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Staying Out of the Shadows

Are we afraid of the light?

by Brian Radcliffe (revised, originally published in 2010)

Suitable for Whole School (Sec)


To encourage us to improve our sense of self-worth for the benefit of the whole community.

Preparation and materials

  • You will need a leader and four readers. However, the assembly could be led by just one person, if preferred.

  • Have available the YouTube video ‘Take That - Shine‘ and the means to show it during the assembly. It is 3.34 minutes long and is available at:

  • The quotations used are from a passage from a book called A Return To Love by Marianne Williamson, which is available at:

    The whole text of the passage is as follows.

    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, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. 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.


Leader: Are you afraid of the dark? I’m sure some of you here may be, although few of you may admit to it. Maybe you always switch on a light quickly when you enter a room at night, or avoid shadows along the street. You fear looking under the bed and never go out alone in the evening. What do you fear? Films and novels give plenty of suggestions: vampires, werewolves, axe murderers and zombies. It almost makes me frightened just to think of them!

But a more important question that we are going to think about today is this: are you afraid of the light?

Pause to allow time for thought.

Leader: I don’t mean ordinary daylight or a well-lit room. I’m talking about the spotlight, the limelight, the light that picks you out in front of everyone. Some people love it – they enjoy being the centre of attention – but I suspect that many of you prefer to remain in the background, part of the crowd.

What is it that leads many of us to underplay our value, to hold back from voicing our opinion or raising our hand in response to a question, to shy away from applause?

Reader 1: Sometimes, it’s because we’re not entirely sure whether what we think is correct. We don’t want to look foolish in front of the rest of the class by giving the wrong response. Other students can be cruel in their mockery and it’s tempting not to place ourselves in a risky situation. We have a fear of failure.

Reader 2: But even when we’re sure that we’re correct, many of us still hold back. It could be from a desire to avoid comparison with the very best or because we’re uncertain that we’ll be able to keep up the standard in future answers. We may be right on this occasion, but we’re not sure we’ll be right in the future.

Reader 3: Taking the idea a stage further, there are some students who are extremely talented, but prefer to let others take the glory rather than bask in the glow themselves. They feel proud about their achievements on the inside, but don’t want everyone to be looking at them. They’re self-conscious and easily embarrassed.

Reader 4: Of course, it may be that some of us avoid the limelight so that others may take it. We’re happy to let others have their moment of glory. If we’d stolen it from them, they may have felt frustrated, even humiliated. We are self-effacing.

Leader: I’d like you to listen to some words from a woman called Marianne Williamson.

Reader 1: (Using the passage in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section above, read from ‘Our deepest fear . . .’ to ‘You are a child of God.’)

It’s one thing to be presumptuous, to assume that we’re better, cleverer or more talented than those around us when actually we’re not. Usually, such a response stems from a need to put ourselves in a position of power over others. But what if each of us actually does display signs of brilliance? What if we are all sometimes gorgeous and fabulous? That’s what Christians believe. If we hide it, we are not the only ones who suffer.

Time for reflection

Reader 2: Marianne Williamson continues . . . (Using the passage in the ‘Preparation and materials’ section above, read from ‘Your playing small . . .’ to ‘our presence automatically liberates others.’)

Leader: If we can overcome our diffidence about shining, it may encourage others to do the same. And that would mean a lot more light for all of us.

Dear Lord,
Thank you for the people you have made us to be.
Help us to be proud of our achievements while we encourage and inspire others.
Help us to use our gifts and talents with confidence and joy.
Help us to rejoice in the achievements of others.


‘Shine’ by Take That, available at:

Publication date: October 2018   (Vol.20 No.10)    Published by SPCK, London, UK.
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