Over the years I continue to ‘run into’ the famous, challenging, thought provoking statement by former South African President Nelson Mandela. As I was visiting this past week with a close friend about letting our lights shine, Mandela’s words resurfaced in my heart and mind. I went and dug out the quote and read it to him:
“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 and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small doesn’t serve the world. There is 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 is not just in some of us: it’s in everyone. And when 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.”
The two phrases that hit me the hardest are: 1) There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 2) And when 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.”
The first point is resolved in the second. When we are uninhibited, developing the talents we’ve been given and allowing them to flow out of us, others around us are empowered. There will always be those who will shrink back, not understand, be envious and even spiteful, but it’s all worthwhile for those lives that are touched and changed as we have been.
Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, born 18 July 1918, is a South African politician who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999, the first ever to be elected in a fully representative democratic election. Before being elected President, Mandela was a militant anti-apartheid activist, and the leader and co-founder of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the African National Congress (ANC). In 1962 he was arrested and convicted of sabotage and other charges, and sentenced to life imprisonment. Mandela went on to serve 27 years in prison, spending many of these years on Robben Island. Following his release from prison on 11 February 1990, Mandela led his party in the negotiations that led to the establishment of democracy in 1994. As President, he frequently gave priority to reconciliation, while introducing policies aimed at combating poverty and inequality in South Africa. He received 250 awards, including the 1995 Nobel Peace Prize