“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.”
Who didn’t say it:
Who did say it:
Marianne Williamson in her book “A return to love: Reflections on the principles of a course in miracles”
What’s the story?
I don’t quite know how misattributions like this one start, but I know how they continue. I read this quote, wrongly attributed to Nelson Mandela, in “Messy Spirituality” by Mike Yaconelli.
I was really moved. Especially because I thought Nelson Mandela had said it. It’s exciting to think that we all possess great power for good, and if Nelson Mandela, a man who fought some of the worst injustice, said that we are powerful beyond measure then it must be true.
By contrast, I’d never heard of Marianne Williamson. She wasn’t the first black president of South Africa. I’m intrigued by her ideas and inspired by her work with people with HIV/AIDS… But I’m less certain about whether our spiritual ideas are even in the same ballpark.
So instead of trusting the word of either Williamson or Mandela, it seems I must find my own way. So must we all. That’s the tricky thing about life.
That said, I doubt that, even with Nelson Mandela’s name on it, this quote would’ve gained much mileage if it didn’t genuinely resonate with people. It doesn’t deserve to be discounted just because it wasn’t said by Nelson Mandela.
Also, though I was initially disappointed to discover that Mandela didn’t say this, the text of his actual inauguration speech more than makes up for it. From a man who fought some of the worst injustice, and brought real change.
Here’s a snippet to get you started:
"We dedicate this day to all the heroes and heroines in this country and the rest of the world who sacrificed in many ways and surrendered their lives so that we could be free.
Their dreams have become reality. Freedom is their reward.
We are both humbled and elevated by the honour and privilege that you, the people of South Africa, have bestowed on us, as the first President of a united, democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, to lead our country out of the valley of darkness.
We understand it still that there is no easy road to freedom.
We know it well that none of us acting alone can achieve success.
We must therefore act together as a united people, for national reconciliation, for nation building, for the birth of a new world.
Let there be justice for all.
Let there be peace for all.
Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.
Let each know that for each the body, the mind and the soul have been freed to fulfill themselves.
Never, never and never again shall it be that this beautiful land will again experience the oppression of one by another and suffer the indignity of being the skunk of the world.
Let freedom reign.
The sun shall never set on so glorious a human achievement!
God bless Africa!”