Personal Powerlessness

By Mary-Alice and Richard Jafolla

A bee flew into our car one day while we were stopped at a traffic light. Try as we might to get it out through an open window, it insisted on buzzing blindly into the windshield.

When we got home, we tried again to get it to leave, but this only made it buzz angrily against the rear window. Again and again, we attempted to direct it outside, yet each time it evaded us. Afraid of injuring the bee if we continued trying, we left the car in the driveway with the windows open next to our flowering bougainvillea vine, hoping this would entice the bee to freedom. But, alas, the next morning we found the little creature dead on the back seat, mortally exhausted from its desperate efforts.

This poor bee was so sure it had the answer to its dilemma: ''I'll just keep doing what I'm doing—but with more energy," and so it buzzed with greater and greater intensity into the window. It stubbornly maintained that it could solve its own problem, when the truth was that the bee's way got it nowhere. 

It may sound silly when applied to an insect, but all the bee had to do to reach the flowers was admit its personal helplessness. Its "bee-ness" was not capable of supplying the answer. "I admit personal powerlessness to get out of here," would have led to its salvation, because with that realization it would have stopped its futile struggle. At that point, we could have taken it gently from the midst of its predicament to the sweetness of freedom.

We couldn't help but see a little of ourselves in the bee. How often do we try to solve a problem on its own level, even when we see it's getting us nowhere? How often do we look for a solution from a human perspective when it was our human efforts which got us there in the first place? It is rather sobering to realize that whatever predicament we are now facing, it was our best thinking that got us there! It is also sobering to realize that our best thinking is keeping us there! …

A Human Admission

Inner peace is a vital need. We all want to feel that tide of absolute tranquility sweeping through us, lifting us above all disorder and struggle. Inner peace begins with an admission of personal powerlessness. There are no ifs, ands, or buts. "I admit personal powerlessness to improve my life." In stressing the word personal, you are saying that the personal you (your personality, your intelligence, your knowledge, your strength, your courage, your ideas, in other words, your human resources) is not enough to solve the problem or problems facing you. On a human level, the problem is winning. On a human level, you are powerless to make your life work. 

It takes courage to pull back and admit: "I can't do it. I need help." Sometimes the words want to stick in the throat. Yet it's true, for if your human resources were enough, you would have already overcome the challenge you are facing.

This is not in any way saying that the human part of you is worthless. This is decidedly not the case. The human part of you must be accepted. You must honor its existence, but at the same time, you must realize that your humanness alone is not enough to bring you to the high level of life you are seeking. For that, it is necessary to go to another level.

We All Do It

Before you start feeling self-conscious or guilty about your "limitations," remind yourself that we all admit personal helplessness almost every day.

If your car won't start, and you call a mechanic, aren't you admitting personal helplessness? In fact, it's not until you admit personal powerlessness that you can begin to solve the problem. How far would you get if, when the car didn't start, you opened the hood and kept staring at the engine? It is only when you realize that your resources (in this case your knowledge of automobile engines, your mechanical skills, the accessibility of the proper tools, and so forth) are not enough to get the car going that the solution is on its way. In effect, you are saying, "I admit personal powerlessness to get my car started." In a case like this, admitting personal helplessness is relatively easy.

Think of the time your sink drain was clogged. After working up a sweat with a plunger and getting nowhere, wasn't it obvious that you had to call a plumber? But before you did, you had to admit personal powerlessness over the problem. You didn't say it out loud or probably even think about it, but you did come to the conclusion that you were personally helpless to fix your drain, or else you would never have made the call.

The electricity occasionally goes out in our homes in a severe storm. After we check the circuit breaker and find nothing blown, we must admit our personal powerlessness. Only then will we seek help from the electric company so the current can flow again.

Let Go and Let God

When we admit our personal powerlessness, we stop fighting. This frees us from the obsession with another person or place or circumstance. It permits us to be human, to accept our humanity instead of struggling with it or looking to it for the ultimate solution. When we do this, we become more comfortable with our lives because a great burden is lifted. We don't have to work alone. Things don't have to be left entirely in our hands. We are personally powerless.

This is when we can begin to find the true power and, along with it, the solution.

In order to find the help to make meaningful, lasting changes, it is necessary to let God take charge of your life. "Let go and let God." But first let go. Letting go is absolutely essential if you want to bring order out of any chaos in your world. Your admission that you are personally powerless—that you cannot control other people, that you cannot change circumstances—allows you to stop fighting with the problem and get on to living with the solution.

"I admit personal powerlessness to improve my life." When you can say that and mean it, life will change, because this first step is a giant leap toward the overcoming of any personal troubles you may have. This admission gets you out of the problem and into the solution, because as soon as you realize you are humanly powerless, you will begin to look to where the power really is. And the Power is God.


The Quest In every human heart there exists the hope of connecting with "something more." Tucked away deep within us, a part of us has always sought—yearned for—that connection.

The Quest opens the way for that connection. It presents eternal truths in a contemporary and very personal way. Whether you are just beginning your own individual quest or desire a deeper spiritual understanding, this guidebook and the accompanying activity book, Adventures on the Quest, will lead you with warmth and practicality through the pilgrimage of your soul.