Wednesday, August 8, 2012


I have observed that there is something in the air these days. Not quite sure what it is. A zeitgeist perhaps. Anger in the streets. Anger in politics.  Failing schools. Failing churches. Failing cities. Failures to launch. Perhaps these are disparate trends...but I don't think so.

I would suggest that a possible cause is disempowerment. Webster's defines disempowerment as the state of  being "deprived of power or influence." Here, I apply it specifically to mean the loss of power to make or own our own decisions or to influence outcomes.

How have we become disempowered as individuals and as a society? How do we disempower others? We disempower as we attempt to ensure good outcomes. We teach people that life must be fair for them.  When we shelter people from responsibility, they learn to assume "someone else will take care of it". When we excuse every negative character trait instead of confronting it, people learn they can behave without regard for others. When we fulfil obligations for others, they learn not to care. When we decide for others, they learn to be apathetic.

We disempower our institutions when we disempower their constituents. We may appear to be doing a good thing, to ensure institutional loyalty and faithfulness to mission, but in the end we have a lifeless, lethargic organization, too apathetic to own any aspect of its success or failure.

We participate in our own disempowerment when we let others do our thinking for us. When we jump on a religious or political bandwagon and accept group-think uncritically, we have disempowered ourselves.

The greatest thing we can do for ourselves is to ask questions, to learn, to make a decision, to take responsibility, and act to change things for the better.

The greatest thing we can do for our fellow human being is to empower them. To give them useful knowledge, to help them develop self-discipline, confidence, and resilience so they can make decisions. To release them with our blessing to live their life and use the gifts God has given them.

Empowerment is not a new concept. It's been done before. Jesus did it for his disciples. Jesus taught his followers. He showed them and gave them the power to act. Jesus made his followers into disciples. He empowered them.