“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.” – Marianne Williamson.
Isn’t it interesting how that can be true? That our light most frightens us? Most likely, we do not even know it. So how do we understand our inner light? How do we find it? How do we show it? New York Times author and political commentator David Brooks asked the same question and spoke about it at The Distinguished Speakers Series held in Redondo Beach, Calif. last month.
He was not sure if he had this inner light or if he was able to create it. However, he did know what it was. He was able to see it in others. He describes the feeling they give him, “They make you feel funny and valued. You often catch them looking after other people, and as they do so, their laugh is musical, and their manner is infused with gratitude. They are not thinking about what wonderful work they are doing. They are not thinking about themselves at all. When I meet such a person, it brightens my whole day.”
That is where finding inner light starts—being able to see it in others. As Brooks describes it, ‘a radiating light.’ I am sure most people have come across those people—the ones who light up a room without even lifting a finger or speaking a word. They have an inner positive presence that is so powerful that you feel it too. That is the light.
Maybe you are one of those people, and perhaps you are not. Only you know that. But to explore your light and to find where this light comes from is the step people don’t think to take. Brooks, a journalist, decided to find evidence to see if anyone could foster and radiate this inner light.
His findings: “I concluded that wonderful people are made, not born — that the people I admired had achieved an unfakeable inner virtue, built slowly from specific moral and spiritual accomplishments,” Brooks says. [Source]
So how do you find it within yourself? Brooks describes a “Moral Bucket List” filled with steps and traits people with this inner light share.
Understanding society Vs. Self
To simplify this idea, Brooks poses the question, what do you want to be remembered for? There are two successes in life, ones he calls, “Resume” and “Eulogy.” Simply put, what will people talk about at your funeral? Who were you as a person, or how much money you made? What job title you have? When put in this extreme perspective, you can realize what is most important. Who you are, not what you are.
When one realizes this, Brookes’ calls it the humility shift. We live in a society that is all about self, social status, and success— something straightforward to get lost in, “Social media wants you to broadcast a highlight reel of your life. Your parents and teachers were always telling you how wonderful you were. But all the people I’ve ever deeply admired are profoundly honest about their weaknesses, “he explains.
What he means by this is, people with this inner light are very self-aware of themselves. They understand their weaknesses and accept themselves as what they are. They have humility for themselves and get their faults. It’s not all about status; it is about your moral self and following that.
“External success is achieved through competition with others. But character is built during the confrontation with your weakness.”- David Brooks.
If humility is finding your weakness, then self-defeat is the act of accepting it. If you can take your weakness and focus on it, then you will grow. For example, when you want abs, you work out, you are weak there, but you know that, so what do you do? You challenge that part of yourself. You work out, you struggle, you accept and work hard on that weakness. The same goes for any area of your life. Acknowledge your shortcomings, physical, emotional, and do not hide from them. Confront them. Use your weakness as a guide to make you better.
The Dependency Leap
Life, goals, and success appear to be all about having the will to succeed. We get sidetracked, he explains, that we assume that we must take this journey alone. “But people on the road to character understand that no person can achieve self-mastery on his or her own. Individual will, reason, and compassion are not strong enough to consistently defeat selfishness, pride, and self-deception. We all need redemptive assistance from outside. People on this road see life as a process of commitment making. Character is defined by how deeply rooted you are. Have you developed deep connections that hold you up in times of challenge and push you toward the good? In the realm of the intellect, a person of character has achieved a settled philosophy about fundamental things. In the realm of emotion, she is embedded in a web of unconditional love. In the realm of action, she is committed to tasks that can’t be completed in a single lifetime.”
You must ask for help to grow. The inner light within you is there, but don’t be afraid to have people help light the way. There your fire will grow.
After you learn that it is okay to ask for others’ help, this is where you know to accept it. Accept love and give it in an infinite circle. Brooks gives the example of Dorothy Day, “When she was young: drinking, carousing, a suicide attempt or two, following her desires, unable to find direction. But the birth of her daughter changed her.” He explains that Dorothy changed when she put the focus of her self onto caring for someone else.
For it is in when we help and love others that we truly grow to be better people. “That kind of love decenters the self. It reminds you that your true riches are in another. Most of all, this love electrifies. It puts you in a state of need and makes it delightful to serve what you love.”
The Conscious Leap
This is similar to society vs. the self. If finding humility is understanding the difference, the conscious leap is making it. When you realize that you are not a slave to society, you can grow. Don’t let what others think hold you back from what makes you happy. Life is yours to live; You must not follow the status quo. Instead, trust and follow your gut.
Brooks finalizes his point by saying. “People on the road to inner light do not find their vocations by asking, what do I want from life? They ask, what is life asking of me? How can I match my intrinsic talent with one of the world’s deep needs?”
Your inner light is within yourself. It is something that takes growth. Seeing Brooks speak reminded me of what life is about. It’s about being your true self. When you let your light shine, you allow others to shine. Let them feel it.
For more info on where you can see speakers like David Brooks, go to Distinguished Speakers LA.