Nelson Mandela is famously attributed to this reflection:
“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 most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 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.”
This quote has drifted in and out of my mind for the best part of twenty years or more. It visits like a distant aunt you recognise from photos and share tea with. After a few minutes in her company, you remember why you liked her.
The opening sentence belongs on greeting cards, sanctimonious thankyou cards and any budding entrepreneur’s lips.
The sentence is simple and profound, getting straight to the quivering heart of every breathing introvert with big dreams. The images of light, shining, glory and liberation, not to mention the ego stroking sense we will inspire an army of shrinking violets also grabs one by the scruff.
For the Kingdom of fear knows many lands and conquers many hearts. We learn it all over the place, from the gen pop badlands of high school and way back into the slightly more permissive primary school.
It kills unborn dreams and builds ulcers and outbursts and random bashing of a thousand steering wheels. It kills the words in your throat and inky fingers.
The tyrannical oppression of restrained, lost dreams is a burden too many carry through their necessary, beige lives. Mandela knew it, or figured it out all those years in Robben Island. Lord knows he had plenty of time to polish and refine it.
The Glory of God stuff is best left to those not so agnostic or potentially atheist in thought and word. It sits awkwardly with illumination and reason, but demonstrates they can coexist.
May she visit again soon, and stay a while.