Spirituality and Women’s Empowerment
How They Go Hand in Hand
by Helena Judith Sturnick, PhD
“Persist” reads the bumper sticker on many automobiles as I drive to work. “Persist” reads the signs I see in various offices and shops, including my own. As I explore the Internet and read current articles on power and spirituality, I come across these slogans: “Empower women to empower the next generation.” “Nourish life by empowering women.” “Women amount to over 50% of the global population; they too are responsible for half of the change, development and even revolution in the world.” It is profound that the number of women running for 2018 elections has exploded. Both parties are represented in red/blue/purple states, and the numbers will continue to increase.
Many women and men are now exploring the meaning of significant social change through the growth of empowerment movements across the country and in the halls of government. We seek new institutional structures, new political actions. One woman leader reminds us that “we are on a drive to creating history.” A college professor repeats a phrase popular a few years ago: “We are,” she states, “on a hinge of history.” Many of my colleagues and friends say, “A new zeitgeist is being born, a new spirit for the time.” The reality of empowerment holds so much promise!
Perhaps now, as we examine gender and racial models, as our society seeks to call forth the best of diverse talents and social invention, we are again looking, not only for new role models but for new intellectual models and ways of acting on our commitments. Since our current models of egalitarianism are sparse, and our institutions are often rigid, we must look to various sources of wisdom to broaden our empowerment.
Spirituality can be the richest of those resources. Although there are many qualities that can inspire and teach us now, let’s talk about how three gifts of spirituality can create the energetic vibrations of change which will resonate for decades:
- Finding our inner Divinity
Turning empowerment into actions large and small is not, and never has been, simple. But we can do what Americans have always done–find change and creative power in our spirituality and in the freedom to dare (as Brene Brown encourages us to do). We can draw inspiration from worlds yet unseen in which we can discover images of what is truly possible. The spiritual world can liberate us from boxed-in thinking, and it can take us to the frontiers of our open minds. If you have ever visited the Badlands or walked the wild prairies of the Dakotas, you know what that vast expanse looks like. The geographic space can create unlimited mental freedom as well. It metaphorically blows fresh air through our brains and unleashes the energy of “What. . . if?” Even more compelling, it raises for each of us the potent question: “Why not me?” This is liberated intellectualism and spirituality at work. Of course, we don’t have to walk the prairies to create this openness; we can envision it in our imaginations.
Inspiration is one thing. Persistence, however, is quite another. Dreams and promises must be acted upon repeatedly until the positive imprint of change has left its mark. Institutions generally change one paradigm at a time. New thinking must be defined and redefined until it takes root in the fecund soil. Individuals who would use power well to create a better society are tireless and tenacious. They persist in their strong leadership until institutions, political bureaucracies, moribund educational thinking begins to shift, renew and move forward.
Empowerment also draws its strength from eons of spiritual truth, from the courage to learn from our inner divinity, to act out of our authentic selves and the daring to be lit by the inner fire within each of us. A quote adapted from the words of Buddha remind us that “Just as candles cannot burn without fire, human beings cannot live without a spiritual life.” This phrase also reminds us that the most powerful relationship you will ever have is the relationship with yourself.
It is true that empowerment also brings disruption. As new groups take on power—women or minorities for example– power shifts inevitably occur. Adjusting to the redistribution of power often entails social upheaval. It’s like the movement of tectonic plates in earthquake-prone territories. The point is that the ensuing changes create new paradigms and possibilities. This is our hope for the present and future.