I learned as a young child to muffle the light that would shine from me. I was never actually told, ‘don’t go there.’ It was more the opposite. Yet the very praise at how open, caring and expressive I was, since it was unlike the people praising me, suggested something wrong. Around the same time, I also remember not feeling or expressing myself with the drama that others did. If I did not like tomatoes—I didn’t—it would not occur to me to say I hated them. Others would. Wanting connection, discomforted sensing my differences, I began modifying what I expressed. In doing so, I also modified what I felt and experienced.
Letting one’s light shine is not the same thing as, to put it crudely, ‘blowing it out the other end.’ The inner light is an expression for the Divine (or if you prefer the good will) within you, the knowledge within of love and joy and wholeness. Fears, limitations, judgments of separation and otherness are also part of our experiences but are not expressions of light. For so many of us, expressing the details of our disappointments, suffering and tragedies comes easier than the joys, particularly those of every day life. What we express becomes how we experience our lives.
The phrase, “let your light shine,” comes from Matthew 5:16. ”In the same way, let your light shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your Father in Heaven.”
While I question the “in Heaven” aspect, I see the value of allowing others to see the divine within me despite the discomfort I sometimes still feel doing so. When another acknowledges and expresses their gratitude for the goodness in their lives, I get a glimpse of the Divine. It reminds me that the same Good is also central in me, and my life.
The phrase ‘letting your light’ shine apparently comes from biblical times when several families would share the same dwelling. Those with enough money would have lamps and the oil to light them at night, while the poorer families did not. Most would uncover their lanterns so their neighbors could also see by it, but some would cover it up, so only they could benefit from its light. Letting one’s light shine cost no more yet provided the warmth of community to all.
Aggressive missionaries have abused this concept to push their belief system on others. Remembering this serves as a reminder to me to balance my desire to share the inner knowledge and awareness that brings me such comfort and joy, with being respectful for others own spiritual journeys.