Last week I wrote a bit about how we can be quick to judge…and often very happy to, without considering the fallout for those we are judging.
Quite a few of you, who have no doubt experienced this, were incredibly supportive and after some gentle prodding, I “stepped out” and expanded my readership a little.
Then the unthinkable happened … stage fright, writer’s block. The pressure to say something worthwhile, useful, challenging. I never write with that in mind – usually when I’m writing it’s because I’m trying to work through something, and for some reason more often than not a number of you connect with that.
Like most people I’m pretty happy doing little things – the man here keeps pushing me to be bolder and do more. He may, from time to time, mention that I’ve written about boldness several months back. I respond with “Well, starting a blog was pretty brave right? Then posting it was kind of brave too.” I think that I thought I was brave for a little while, in a safe controlled little kinda way. Just brave enough to feel like I was still in control, brave enough so that it didn’t cost me anything. I wouldn’t offend, I wouldn’t upset, I wouldn’t confront. On reflection I’m pretty sure that isn’t bravery.
It’s actually called a Jonah complex. And what it looks like is choosing to live your life in a small way. It’s something I get quite fired up about when I see others not fulfilling their potential. Maybe because I know I choose to do it myself, I’ve chosen to do it for a long time. If I don’t try too hard then when (should read if) I fail, I can say, “Well, I didn’t really try.” That’s the way I approached most of my schooling, and sadly year 12. In my research this afternoon I read this (link) and it was a bit of a comfort to realise that it’s not just me. It happens in the classroom a bit – I wonder how often it’s present in the person out the front of the class. The Jonah Complex was so named by one, Abraham Maslow, the educators among us can probably cast our minds back to struggling to pay attention to something about Maslow back in teacher training.
When Maslow asked his students which among them would write a great novel, be a great composer, or a great leader…
“Generally, everybody starts giggling, blushing, and squirming until I ask, if not you, then who else?” Which of course is the truth…If you deliberately plan to be less than you are capable of being, then I warn you that you’ll be deeply unhappy for the rest of your life. You will be evading your own capacities, your own possibilities.” (Abraham Maslow)
The man in this house keeps telling me I need to unleash. I argue that I can only do it in small controlled ways. I need to write more often. I need to sing louder. I need to smile more often. I need to speak up and out more. But I want to take little steps at a time. I think he looks at me and sees how much time I’ve wasted playing it safe and small. I guess it’s a bit about looking at talents and there’s a parable from Jesus that tells us about that too – there’s a danger in choosing to live small and safe. We tell ourselves that small and safe is living just like Jesus did. Or maybe it’s just me saying that? But did he really? NO!! He was meek and he was humble, but small and safe? Never! If he’d played it small and safe we’d never have had a Saviour.
There’s a danger in this false humility, a danger in closed-handed, tight-fisted living.
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 frightens us most.
We ask ourselves, ‘Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, and famous?’
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 people won’t feel insecure around you.
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 all of us. 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 danger is that we, all of us, have people watching us – when we live small and safe, we encourage them to do the same.
I wonder how different our world would be if we all lived up to our potential, if we chose not to hide, if we let the light within us shine out.
Give it a go this week, and let us know how it works out. Though if you do it well, you won’t need to tell us, we’ll see it!