Inspiration not Empowerment

The word ‘empower’ never raised red flags in these years so I used it confidently and frequently.

Until a dear African American friend enlightened me. It had never crossed my mind before that what this word implies is that I have the power and you do not. Therefore, let me give you the power. This also goes against my theology of humanity: that no matter our circumstances we are all uniquely created in the image of God, with our own thoughts, our own beliefs, our own strengths and weaknesses. A beautiful messy collection of broken and poor people, this word ‘empower’ implies a giving of my strength to your weakness, rather than a mutual exchange of dignity. Thereby degrading you and elevating me.

I believe that we need to stop empowering and start inspiring. The word inspire is to fill someone with the urge or ability to do or feel something (especially something creative). We inspire by living an inspired life ourselves. It is natural to be attracted to and want to spend time around inspired people. People passionate about life, creative, honest and fully present. I am inspired when I am with these people to be a better me. So what if, instead of seeking to empower, we began to seek to inspire? To focus inward in an effort to live our own lives fully, to love deeply, to be conscious in our mistakes and present to our pain.

... these thoughts were clipped from an article by Rachel Goble at Red Letter Christians


  1. This is good, though not something I had thought much about. I tend to believe that only God can empower one to service. The empowerment of one human being to another does indeed imply that one has the power and the other can only act for that other. Thanks for sharing this.

  2. I like the word inspire better too.

  3. Yes, inspire is better. I guess I never thought of empowering as being an uneven balance of power. I really thought of it as being a good thing but inspiring will definitely do more good.


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