[T]he power of love is an open method, and its typical gesture is the open hand, friendly and welcoming.
--E. Graham Howe and L. LeMesurien, The Open Way: A Study of Acceptance*
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
--Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
“The power of love.”
The power at work in love is conducive power. It is the power of capacity, which always capacitates in turn whatever it gently touches.
The power at work in love is that which conducts what is touched by it--what it loves--into opening up and filling its own full potential, the fullness of its true being.
What anything or anyone most truly is, is revealed by love, which calls the beloved forth to be itself.
The love at work in the power of love is no desire to possess, to own, to dominate and control. It is the love that never seeks to profit itself, but always only the beloved.
The power of love is love itself in its genuine sense. It is love as the selfless desire that the beloved be, and be in all the abundance of the beloved's own defining capacity.
The power of love seeks the well-being of the beloved solely for the beloved's own sake, and not for the sake of the lover. The ancient Greeks already knew and said that, most especially Aristotle in his discussion of friendship in the Nichomachean Ethics.
Genuine love does not desire to possess, dominate, and control. Rather, it desires solely that the other, the beloved, prosper. Love exhausts itself in that self-less desire, pouring itself out for the sake of the other without counting the cost.
Originally, conduce meant "to lead or draw together." The word derives from Latin conducere, "to bring together, contribute to, serve," itself from com, "with, together," and ducere, "to lead, to draw."
Genuine love, the love that is no mere disguise for possessive lust, is always conducive, never coercive. Love draws what it loves together--together into what it, the beloved itself, most truly and fully is.
As always con-ducing, "drawing together," love is also always e-ducing, "drawing forth," from the same Latin root of ducere, just with a different prefix. Love draws the beloved together into itself, drawing it forth into the fullness of its own most proper, most properly definitive, being: drawing it together, forth into being what it most truly and fully is.
In short, love educates.
In truth, only love truly educates. Whatever comes from some other source belongs to coercive rather than conducive power. At best, it is no more than learning as vocational training. At worst, it is sheer information processing in accord with some pre-given template, a process designed precisely to induce conformity to the dictates of some coercive power dominating and controlling that process.
As genuinely educative, conducive power is also soft power.
What is soft is gentle. It is mild-mannered, comfortable and comforting, easy and easing. Whatever may come, what is soft remains calm and undisturbed, and induces ("brings into") calmness whatever is disturbed.
The word soft itself ultimately derives from the Proto-Germanic root *som, which meant "fitting, agreeable."
The power of love is the fitting, agreeable, soft power of the open hand.
"Love is patient, love is kind," writes Saint Paul (from whom I have also taken the quotation above from Galatians). "It does not envy," he continues, "it does not boast, it is not proud" (1 Corinthians 13:4, NIV). Love draws forth gently, rather than whipping into compliance. It educates patiently, rather than conditioning forcefully.
In contrast, there is nothing gentle, patient, or kind about coercive power, the power of the closed fist. The power that the love of power lusts after is not soft power. It is strong power.
Coercive power is the power of strength, the Old English root of which meant precisely "bodily power, force, firmness, manhood," or even "violence." Ultimately, the word derives from the Proto-Indo-European adjectival root *strenk-, "tight, narrow," with the Proto-Gemanic suffix *-itho (carried over into common modern English as th) and used to make abstract nouns from some adjectival word forms (as, for instance, depth from deep or truth from true). Such tight and narrow strength well fits coercive power, which aims to contain and to constrain, to imprison and to put behind bars.
However, given time, of which it always has an abundance, the soft and gentle will always overcome the strong and rigid. The power of the open hand always trumps the power of the closed fist--the only sort of power that belongs to the Trumps of this world.
There is where all true hope lies.
*London: John M. Watkins, 1939 (4th impression, 1958), p. 33.