News stories of late have me thinking about the abuse of power.  We all have power of some kind and we need to use it appropriately.  Think of the influence you have over others and the effect you can have on their lives.

Michael J. Pratt, about a year ago, was fired from his position as a Seminary Principal for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.  He has admitted to sex acts with a 16 year old girl who was a student at the Seminary.  It appears that Mr. Pratt had carefully cultivated his image and trust with his colleagues and community over the course of several years.  This trust placed him in a position where he had increased access to the girl and lead her to do things that he will be punished for.  He will likely face prison time, a divorce, and excommunication from his faith.

Shortly after the allegations were made public many people came forward showing support for Mr. Pratt because they always knew him to be a good and upstanding person.  It is sad that he would betray the trust of these people, his wife and family, the victimized student, and the community at large.

Ronnie Lee Gardner is currently scheduled to be executed June 16th for a murder he committed more than 25 years ago.  He has a history of abusing power and continues to run from the only death he seems to fear.  His own.

In 1985 Mr. Gardner was in court for a hearing in the murder of Melvyn Otterstrom.  An accomplice gave Mr. Gardner a gun and he attempted to escape.  While attempting escape he killed Michael Burdell and wounded a bailiff at the court. Mr. Gardner made it to the outside of the courthouse and saw he was facing armed officers.  He surrendered his weapon and went back into custody.  He was found guilty for the murder of Melvyn Otterstrom and was sentenced to die for the murder of Michael Burdell.

It is now 25 years later and Mr. Gardner is still fighting his death sentence.

Mr. Gardner abused his power when he killed Melvyn Otterstrom.  He abused his power again when he fought to escape and killed Michael Burdell.  He only surrendered when he saw that he faced the possibility of an immediate death penalty and has been fighting to avoid the death penalty ever since.  It is time for him to stop fighting and face the consequences of his actions.

If the allegations against Nathan and Stephanie Sloop are true, they are guilty of a most despicable and disheartening abuse of power and will probably face the death penalty.  The mother and step father of Ethan are accused of engaging in a pattern of abuse and neglect that led to the death of 4-year old Ethan.  After he died they are accused of then mutilating his body in an attempt to hide the crime.  Sick.

People seem to forget or ignore the trust that has been placed in them and then choose to abuse their power.  Sometimes these abuses come from people who have lead exemplary lives prior to these abuses.  Other times it is not such a surprise.  In every case it is a sad state of affairs.

So how do you avoid abusing the power you have?

First, remember that any power you have can be taken away.  It is a temporary trust that you have.  As a parent if you abuse your power by neglecting or maltreating your children, you will lose the right to parent your children.  If you abuse your autonomy to act in conformity with our laws you can have your liberty taken away.

Second, ground yourself in a moral code independent of fads and shifting temporary values.  Find a traditional source of values and morals that will settle you in a way of being that is virtuous and honors the trust placed in you.

Third, remind yourself of your moral code and source of values every day.  Pray, meditate, read inspirational or religious literature that informs and reinforces your value system and makes it easier for you to do the right thing even when no one is looking.

Do these things and our whole society will be better for it.

Comments Welcome