What would it have taken for you to become a member of the secret police, a KGB Officer in the old Soviet Union? What would be success in your eyes? What attitude would you have had to have towards other human beings? And if you found yourself a bankrupt ex KGB Officer, stationed in a now free East Germany, what would be your choices and how would you be feeling?
Our identity can be so bound up with our success, however we perceive it, that we pursue that success at all costs. We hang on tight, too, when we and that success feels threatened. We hang on to beliefs, ideas and ways of being. We may misuse our power. It’s not just heads of authoritarian regimes who can trample others on the way. It happens within families, too.
Herod may have been a puppet king under the Romans, but he was determined to keep the power he had and, to do so, was prepared to murder innocent children when he felt threatened. The Old Testament stories of the Kings of Israel also show the abuse of power and the lessons to be learned. It’s the same down the ages, just a different place and time.
So what do we do to make things better?
American Trappist Monk Thomas Merton was challenging in his answer: “Instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men and women and love God above all else. Instead of hating all the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and disorders in your own soul which are the causes of war.”