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Personal Power

Unity of Birmingham Guest Writer Series:

By Jane Phillips

“The most common way people give up their power is by thinking they don’t have any.”

Alice Walker

We hear a lot about power these days. It seems that most often we’re speaking of “power over” rather than “power to.” For instance, the prevalence of gun violence in America speaks to the fact that we feel powerless except when we have a piece of hot metal in our hands. That’s not personal power, of course. Personal power comes from deep listening, being fully present, and being comfortable in one’s own skin. Spiritual power comes through us, and not from us. In fact, it’s most powerful when we aren’t aware of it.

When I was five years old, Mother gave birth to a baby who suffered a cerebral hemorrhage at three weeks of age. I remember Mother reading to my sister Jerrie and me the book, Angel Unaware, by Dale Evans Rogers, the story of her child who was born disabled. Mother meant to convey to Jerrie and me that our little sister would be different, and maybe an angel in disguise. When I think back on the way Missy impacted our family—she lived to be 51 years old—I realize that she was the glue that held us together. She was severely handicapped, but also a joyful being. She brought us much happiness and taught us to be more aware of differences in people, and to value rather than denigrate those differences. She was, for us, an angel unaware.

Rev. Nadia Bolz-Weber says that we are most powerful in serving others when we don’t know we’re doing it. We are more likely to be an “angel unaware” when we are simply being ourselves. How often has someone said to you, “You saved my life that day,” or “You said exactly what I needed to hear,” when you were utterly unaware that you were doing anything out of the ordinary? Personal power does not come from our egos, but from our authenticity. In the words of Nadia Bolz-Weber, “I think we are probably most angelic, not when we are convinced of our goodness, but when we are entirely ignorant of it.” Often, Holy Spirit must find ways around our ego to accomplish Her actions in the world through us. Bolz-Weber says the Holy Spirit is “super manipulative and has really bad boundaries.” Sometimes, She even finds it necessary to wound our egos to get the job done.

We are standing in our personal power when we share whatever we have with another, not so much as an act of service, but because we have more than we need. It might be a bowl of soup, or a bit of cash, a dress we don’t wear, or a shirt that no longer fits. Simply giving away what we no longer need or want is helpful to us and to others. Authentic power is all about serving without expectation, and realizing that in do so, we are the ones who benefit most.

In the Spirit, Jane

Jane Philips is a retired Special Education teacher, Licensed Professional Counselor, and Licensed Massage Therapist. She has also lead Spirituality Groups, Wisdom Circles, drumming circles, and she wrote a daily blog for twelve years called Spiritually Speaking.

Jane is currently working on a memoir titled, Old Crazy Town. She is a fifth-generation quilter.

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