And the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it.
American author, professor, and philosopher Sam Keen wrote, “Burnout is what happens when you try to avoid being human for too long.” Sometimes, we want to do it all. We’ve probably all heard, “If you want something done, do it yourself.” This quote is sometimes attributed to emperor Napoléon Bonaparte or dramatist Charles-Guillaume Étienne, a contemporary of Napoléon. I’ve said it myself more than once, especially after delegating a task to someone who did it subpar. But doing everything yourself is not practical. So the next best alternative is learning to trust others better and empower people. We will burn ourselves out if we try to do everything in pursuit of perfection.
We also have to allow others to shine; it is better to help them shine than to be the only beacon of light. There are times when it is necessary for us to take the credit for a job well done or even demand the recognition we deserve and let our own light shine, but there are also times when it can be much more rewarding to see others succeed because you helped them. The 13th-century Persian poet Rumi wrote, “A candle never loses any of its light while lighting up another candle.” I like this quote, but I think it can condition behavior that ironically negates its truth. It can cause us to overextend ourselves, helping others without tending to our own needs, subsequently causing our personal “light” to dim. So, don’t give another person your light; let your light ignite them.
God expects us to be the light that will guide others. He does not expect us to give away our light but to share it. In Matthew 5:15-16, Jesus says, “Nor do they light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house. Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Jesus tells the parable of the lamp on the stand to encourage his followers to stand out, to be an example, and not to hide away. The message in this parable would have been challenging for the first Christians, who were cruelly persecuted. They may have hidden their faith as they did not want to be tortured, imprisoned, or killed because of it. Jesus is saying that for the Christian message to spread and develop, followers must proclaim and show their faith.
As LGBTQ+ Christians, we may often find ourselves playing down our faith because many in the LGBTQ+ community disdain religion. I understand being hurt by religion and turning away from it. I don’t like most evangelical Christians, but that is because they are often hypocrites who want to impose their narrow beliefs on everyone. These same Christians pervert the words of the Bible to suit their selfish ways. They teach many LGBTQ+ Christians to hate themselves and the LGBTQ+ community. We cannot allow self-hatred because of sexuality. Self-hatred is one of our greatest enemies within the LGBTQ+ community. We have to love ourselves before we can show our love for others. We have to accept that we are God’s children, and He loves all of us just the way He created us. After all, He created us in His image.
I have always believed it was better to spread the goodness and love that God gives us instead of trying to impose my beliefs on others. If we live by example and bring to light the instances when religious individuals turn to hate instead of love, we can be that lamp on the lampstand that sheds light on the truth that God loves all of us. As LGBTQ+ Christians (or any LGBTQ+ individual with faith in a higher good), we must shine a light on the hypocrisy prevalent in so many religious individuals today. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus tells us:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”
We have an obligation to point out the bad fruit, those who teach a false Biblical hate. Hypocrites must be exposed for their hypocrisy, and not let them destroy our faith with their false faith.
I cannot accomplish this alone, and neither can you. We need to spread the light that is our faith: our faith in God, our faith in goodness, and our faith in love. We need to help others shine so we can show the way to living the life God wants for us. We must live by example and shine our light around the room so that others can see. And finally, we need to call out the bad fruit for the harm they are doing. Too often, people become stubborn in their beliefs. They see what they are doing is wrong, but they are too hardheaded to change their ways. Others are too arrogant to realize that they are wrong. We need the be the light that can guide the way.