An Encouraging Word — The convenience of ‘playing small’

Father J. Ronald Knott
Father J. Ronald Knott

People do not light a lamp and put it under a bushel basket. Matthew 5:15

As most of you have realized by now, I like to collect motivational quotes to encourage me to keep growing and changing. I believe that when one has finished changing one is truly finished! Even though I have used some quotes over and over again, I do not apologize. They are timeless.

One of Jesus’ most basic teachings is that we are the “light of the world” and we are required to “let it shine.” Likewise, he tells us that we have been given “talents” and we are responsible to “invest them.”

Most of us realize that we are afraid of failure, but often we do not realize we are just as afraid of success — maybe even more so.

Marriane Williamson said it best: “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 were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us.”

We are sometimes so afraid of success that we sabotage any possibility. In that arena, the prophet Jonah is a patron saint. Jonah was called to preach to the people of Nineveh. He considered himself a poor preacher on one hand, and the Ninevites not worth saving on the other. To get away from his unwelcome call, he went down to the docks and bought a ticket on the next ship sailing in the opposite direction.

In his version of a get-away-car, Jonah is pictured going to sleep in the bottom of his boat while a storm raged, a symbol today of “denial.” The psychologist Abraham Maslow calls such spiritual and emotional truancy the ‘Jonah Complex,’ “the evasion of one’s own growth, the setting of low levels of aspiration, the fear of doing what one is capable of doing, voluntary self-crippling, pseudo-stupidity, mock humility.”

It is true that exaggerating our importance can be a problem, but so can the minimization of our importance. Again, I turn to George Bernard Shaw, to sum up today’s message: “I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

Father J. Ronald Knott

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