Are YOU Your OWN Authority Figure? You Should Be!

Are YOU Your OWN Authority Figure? You Should Be! January 28, 2024

Are YOU Your OWN Authority Figure? You Should Be!

A Little Story

When I was a little kid, my mom worked as a nurse at a local long-term care center, and my dad was a rancher farmer. I would bounce from cousins to my grandmothers, aunts, and neighbors being babysat. When I was ten or so, we moved to a large city. Mom was an optometric dispenser, and Dad was in a new career as a computer programmer-operator after leaving the ranch and farm. I still remember the conversation like it was yesterday. Mom and Dad sat me down, and my dad said, “Now your mom will be working some nights, and I’ll be working the second shift with the computers. That means no one will be home when you get off the school bus. We think you can handle it, but we want to make sure you’re okay with it.”

I, of course, said I’d be fine, and there were numbers left for their workplaces and the neighbors. At first, Mom would leave a fully prepared meal for me and a note about when to heat it and for how long. But soon, that stopped, and I found whatever I wanted in the fridge to make for dinner. Mom’s working nights moved from one or two a month to four nights a week, and she simply didn’t have time to keep things going at work and at home. This continued through elementary school into Junior High and High School. I was a true “latchkey kid.”

When I would hear friends’ parents question where they had been at 6:00 and why they’d missed dinner or why they were out until 7:00 playing basketball with friends instead of doing homework, I was always a bit confused. I hadn’t grown up like that. Okay… Okay… there was one time I almost burnt down the kitchen, but I learned from that. Looking back on it now, I see that my parents (for the most part) trusted me with authority.

What is Authority?

The dictionary says authority is the right or power to make your own decisions or enforce the obedience of someone else. It’s the recognition that the power to decide lies in that “person’s” hands. When I was a very young child, authority was in the hands of whoever was looking after me. But once my parents went to work, I had authority over my own actions. Don’t get me wrong; I’d still get in trouble if I didn’t get my homework done or finish my chores. But I had the authority as to when, how, and where I would do those things.

Having authority does not mean there are no consequences; in fact, it’s exactly the opposite! The more freedom given, the more authority you must have over your actions. For instance, I was a professional opera singer for 35-plus years. What did I actually do for a living? I learned and memorized books of music, most of the time in different languages, written by people who died years ago. Then, after hours of learning, memorizing, rehearsing, staging, and coaching, I’d sing a full play for the audience. To memorize one minute of music, on average, takes one hour of rehearsing it correctly. If you make a mistake, it takes at least 90 times to do it correctly to rectify the mistake and memorize it in the right way. This means hour upon hour by yourself, with a keyboard and the music in front of you, rehearsing. It’s long, it’s lonely, and it can be very boring. But this shows the authority a singer has to have to do the job they do. If I ever shirked my responsibility or authority, I would walk into the first rehearsal, not knowing my music. And this would set the entire production back many days and waste a lot of time and money.

The Old Testament Authority

In the Old Testament, we see God turning over His authority of communicating to prophets when the people complained about hearing the “voice of the Lord” at Mount Horeb. The people said, “Let us not again hear the voice of the Lord, or see this great fire, lest we die…” (Deuteronomy 18: 16). They were asking that the authority be transferred to a man to speak for God, someone they were not afraid of offending, someone they could relate to. And God obliged, sending many prophets to speak for Him. However, the transfer came with a warning. If anyone spoke for God without His authority, they would be put to death immediately.

Public Domain
When the people complained about God speaking directly to them because they were afraid, God gave His authority to the Prophets to speak for Him.

The New Testament Authority

Later in the book of our religious history (the Bible), we hear how Jesus “taught with authority” and how he even commanded unclean spirits to come out of people. Having “authority over them” (Mark 1: 21-28). But was this unusual? Was this something new? It certainly was for a carpenter from a backwater town in Galilee. Before that, most prophets came from priestly or more holy families. They didn’t come from a general contractor’s house.

Paul also talks about another point of authority in his letter to the people of Corinth. Corinth, in Paul’s day, was a sexual cesspool with temple prostitutes all over the city. Paul talks about the authority given to married and unmarried people and lays it all out in no uncertain terms. He tells the married people they have authority over their own actions with their spouse and only their spouse (a.k.a. no sleeping around). Meanwhile, singles had “anxiousness about things of the Lord” or authority over their own being (a.k.a. no sleeping around).

This proclamation by Paul was far easier said than done. It was like my friends (never having authority over their own actions) suddenly having their parents leave for the weekend and leaving them in charge at home. It was a true “Animal House” kind of party! Needless to say, their parents leaving them alone was not a good idea. They hadn’t been raised to know and understand what authority means.

Public Domain
Is life one big chant of “To-ga! To-ga! To-ga!” or do you have authority over your desires?

So, what about you and me? Where does that leave us? Well, we all have authority over our actions, whether we like it or not. The question is, do you choose to use your authority well, or do you choose poorly and face the music later? Being a grownup can be hard!

Public Domain
How do you use the authority in your life? Is it well ordered or something straight out of “Animal House?”
About Ben Bongers KM
Ben Bongers was an international operatic tenor and practicing sommelier for 30 years based in San Francisco, CA, and Europe. He has written monthly articles for trade magazines in wine and singing over a long and lustrous career. After becoming a semi-full-time caretaker for his parents, he earned an MA in Gerontology (the study of aging and care) and was asked to publish in an eldercare textbook in 2020. He has written several books, all published by EnRoute Books and Media. His first novel, THE SAINT NICHOLAS SOCIETY, has won many awards, and his other two, TRUE LOVE—12 Christmas Stories My True Love Gave to Me, and THE FARMER, THE MINER, THE ARTISAN (a children’s book) are both up for writing awards. Ben is a Knight in the Order of Malta and helped start an overnight homeless shelter at his San Francisco, CA parish. Today, he is a Permanent Diaconate Candidate in Kansas City, MO. You can read more about the author here.

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