Choice and Power

Yesterday, I blogged about how the belief that we have no choices in situations is detrimental to our ability to live an ethical life.  Today, I want to discuss another reason why this belief is problematic for witches(1).  A belief that we have no choice in a given situation also destroys our personal power in a given situation as well.

We in the Pagan community talk about self-empowerment a lot.  It’s a key reason a lot of us came to a Pagan path, at least in my experience.  However, sometimes we talk about it in rather vague terms, never really making it clear what it means to be self-empowered.  To that end, I would like to suggest my own definition:  Self-empowerment is the act of embracing the realization that no matter what situation we may find ourselves in, we always have the ability to choose how we will respond and act.

Note that self-empowerment doesn’t mean we always get to control the situations we find ourselves in.  Nor does it mean that we can magically change everything in our environment to suit our needs.  Such a concept of self-empowerment would simply be out of step with and contrary to reality.  Hardships are going to befall us.  People are going to do things we don’t like and that hurt us.  Circumstances are going to limit our options and even make us face some unpleasant choices.  Those who want to find a way to turn their lives into a fairy tale need to keep looking.  They will not find it here.(2)

But what the principle of self-empowerment tells us is that no matter what those situations are, our actions are our own to choose.  It tells us that even if our choices are limited to unpleasant ones, there are still choices to make.(3)  Self-empowerment teaches us that no matter what is beyond our control, who we choose to be and how we choose to act is still our personal domain.  And that is an incredible power to wield, in my opinion.

Saying we have no choice in a situation robs us of that power.  It turns us into victims of our circumstances rather than people who are working to not only make the best of our circumstances, but improve it insofar as we can.  And that is a great tragedy.

And again, this is a creeping problem.  The belief that we had no choice tends to spread throughout our lives.  What started as one instance where we thought we had no control or no power becomes two.  Then it becomes five.  Then it becomes a regular occurrence.  Soon, we are never empowered because we fail to see our choices.  And then we wonder why our lives are nothing like we want them to be.(4)

Now some may be ready to ask me, “But what about magic?”  And it’s a good question, so I will answer it.  Back in 2007, I blogged about the role one’s will plays in magic.  At that time, I suggested that our will is the part of our psyche that initiates action.  It’s the part of us that actually goes about making all of these choices, and it’s central to the process of working magic.

So what happens when we say that part of us is incapable of making choices because there are none to be made?  We are effectively subjugating it or turning it off.  A belief that we have no choices actually hinders our will.  And a subjugated or hindered will simply cannot operate effectively.  Which means our ability to do magic effectively disappears as well.

(1)  As witches are not the only people who believe in or value self-empowerment, I’m sure many other people will be able to identify with much of what I’m saying here.  I think that’s great.  But since I’m a witch, I’m going to focus on witches.  Though I do hope anyone who isn’t a witch still shares with me what value they might find in my thoughts.

(2)  In reality, I suspect they won’t find it anywhere.  But I respect their right to continue searching.  That’s their choice to make.

(3)  The other advantage to realizing you still have choices, even if they’re all less than ideal, is that it gives you the freedom to think creatively and look for even more choices.  The ones you see immediately may not be the only ones laying about.

(4)  Of course, there are also times when our lives are nothing like we want them to be because our desires are simply not realistic.  Again, this is because self-empowerment is not about living a fairy tale life.  Sometimes, we just have to find a way to live within our limitations.  But my experience is that even within our limitations, there’s a life that’s well worth living.

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