Shoulder Angels Revisited

Whoever invented the shoulder angel/devil duo was on to something. Aren’t there always two conflicting voices chattering at us?┬áMy “devil” is clearly the oversensitive, whiny naysayer who eats worms, who just wants to keep me safe from anyone who might not appreciate me, but whose smother-y what-if-they-don’t-like-you chatter holds me back. This monkey-demon can run amok, screeching, swinging wildly from thought to thought. Makes my skin itch.

I seem to know the monkey-demon well enough, but I’m not always clear about my shoulder angel. When she’s good, she’s very, very good but when she’s silent, I’m a goner. “Angel” seems too sweet and gentle a word for my needs. “Angels” seem too whisper-y. The ancient Romans called this spirit a “genius” — the inner divinity. Yes, I do best with a LOUD Genius on my shoulder, demanding boldness, action, risk-taking.

I always thought this poem was a speech by Nelson Mandela, but I find it is “A Return to Love (Reflections on the Principles of A Course in Miracles)” by Marianne Williamson:

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 playing small doesn’t serve the world.
There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other 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 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.

This is what my Shoulder Genius needs to keep reminding me of. I never quite get that “child of God” sensation, but I do get strong feelings about being a child of tough, pioneering, get-up-and-go ancestors, whose courage and ingenuity I should live up to.

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