In my kitchen window, sits one lonely basil plant. It’s a very generous little plant, enjoying its pruning, and—to be honest—giving me way more basil than I can use! It forgives my neglect and perks up quickly if I forget to water it. But the thing I love most about it is watching it lean to the light. Depending on where I move it around on its windowsill, its narrow stem leans after the sun as it moves across the sky.
It’s a wonderful example to us all, my little basil plant. Do we lean to the light in our own lives? Are we seekers of truth and virtue? When we engage with others, do we strive to see their light? When faced with adversity, do we wallow in the dark, or seek the light as a refuge and a way out of our despair?
As there will always be opposition in all things, we have to choose each day if we will hide in the shadows filled with anger and animosity, or will we lean to the light?
What is the Light?
The Lord said, “I am the light and the life of the world…” (Book of Mormon, 3 Nephi, 9:18).
God is the source of light. He is glory and truth, love, charity, and wisdom. Further,
“That which is of God is light; and he that receiveth light, and continueth in God, receiveth more light; and that light groweth brighter and brighter until the perfect day.”(Doctrine & Covenants 50:24)
This means that in addition to God, those possessed of such beatified attributes like truth and virtue also share a portion of His light. Just like our physical bodies need nourishment from clean eating, our spirits need to be nourished with and strengthened by light. This is found in things and people both that glorify God, seek to do good, and embrace truth. Beneath our outward, mortal shells, our spirits respond to this light and yearn towards it whenever it recognizes it around us.
On the other hand, when we get a bad or uneasy feeling about a place, or even another person, our spirits also react. We often describe this as “intuition”, or a “6th sense”. But in truth, it is our spirits responding to darkness. Just as we are able to recognize and lean to the light, we can similarly sense its absence and want to retreat from the darkness.
While that which is good carries a portion of God’s light with it, that which is degrading, injurious, or without love, cannot possess any, and our spirits will pull away from it. This innate response can protect us, if we listen to it.
How Can I Lean to the Light?
In his counsel to the Philippians, the apostle Paul wrote,
“…whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”Philippians 4:8, KJV
True, honest, just, pure, lovely, good, virtuous, praiseworthy—there are receptacles of light everywhere around us to help us along our paths, if we but open our eyes to see them.
We can find sources of light to increase our own if we but have the desire to find it. If you feel the darkness of depression, loneliness, uncertainty, or regret begin to creep into your life, you have to actively, consciously and deliberately, lean towards those things that are honest, just, pure, lovely, virtuous, or praiseworthy.
We cannot remove ourselves from the darkness while feeding ourselves on lies, anger, hatred, and memories of past hurt. Freeing ourselves from such destructive traps frees our spirits to respond to the good, and lean to the light.
Seek the Light in Others
This applies to people as well. When we are in a dark place, do we seek out those who shine brightly to help us climb out of the darkness? Or do we turn to those who encourage and seek to perpetuate our darkness, to make us miserable like them? Are our friends nurturing our own lights, or reveling in the dark?
When it comes to strengthening our own light and nurturing others, we should remember a few things:
1. It is not okay to drain the light from others.
The truth is, if we are earnestly seeking to climb out of any darkness that is threatening us, we will naturally gravitate towards others who are filled with light. Like attracts like. If we are secretly enjoying our misery, it is not okay to bring others into that misery.
It is also not okay to try and drain the light from others to feed our dwindling supply. This is done when we throw our anger and despondency around, refusing to listen to those trying to comfort or support us, until we have drained them and yet, are able to walk away feeling lighter. (Read more about this in “4 Crucial and Contemporary Self-Care Helps”)
To avoid draining others, we must genuinely desire to increase our own light, not bring others down.
2. Some people are stuck in their darkness.
Like all of us, I’ve known some unhappy people in my life—people who have spent years of their lives in misery. I don’t think any of them want to be miserable, but were trapped there all the same. They were trapped because so much of their own light had faded that it was difficult not to shy away from others brightness.
Their natural inclination became trying to decrease others’ light in order to make them feel more comfortable. These individuals should be treated with compassion and charity, but also with honesty. Be honest with yourself that you are not a one-stop fix-it-shop for anyone. No one can overcome something they don’t want to overcome. Love these individuals, and serve them, but maintain your boundaries.
Like the beginning of any physical treatment plan, work incrementally. Because we sometimes find solace in whatever our darkness might be, just because it is familiar to us, the “ripping off the band-aid” approach won’t work. We will be much more effective in helping others climb out of their darkness with slow, small steps that don’t threaten to diminish our own light. This is easier, and more comfortable for others to respond to until they crave that light themselves, and are willing to make a change.
3. Recognizing the good never hurt nobody!
“See the light in others and treat them as if that is all you see.”Wayne Dyer
Can you imagine how society would be if we highlighted one another’s positives and overlooked their negatives? Yes, there is a time and place in personal, intimate relationships to discuss those negatives, but even then, they should be securely sandwiched between an abundance of good!
But we are so quick to point out others’ flaws and failings. Why? Acknowledging others’ darkness doesn’t increase our own light, it diminishes it. If we lean in, and search out the light to be found in others—no matter how small—our own increases. This act of love that casts a spotlight on others’ good, overpowers their shadowy corners of self-doubt, discouragement, fear, and anger and helps them overcome their faults and nourish their struggling lights.
Recognizing others’ light increases everyone’s.
Adversity Will Always Fight Against the Light
It is a law irrevocably decreed from heaven that there is opposition in all things. The adversity of trials will always seek to darken our spirits. In fact, those who earnestly seek to increase truth, love and virtue in their lives will find more darkness laid in their path than those who are content to let anger and animosity flow in and out of their lives without objection.
Embrace the adversity as an opportunity to turn up the wattage on your inner light.
How much more joyous is a laugh that breaks through tears? Or an act of service for someone who has wronged you? Light surrounded by darkness only shines brighter. That brightness will not only succor you through times of difficulty, but will help sustain others as they lean towards you.
Seek out sources of light to strengthen your own within. Recognize that which glows even timidly in others. Allow the darkness of adversity to contrast with your compassion, charity, truth and virtue. And like my little basil plant sitting alone on the kitchen windowsill, always, always, lean to the light.