A Power of the Heart

Greatness lies not in being strong, but in the right using of strength; and strength is not used rightly when it serves only to carry a man above his fellows for his own solitary glory. He is the greatest whose strength carries up the most hearts by the attraction of his own.

·         Henry Ward Beecher (Life Thoughts, Gathered from the Extemporaneous Discourses of Henry Ward Beecher)


Use Your Power!

6.      We affirm and enjoy our strengths, talents, and creativity, striving not to hide these qualities to protect others’ egos.

This step is for pure celebration and unmitigated self-congratulation. For some, this will be comfortable; for others it will be more difficult. Women’s programming is to be self-effacing and to hide our light under a bushel (to use the old expression). In women’s therapy groups, when we set aside time to affirm our strengths and accomplishments, there is sometimes enormous resistance compared to how readily we repeat the litany of ways we have messed up and done things wrong.

If words like arrogant, bragging boasting, big ego or lack of humility come to mind when you think of talking about your strengths, remember: If our talents come from our Creator, then to celebrate them is to celebrate creation. It doesn’t mean we are better than someone, it simply means we celebrate our lives.

It’s fine to say, “I’m proud of myself for staying sober. I played a good game of soccer today. I baked a really great cake today. I did a creative job of organizing the office today. I like this brick-laying job I did. I enjoy having musical ability.”

This step runs counter to the patriarchal notion of humility, which confuses self-appreciation with arrogance or ungodliness. . . Affirming our strength is an important first step toward amassing our collective power so we can energize each other to reach beyond our perceived limitations.

One way to activate knowledge of your strengths is to write down all the wonderful, thoughtful, caring, intelligent, creative things you have done. Then read your list to a group and put it in a place where you will see it daily. You could have a “popcorn group” where you set aside time to sit in a circle and spontaneously say things you are proud of in no particular order. . .

You can start doing this step by noticing how you change your behavior around different people. Do you hide your power by getting giggly, scared, turning to mush, or otherwise losing your voice and your convictions with men, bosses, authority figures, women – anyone?

Simply observe your behavior (or collapse) with fascination and interest and listen to the messages in your brain. Make note of what you say to yourself. . .

After you’ve observed yourself, start challenging these internalized responses, exposing them to current reality. My mother might have hit me if I spoke up, but will this person do that? What will happen if I tell my friend I’m upset? What will happen if I stop laughing at sexist jokes? Usually the child within fears great disaster, but the monsters we fear are often paper dragons left over from childhood.

- Charlotte Davis Kasl, Ph. D. (Step 6 of “16 Steps to Discovery and Empowerment,” from Many Roads, One Journey, Copyright ©1992)

Charlotte Kasl, Ph.D., has been a practicing psychotherapist, workshop leader, Quaker, and Reiki healer for twenty years. She has had a longtime involvement with feminism, Eastern Spiritual practices, and alternative healing, bringing an empowering holistic approach to all her work. Her books include Finding Joy, Many Roads, One Journey and the classic Women, Sex, and Addiction: A Search for Love and Power. Formerly of Minneapolis, Minnesota, she now lives in an octagonal house on a mountain near Missoula, Montana. She is available for workshops, talks, consulting and therapist training on a variety of topics related to dating, relationships, addiction, spirituality and empowerment. Here's her address: Charlotte Kasl P.O. Box 1302 Lolo, MT 59847, or call her at (406) 273-6080.


True Strength

Know how to choose. Most things in life depend on it. You need good taste and an upright judgment; intelligence and application are not enough. There is no perfection without discernment and selection. Two talents are involved: choosing and choosing the best. There are many people with a fertile, subtle intelligence, rigorous judgment, both diligent and well informed, who are lost when they have to choose. They always choose the worst, as though they wanted to show their skill at doing so. Knowing how to choose is one of heaven’s greatest gifts.

·         Baltasar Gracián (1601-1658) – Aphorism 51, The Art of Worldly Wisdom (A Pocket Oracle)

What “real power” is not: to be a truly powerful human being does not require great physical strength or athletic prowess, nor does it require the ability to exert or impose your will upon another person. Power such as this can fade as your physical body and mind ages. Neither is real power a cleverness that takes unfair advantage of weaknesses in people or situations. Likewise, it is not the fearfulness of armies amassed to do battle, or the awesome devastation of societies by weapons of mass destruction. Each of these examples are that of external power.

What “real power” is: authentic inner strength; unshakable faith; creativity; self-knowledge and full utilization of talents; honoring others; sound and well-considered choices; and more. . . much more.

It is the power of silence and circumspection, knowing when to hold ‘em and when to fold ‘em. Speaking up, when occasion calls for it, with confidence, knowledge and eloquence, clearness of thought and expression, while at other times keeping your own counsel, not offering unsolicited advice or opinion. It is holding the tongue when an opportunity to speak of another’s shortcomings arises, preferring to let it be the task of someone else to spread that sort of ill-will which defames the character. It is honesty, without brutality, but rather tempered with understanding and compassion.

It is the power of obedience, not to external authority in fear of punishment, but to the ideals of the higher self, based upon experience and acquired wisdom, understanding and compassion, and an unwavering search for truth and what is right from an eternal perspective, and a sure understanding of one’s place is the Grand Cosmic Scheme. It is adhering to the laws of the society in which we live (generally, those based upon what is commonly called the Golden Rule), and doing so because such is the glue that holds our society together. But it is not a blind obedience, for where a law is unjust, every effort should be made to change such a law. The call to a fulfillment of these duties allows tyranny to hold no power over an individual who possesses authentic inner strength.

It is the power of fidelity by keeping promises, always telling the truth, being above subterfuge and intrigue, beyond petty squabbles and personal pique. It is the power of knowing that one who breaks promises to others will be false to his family, his friends, his country and his better nature. One’s given word must be sacred, a bond, just as the knights in times of chivalry, and one’s actions above reproach wherever possible. It is vital to faithfully perform the duties required by the obligations of being a brother/son/father/husband-sister/daughter/mother/wife-friend/mentor/partner/co-worker; the opportunities provided by the obligations of our relationships are, after all, why we take flesh upon ourselves. It is one of many reasons we live and breathe. Dependability and personal integrity in relationships are equal to strength of character.

Nay, true strength, “real power,” is even more!

It is the power of being humbled with gratitude for every experience that life brings you, because you know that a lesson lies therein, and each experience brings you closer to your creator. It is appreciation for nature and the environment, picking up after yourself at every opportunity, and leaving a place blessed by your visit. It is a stewardship of the earth, giving back a small measure of the abundance given to me.

It is a quiet strength that looks for the best in everything and everyone. It is the magnificent strength of being forgiven, and forgiving in turn. It is compassion. It is the nurturing of others, but most importantly it is truly taking care of the Self. It is making intelligent, soul-benefiting choices. It is having no fear, in the truest sense, in one’s heart.

And still more. . . It is love. Love is the power of the heart, the only true power the Universe has ever needed.


email: Michael@N-Spire.com

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