Lately I have been thinking about a piece by Marianne Williamson. I encountered this some twenty years ago, when I was still working in the public schools. Most of you have read this, from “A Return to Love,” which says:
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. 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. It’s not just in some of us; it is in everyone. And as we let our own lights shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.
We encounter people who seem intent on being thorns in our sides. The closer we get to breakthrough, the more they seem to come against us. One of the reasons they do this, I am convinced, is because the dark just cannot stand the light. It rebels against it, because it hates it.
The dark within ourselves and within others tries to extinguish light. Success, joy, peace, love–all of these are much harder to come to and sustain than is failure, anger, fear, discord, and hate. These latter things are deeply rooted in the part of our brain that is the most primitive, and the easiest to access. My faith speaks to a constant struggle between agents of darkness and light as well.
People who are in a place where they are deeply sad, abused, or are suffering in some other very real and very present way often want to bring others to the place where they currently reside. Misery loves company in part because misery simply cannot understand a better way. There are neurological, bio-chemical, and spiritual reasons for this.
And while we are still in the dark, we are being constantly invited to make the choice to move towards the light.
We get to make the choice to understand and use the gifts God has given us for a greater good. We get to begin to step up. Our “playing small does not serve the world.” We get to let our light shine, so others may see it and be affected by it.
I don’t know if our presence “atomically liberates” others. It’s much harder than that, especially for those who have been living with darkness for an extended period of time. Often, the first reaction people have to us is to mistrust and show derision. The dark hates the light.
And, we still have tremendous influence over others around us. Our presence does affect others. The way we think about ourselves provides a lens through which we see the world.
There are times when we do need to sit with in what appears to be darkness. For example, we need to mourn, be sad, experience anger. We will be frustrated, have set backs, and trip over obstacles and our own feet. How we exist in those situations and how we come out on the other side of them is determined in large part on how we entered them in the first place.
This post turned out different than I originally had intended. In some future posts, I will look more in depth about how our light frightens others, and what to do about it. I think. For now, I would challenge you to re-read the selection from Williamson, and see how it speaks to you. I would love to know your thoughts.