the idea of power from that phrase, I never thought it could mean the little everyday things we have that others don’t. I’ve always thought of as money, status, prestige for starters. This has made me reflect on the times I was given some type of power and what I did with it. Am I happy with how I reacted. It’s easy to thing of ourselves as saints but are we really as good as we think we are?

  2. Sulekha on

    Written pretty well , but sometimes writing too many personal experiences turns a write up to a memoir. This is the only thing goes against the article


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