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Finding Empowerment


What’s happened this week is one of those shocking and terrifying events that we’ll all remember. Years from now, when someone asks, “Where were you when…” we’ll most likely be able to pinpoint our location and feelings around the storming of our nation’s capitol.

This post isn’t about who’s to blame for those events. It’s not even about finding unity in our distressed and polarized country or treating each other with kindness. We each have to answer to our God or our better angels for our actions. Instead, I’ve chosen to consider the deeper issue of powerlessness that seems to be gripping this country.

I'd like to start with a basic definition. Empowerment is the increase of strength across many aspects of life. This includes economic strength, political voice, social capital, and spiritual connection. This is just one definition of empowerment, but I like how all-encompassing it is.

As a therapist, personal empowerment is some of the most important work I do in helping clients reach their full potential. When individuals and families are empowered in the above-mentioned areas, they thrive, and we begin moving toward communities that flourish.

I also submit, that if we want to reach our full potential as a nation, we need to have empowered citizens. For some, it can feel as if all of this is out of reach due to government mandates around COVID. This debate isn’t new. As a country, we’ve always struggled with the rights of the individual vs. the rights of the collective. But even with this and many other debates raging, we can still find ways to find personal empowerment and help others in their effort.

Here’s a two-pronged challenge to help with both self-empowerment and the empowerment of others.

Challenge 1: How can I foster personal empowerment in the above categories of spiritual connection, political voice, social capital, and economic strength? This takes some thoughtful work. It could require a deep dive into our own sometimes murky world of old childhood lessons that may have been incorrect. We may need to consider our feelings of loss or scarcity that may be both imagined and real.

Challenge 2: How can I help another feel empowered spiritually, politically, socially, or economically? This might be even more difficult, because we’ll need to take a hard look at our comfortable biases and search for blind spots.

Both challenges offer us at least two secrets of empowerment. First, those who are truly empowered are interested in empowering others. This desire crosses racial, socioeconomic, and religious boundaries. As we become more interested and engaged in the plight of others, we begin to recognize that we’re all connected, leading us to a stable and thriving society.

This work starts by reaching within, as outlined in the first challenge, and then reaching out. Because if we’re ever going to heal this rift, we’re going to need a bunch of empowered people, and that can start with each of us.

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