Sunday I heard a wonderful talk delivered from the pulpit. The speaker was an energetic, entertaining girl who is new to my ward. I enjoyed her style immensely, and loved what she had to say. She shared the most amazing quote that really struck me.
"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 enlightening about shrinking so that other people won't feel unsure 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 is in everyone." ~ attributed to Nelson Mandela's Inauguration Speech.
Wow, I was so impressed Mr. Mandela had said that! I began to hypothesize about the truly great men and women throughout the ages who have been called of God and the power their words can have in our lives.
And then I discovered Mr. Mandela did not say those words.
At first, it seemed he was only quoting someone else. But no, no, that wasn't it. In fact, he hasn’t said those words at all. It's a myth that he said them, one regularly repeated. The real mystery to me is why would someone make that up? Why go to the trouble to put words in the man's mouth, even citing the source, if he never in fact said them? That I don't know. But I did find out who, in fact, did say them.
Her name is Marianne Williamson and she's the author of several books on spirituality and is the leader of The Church of Today.
However, why is it, that now I know it was Ms. Williamson who said these great words, they suddenly mean less to me? Like I needed someone truly great (read famous) to say them in order for me to give them credence? Thing is, I totally, wholeheartedly, cross-my-heart-and-hope-to-die, believe in these words. It's just that now I don't feel special quoting them. I'm a quote snob. *sigh*
I want to repent though. Because these words have great value—these words are TRUE.
Sometimes people are embarrassed to be around me. They've heard me sing at every Stake thing. They've seen the beautiful little baby outfits I make when I give them at a shower. Many people in the ward have family portraits I've taken hanging on their living room walls. Many know I am pursuing a writing career. They sit beside me during Relief Society when the lesson is on talents and I can feel them shrinking away from me. They say things like "Well, I'm not talented like you."
Thing is, I'm not talented like YOU. I have many observable talents, it's true; and I've worked hard at developing those talents. But I'm really bad at just knowing when someone needs a dinner brought in, or even how to serve when I perceive service is needed. I tend to stand around wringing my hands at ward funerals or the like because I don't know how to just jump in and help. I admire all the women who rush from one thing to the other with such confidence in what they are doing.
I could go on and on about what's wrong with me, about what talents I'm lacking. And I usually do. But that's in part why I love this quote. Why should I try to make myself smaller, just because my outward talents might make others feel insecure about themselves? God gave me these gifts. I am so thankful to Him for them, because they bless and enrich my life. What a thankless girl I am if I can't pay homage to the God who created me by using the talents He gave me.
I also love this quote because it says what I believe and our church teaches—that we are all children of God and we are all blessed with gifts. Most often I think we have in our possession a multitude of gifts if we desire them. However it does take a sturdy shovel and a strong back to dig in and uncover that which we seek. But isn't it that way with most things of worth?
So I guess I've talked myself into accepting the value of this quote despite its not having been said by Mr. Mandela. Instead, I want Ms. Williamson to know how thankful I am for this wonderful piece of wisdom. Maybe it's a good thing Mr. Mandela is getting misquoted so often because this important message is being shared with more people because of it. Ms. Williamson's gift for words and Mr. Mandela's gift for public accolade—together they allow for a sweet message to be heard, to be shared, and hopefully, to be adopted by the hearts of many.