When I’ve taught courses on spiritual gifts I’ve usually come across people who grapple with low self esteem. They look at the list of spiritual gifts in the inventory and say “I don’t recognise myself in here.” And then there’s people who avoid identifying strengths for fear of putting themselves forward and being found lacking. And then there’s those who compare themselves with their more ‘gifted’ brothers and sisters.
The process of exploring spiritual gifts need not be one of fitting people into boxes. At it’s best this can be a permission-giving process. Permission to let go of fear. Fear of not measuring up. Fear of offending. Fear of failing. Fear of shining even.
I’ve used a quote often attributed to Nelson Mandela but in fact from the pen of Marianne Williamson.
“Our greatest fear is not that we are inadequate, but 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, handsome, talented and 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 were born to make manifest the glory of God within us. It is not just in some; it is 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 fear, our presence automatically liberates others.”
A Return to love
2 Replies to “Marianne Williamson on Fear and Spiritual Gifts”
It is a nice quotation. However Marianne Williamson’s perspective stands inside the Vedantic-Gnostic work “A Course in Miracles”. The Course, which is a million-seller since its release in the mid 1970s, is a 365 day journey in spiritual exercises. The work, which was channelled, purports to be Jesus speaking as he updates and corrects his message. Part of that message is “love is letting go of fear”, which is enchanting.
However we discover that fear is based on the idea of sin and that causes us to be afraid and act badly. If we discover we are already sinless – there never was such a thing as sin – then there is no more guilt, and we operate in love.
The Course then shows how the Holy Spirit comes and dispels guilt “simply through the calm recognition that it has never been.”
We are one with God, because God is an impersonal mind.
The text became important in the 1980s as new age became prominent and chic. It has inspired a whole lot of devotional and even exegetical works, and Marianne’s A Return to Love is one in that corpus of interpretative literature.
Thanks Phil for the background on the Course in Miracles. The idea of overcoming fear is excellent. Living a life based on fear usually leads to a life of fight or flight. However dealing with fear by living in illusion only sets us up for disillusionnment.
In dealing with Matthew 9 recently I was aware that most people are not comfortable with Jesus talking about being afraid of the one who can destroy the soul in hell. Must write some more on this at Gospel Notes.