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One of the thinking traps that modest, humble people sometimes fall into is to think that humility is the same as never showing their true abilities. People who are truly humble often find it hard to allow their light to shine before others, as Jesus puts it (Matthew 5: 16).

There is always that tension between being humble on the one hand and not hiding your true ability on the other; some people are too humble and with others of course you wish they had a bit more humility! Finding the balance can be difficult.

If you are someone who is naturally humble and perhaps even shy, I have a message for you. Never be afraid to let your talent shine! You can be humble and yet still let your light shine before others. In fact, it’s crucial. There’s nothing worse than hiding your incredible talent. The same is true of the good news that God loves us: we need to tell other people that good news.

One period of history that I’m quite interested in is the period immediately after the end of apartheid in South Africa, when South Africa stopped dividing up people by race and finally allowed non-white people to have the vote. In 1994 they elected their first ever black President, Nelson Mandela. It was a very unsettling time. The whole country was changing, no-one really knew what the future would hold, and they needed an inspirational leader to unite them. Here is what Nelson Mandela said to great effect in his inaugural speech about letting your light shine for everyone to see. The passage was actually written by Marianne Williamson, but Mandela made it famous:

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 and fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your paying small doesn’t serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just within some of us; it’s in everyone! And as 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!

One of the other key people in those early years of equality in South Africa was Archbishop Desmond Tutu. He was a crucial supporter of Nelson Mandela. He’s still alive. I know several people who have met Desmond Tutu. They say about Desmond that he is one of those people who make you feel great about being yourself. Because he is so loving, so unafraid, so full of the joy of living, so passionate about God’s love for everyone, his passion is contagious. It rubs off on everyone he meets. Apparently if you meet with Desmond Tutu, you come away feeling great about the world and about your own place in it. He lets his light shine and so gives other people permission to let their light shine.

I have a challenge for you this year: ask yourself, “How am I going to let my light shine?” The beautiful thing is that, as you let your light shine, others will grow in confidence around you.

The Reverend Dr Theo McCall
School Chaplain