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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Why I don't like the word 'Empowering'

I have always had problems with popular phrases, mostly because they are often used incorrectly or in a way to cover up a dark truth.  Words are about meaning, but in this day and age, there are more people who try to choose words to cover up meaning than really bring to light a hidden truth.

That's what I think about that silly, stupid word 'empowering.'

In fact, I detest it so much that I not only refuse to utter it, but I get sick at the thought of it.  Yes, it makes my stomach churn.  

The reason is that the word 'empowerment' is the most degrading and dehumanizing concept one can apply to the human race without calling someone an 'animal.'  After all, it assumes that 'power,' meaning authority or control or even ability, are not natural to a human.

If these this can be 'given' through 'empowerment,' then they are not natural.

This is baloney.  We are made in the Image and Likeness of God.  We are born with the full measure of our stature as humans, including the dignity of this humanity (as clumsily as it often is manifested).  All the power and authority we are entitled to or need is our birthright, and it cannot be taken from us.

'Empowerment' is a lie.  It assumes the opposite.  It assumes that human power can be taken, and given.  It is like 'luck,' some kind of magical energy that floats around, and people need help to 'get' it.  Then they are 'empowered.'

The truth is that no one can take our power and authority from us... unless we give it up ourselves.  This is the real truth: we surrender to false authority all the time: the false or defective expectations of others, our perceived need to be protected at the cost of our autonomy, etc.

Sure, we always have to surrender some of our freedom to do whatever we want, but that is mostly because our impulses can often be wrong.  Restrictions on our freedom can, actually, preserve our greater freedom and autonomy.  The same is true of working within social structures.

The difference is when we surrender our dignity itself.  When we allow ourselves to be dictated to and, worse yet, pitied.  'Empowerment' is actually a form of pity, and the very worst kind, because it assumes that we have lost our natural grace and have been deprived of it by others.  This gives other people the right to humiliate us.

Sure, others can and will try to harm us.  They will do all manner of depraved things to exercise control over us.  But, it is not about what they do to us that is as important as how we decide to react.  Once we despair and say, "I am repressed," they the other has won and we have surrendered.  On the other hand, if we say, "Nothing that you do to me will make me lose sight of God," then we have no need of 'empowerment' because our true dignity has been preserved.

The saints were those who lost physical freedom and suffered material depravity, yet they are the most powerful figures of our Faith.  None of them needed to be 'empowered,' because they demonstrated their innate human dignity even in the midst of every attempt to deprive them of it.

No one needs to be 'empowered.'  No one has taken anything from you that you have not given away of your own accord and cooperation.  We all are afforded plenty of opportunities to cooperate with the 'system,' and each of us is responsible for that decision.  Please don't tell me that people don't have choices, because we have prisons filled with people who make choices against their systems all the time.

It is all a matter of how much you are willing to suffer to preserve your dignity.

Speaking of prisons, I have seen many men who have caused themselves dire consequences for the sake of preserving the 'street cred' (AKA criminal 'dignity').  They may be doing it wrong, but they prove my point.

The saints demonstrate to us that preserving one's dignity is a painful and inconvenient struggle.  The same is true for the recovering addict.

In the Fifth Step, the addict eventually comes to realize that his real problem is not with what was done to him, but how he deprived himself of his dignity by succumbing to his fears.  The sins that were done to him only because a pretext for his self-surrender of his power and self-control to outside 'idols.'

No one needs to 'empower' him... because he ultimately surrendered what cannot be taken away... his humanity.  The dignity of his humanity didn't go anywhere, but was bent and distorted by his own choice to the point there he thought he had lost it.

This is what recovery is about: it is not about 'regaining' one's dignity, but getting it out of your pocket and using it.  

The silly language of 'empowering' makes this process difficult at best, because it usually ends up with some kind of weird pride trip that takes us out into the word of egomania.  After all, once you 'surpass' natural dignity, the only thing that can be added to man is what is superfluous and unnecessary... and ultimately false.  This is pride.

Now we see why so many people who take up the 'empowerment' language get on pride and ride it off the cliff: it is not natural to us either.  But, when you keep looking for things to add to your humanity, all you are doing is introducing what is unnatural to your nature.

We need to better understand our humanity and its true nature before we make such bone-headed decisions as looking for 'empowerment.'


1 comment:

  1. Thank you! I dwelt (before becoming Orthodox) in an environment that was all about "empowering" this or that person or group. I always found it disturbingly off-target and felt it said more about those who saw themselves as "empowerers" than it actually accomplished for those who were seen as "powerless."