Friday, October 09, 2009

True Empowerment

Lately, I have found myself dwelling on power in it's many contexts. What is power? What are varying people's perceptions of power and how does this influence their world views..or vice a versa.

I was recently reading the book The Wolf Shall Dwell With the Lamb in which author
Eric Law states, true empowerment is empowering others.

My first reaction was "well..duh"..But then it stuck with me. I have been brought up in an environment where this idea was a given. I attended colleges, where this was a given. Yet I am often very reactionary when I hear statements such as "you are a so-called (you choose..religious group/ethnicity/athlete/political party/social status) if you do not agree with blah, blah, blah.

Or of course.."'re one of those." and dead silence. One of what? I wonder.

It never occurred to me that the people who say these things are looking at true power in a totally different light. I usually quit reading or listening at this point. I assume if someone feels they can bully or name-call me into believing something..than they are idiots. I know...I get stuck in defensiveness..and don't always hear what they are trying to say.

I'm working on that.

So it was when I read the above statement true empowerment is empowering others when it hit me. "Oh...not everyone has that understanding. I see where these other ideas come" It is a piece of a puzzle into a world-view I have much difficulty understanding.

I have been thinking about how our understanding of power effects our co-op. As the kids have spent the last several weeks debating education/learning styles and figuring out exactly how our high-school co-op years are going to seems to have taken on a life of it's own.

The kids talk. They talk some more...and they talk some more. It does not matter what they are (or are not) doing. Math..they talk. Drafting..they talk. As I type, Mandy is explaining to their art instructor how to make a grilled tomato and cheese sandwich. Austen is explaining that he has to wear his pj's outside today. Devin is telling me the part I can't remember from The Apostle's Creed. As a matter of fact these children (3 of whom in years past have been known to be ghost children) will not shut-up.

I absolutely love it.

I heard a quote once from a girl in a democratic school who said simply, "some days the entire day passes and I realize that I have been talking with friends all day. It is important. Talking/listening. Conversing. To really talk. I think it's just like we know now that babies need to be held often to develop. One day we are going to discover that teens need to be social to fully develop."

What do they talk about? Anything. Books, games, music, politics, religion, prime numbers, infinity, sports, art..the list goes on. There are no topics off limits...not even grilled cheese, pajamas and the Apostles Creed simultaneously.

I believe these teens are discovering who they are, what they believe and how to articulate what they are thinking. More importantly they are genuinely curious about the differing views of each other. They bounce ideas off of each other. They try to understand where each persons differing view is coming from. They understand that they will not change each-others opinions. They are simply trying to understand.

In a nutshell, these kids have mutual respect.

It is actually quite refreshing, especially after some of the one-way sound bites I seem to see in many of the adults I encounter. You know, the "if you don't agree with me, we will not discuss anything" ..or you are a "so-called (fill in blank)".

Okay. Disclaimer. I know lots of adults who will dig deep into conversation as well....just am amazed at the numbers of adults who really don't know how to listen (as in with no agenda listen) to what others are saying.

I believe that understanding the art of conversation is a tool to empowerment.

True empowerment.

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