“Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light not our darkness that frightens us.
We ask ourselves ‘who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented and fabulous?’ Actually, who are you not to be? Your are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.
It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.
As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Marianne Williamson
27 April 2014
This affecting quotation, by Marianne Williamson, has often been misattributed to Nelson Mandela, was featured in the film “Invictus,” appeared in the film “Akeela and the Bee,” and also was secularized in the movie “Coach Carter.” It’s Sunday, so I must be seeking some spiritual support, as I pen this essay. I absolutely love this quotation, and, like Mandela, I am moved by its simplicity and its poignancy, as it dares us to face the truth that it is our power, our potential, that most arrests us, not our limits, not our inadequacies. How we, simply us, can change and improve our world is what frightens us.
As counterintuitive as her words hit our ears, they actually ring true. Think of the times that we have doubted ourselves: we give up on ourselves more out of anxiety aroused by achieving than fear fostered by failing. At some point in our lives–and as the father of three middle school children, I suspect it most concretely occurs in those horrid years–we learn to believe the naysayers, the doubters, the cynics, the critics, the sinister speakers of sickly scuttlebutt, the nattering nabobs of negativity. We allow their insecurities, self-doubt, instabilities, and vulnerabilities to infect us, then weaken us, and finally define us, until we believe we are weak and doubt our potential.
Who are we to question our brilliance, our beauty, our talent? Each one of us is a child of God, and if you don’t believe in a higher being, then marvel at the fact that each one of us is more singular and more individual than a snowflake, more complicated and adroit than any machine on this earth. Hamlet, in articulating his depression, shares the beauty of our humanity much more poetically than I (even though it is written in prose): “What a piece of work is a man, how noble in reason, how infinite in faculties, in form and moving, how express and admirable in action, how like an angel in apprehension, how like a god! The beauty of the world; the paragon of animals; and yet to me what is this quintessence of dust?”
Each one of us should be viewed and admired for our noble reason, our infinite faculties, our express and admirable actions, our beauty. Christina Aguilera also poignantly reminds us to love ourselves: “You are beautiful no matter what they say / Words can’t bring you down….oh no / You are beautiful in every single way / Yes, words can’t bring you down, oh, no / So don’t you bring me down today…”
The Quakers believe in the inner light, or, as Rufus Jones opined in 1904 in his Social Law in the Spiritual World: Studies in Human and Divine Inter-Relationship, “The Inner Light is the doctrine that there is something Divine, ‘Something of God’ in the human soul.” And as Marianne Williamson notes, “And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
So, clearly, I write to ask you to spend tomorrow, the best day of the week, seeking to let your light from within to shine, to give other people, consciously and unconsciously, permission to do the same. Make yourself a mirror that reflects what you want to see in the people in your lives. Smile at each person you see, extend your hand in friendship to each person you meet, welcome into your heart each person who needs you. If we can do that tomorrow, it will be easier the next day and then the next day, until it is our habit to love and inspire each person we meet. Or, as mine old friend Hamlet advises, “That monster custom, who all sense doth eat, / Of habits devil, is angel yet in this, / That to the use of actions fair and good / He likewise gives a frock or livery / That aptly is put on. Refrain tonight, / And that shall lend a kind of easiness / To the next abstinence, the next more easy; / For use almost can change the stamp of nature, / And either lodge the devil or throw him out / With wondrous potency.”
We have wondrous potency to be so much more than we think we are, and if we trust ourselves, we will face our fears, recognize our power, and achieve our goals. This wonderful journey will begin with the first step: believe in you and what you can do