Authority

“Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities…”

Lately I have been thinking a lot about authority, especially the aspect of submission. At least to me, the current pop culture and generation (as well as the last generation) has an authority problem. We utterly refuse to submit to anyone over us. “We will do our own thing regardless of what anyone suggests. We do not need to listen to anyone except ourselves and those in our echo chamber. We will not be oppressed by the tyranny of the existing social structures!” I was recently watching The Fabric of a Man, and a brief bit of dialogue involves a book titled something like “10 Ways to Become a Successful Submissive Woman.” Upon receiving a copy of this book from her sister, the protagonist tosses it on the counter and proclaims she is not reading that book because she is an independent young woman who needs not to submit to any man. While the scene is quite humorous, it underscored a trend that the modern world is following.

When someone hears the word “authority”, mental images of harsh, cruel, unruly, and forgiving taskmasters are often invoked. “Authority” means to submit to the will and desire of someone else, to forgo your own idea and use theirs instead, to comply with directions, to give respect to their decisions. Indeed, authority is defined as “the power to determine, adjudicate, or otherwise settle issues or disputes; jurisdiction; the right to control, command, or determine.” The word also invokes the thought of someone of someone older than you, which is the traditional social hierarchy.

The fact is, while these descriptions are accurate, they are simultaneously false. Authority is not evil. Those over you are not out to get you or make your life miserable by commanding you do all their work for them. If that is your life perspective, you will not hold any job for long, if you even land work. In the case of parental authority, if you have good parents (or single parent), their end goal is to raise you to be a respectful, kind, agreeable, and overall good person. In college, your professors and instructors want you to become enlightened and intellectually curious, better understanding the world around you and preparing you with the skills to be successful beyond the educational realm. Your bosses want to see you excel in your field of work, to mature in your abilities and even move on to other companies and continue your career. For them to do such, they must exert their position of authority over you.

Yet we cannot seem to submit. We do not want to bend to the powers that be who attempt to squelch our freedoms of expression and individuality. Why is this? Because we have lost the concept of respect. While I love individuality as much as the next person, sometimes we must give up some of it to respect those in power and authority over us. “Respect”, meaning “to hold in esteem or honor” and “to show regard or consideration for”, is closely tied to submission. If we do not respect, or show consideration for, a person, then we will not submit to their authority. Instead, we rebel and do our own thing.

Back in the days of kings, queens, and kingdoms, an uprising against the monarchy was considered treason. Stopping such revolts was always attempted; some succeeded, some failed. To usurp the throne was a serious offense and made you the king or queen’s enemy. If caught, the punishment was usually death. To challenge or bypass authority, in short, was daring and dangerous.

If you take this analogy and compare it to today’s world, we can see that this is exactly what is happening now. Student against teacher, child against parent, civilian or criminal against law enforcement, employee against boss, citizens against government, helper against leader. The subordinate is usurping the authority of the master, creating conflict, destroying many good plans, and setting back many accomplishments that could have been achieved if they had just submitted.

One thing I mentioned earlier but deliberately did not expound was the established precedent of age and authority. The traditional social order states that the older, elder people, are wiser and more skill and experienced than the younger, thus making them the authority automatically. While this is true, it is false. There are many foolish, inexperienced, and unwise elders. Additionally, there are many young people who are more experienced and wiser than the elders. It is totally out of norms to ever have to submit to someone younger than you! That is totally unheard of and never happens! A 35 year old would never end up having to submit to a 20-something! That is absurd! Yet it happens. When it does, submission becomes extra hard. Because the expected norms are broken, a mental block forms and creates an intense resistance to submission to this younger person’s “supposed” authority. “After all, what could they possibly know that I do not? What could they have experienced that I have not?”

It all goes back to the lack of respect. We no longer hold in esteem those above us. We do not honor their position. We are not considerate of their authority over us and instead do our own individual thing, breaking rank and structure. We disregard their word and actions because we totally know better than them. Oh, and if the person in such a position is younger than you? Pfffffttttt, they know nothing of the “real world” or how things work. They will fail under the pressure and give up, just like I told them would happen. I give them two weeks.

Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone. (Titus 3 1:2, NIV)