Life after 50

The Missing Pieces of the Empowerment Puzzle

As I worked to rebrand this blog, I was told by a few people that women didn’t need to be strong, they needed to be empowered.

Sorry, but I seriously think “empowered” is a word that is overused and not complete in its concept. We are missing the mark if we don’t think women need to be strong. Not strong in muscular strength (although there is no crime in having muscular strength), but strong within.

“Empowerment” is the latest, greatest buzzword. Women need to be empowered. Minorities need to be empowered. The youth need to be empowered. The word empowerment is thrown around as a cureall for society’s problems. We want to be empowered. Period.

Wait. Just. A. Minute.

Let’s take a moment to look at the whole puzzle of self-development, self-improvement, and raising yourself to the next level.

A Definition classifies the word “empower” as a verb with an object. This means that “empower” is an action that needs some type of outcome.

What can we empower people with?

Here is where the definition is important. gives the word “empower” two different definitions: “1. to give power or authority to, and 2. enable or permit.”

Changing “empower” to the noun, “empowerment,” does little to help. gives “empowerment” a few extra clues in definition: “1. the giving or delegation of power or authority; authorization; 2. the giving of an ability, enablement or permission; and 3. (in South Africa) a policy of providing special opportunities in employment, training, etc. for Black people and others disadvantaged under apartheid.

The key here is the word “give.”

You can be given a wide number of things,

but it is really your inner strength that pushes you to take an opportunity.

The inner strength of passion and desire.

You can hand, and we do as a society, children an education. In the US you are expected to attend school or be homeschooled. We enable and permit youth to attend school. We give them the opportunity to gain the power of knowledge. BUT, it is passion and desire that take that empowerment forward.

Let’s try this for example.

Jessica, a hypothetical high school student, is struggling in math. As a teacher, when I give the students time to begin work, I make sure to stop at Jessica’s desk and ask how I can help.

Jessica responds, “I got this.”

The next day, after going over the homework problems, Jessica wads the assignment up and throws it in the trash. “I hate math,” she grumbles.

Jessica needs to pass math to be eligible for softball. I write her a pass for the in-school tutor. Jessica doesn’t show. I call home and suggest some free online math sites. I have empowered Jessica in every way I can (given her every tool for success) to be able to pass math, but without Jessica having an internal desire to pass the class, I’ve gone as far as I can go.

Although I didn’t teach math, this kind of scenario happened on a regular basis. I gave students every opportunity and every tool for success short of doing the assignment for them.

This is where empowerment falls short. Empowerment needs to be joined with the strength of motivation, initiative, desire, and drive. It’s that internal strength that makes empowerment work.

I’ve read about people who offer homeless people a job, but the job is never filled. The college freshman who has a full scholarship, but is put on academic probation during the first semester. The student never does the work or takes the opportunity of study groups or tutoring. In the end, the student loses the scholarship. When asked what happened, the student declares that college wasn’t for them.

The missing pieces of the empowerment puzzle are people not knowing how to tap their inner strength when the going gets tough.

Sure it is easier to say that the teacher didn’t like me, I didn’t know how to do the job, or I didn’t have a way to get to work. These are excuses from people who have not been taught how to tap the inner strengths of passion, desire, motivation, conviction, stick-to-it-tiveness, or problem-solving. They might be people who have been told their whole life that they are worthless.

You can’t just empower people. You have to help them realize their worth and how to dig into their personal, inner strength.

Why don’t we do this?

Have an answer to this? How about sharing it in the comments?

Thanks for reading.

I would love to hear your thoughts, suggestions, and questions in the comment section below.

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