What is Within You That Will Save You?

As I return to work after the long weekend, I’m re-reading Dr. Christiane Northrup’s book Women’s Bodies, Women’s Wisdom. I discovered this provocative quote from the Bible in her final chapter:Within you

If you bring forth what is within you,
What you bring forth will save you.
If you do not bring forth what is within you,
What you do not bring forth will destroy you.
Jesus, from The Gospel According to Thomas

Dr. Northrup introduces the quote in the context of women healing their own past pain (individual and ancestral) and how this leads to the healing of the world.

What do you think about this passage, and its assertion?

The word “save” feels dangerous here, because of the baggage it carries in our U.S. society. I don’t think it means that if you bring forth what is within you, that you’ll make a million dollars, become famous, win the lottery, achieve widespread acclaim, or live forever. That’s hard to take, especially with our spiraling American obsession with wunderkind, rags-to-riches, and bootstraps legends.

I think it means that every one of us has something inside of us that must be brought into the world. Whether it’s a poem, a song, a child, a business, a story, an invention, a game, a revolution — it will eat us alive if we don’t get out of our own way and bring it forth. I’d take the idea one step further and say that not only will it destroy us individually, but the world will be deprived of that unique contribution you could have made. (I think Courtney’s story yesterday about Jorge Muñoz illustrates this beautifully.)

Does this idea appeal to those of you whose beliefs lean toward agnosticism or atheism?

Also, the inevitable question comes up: well, what about Hitler? What about Pol Pot? What about Milošević? And so on. Didn’t they bring forth what was within them, and wasn’t it terror and destruction? I don’t know where those facts fit. Does evil not count in the “what is within you” category? Or did they feed the wrong wolf inside of them, as the old story goes? I don’t know.

For now, here is my short list of that which I know is within me:
     *a surreal and magical novel
     *a marriage rooted in pleasure, joy, and nurturing greatness in each other
     *a book about growing up as a minister’s kid
     *a lifetime’s worth of journals chronicling the everyday life of a woman in the 21st century
     *a luminous, curious, loving child
     *whimsy, laughter, faith

What about you? What do you feel is within you to bring forth, even if it never makes you a dime, even if it takes your entire life to do it? What have you already brought forth like this?

photo: some rights reserved, by Flickr user edyta.

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Beauty in a Wicked World is a weekly column by Jennifer Gandin Le. It appears on Wednesdays.

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9 Comments

Filed under Beauty in a Wicked World, Career/Life, Religion

9 responses to “What is Within You That Will Save You?

  1. What a beautiful, inspiring post JGL. Here’s a fraction of my list:
    a book about idealism
    a book about feminism
    a novel that deals with race and guilt
    (notice a trend here?)
    a new way of understanding civil responsibility
    so, so many conversations with brilliant people
    immense gratitude

  2. Doc Manhattan

    As a moderate atheist, I don’t find anything disagreeable in that passage from Thomas. Thomas is a Gnostic book, and he probably means this message in an anti-materialist way: the soul is divine, and the body is corrupt, and so we should bring the beautiful soul in ourselves into the world, rather than leaving it restless within its shell.

    I don’t believe the metaphysics, but I agree with your assertion that everyone has some goodness to bring into the world. Since I don’t believe in a world beyond this one, my greatest “salvation” is in being able to share something wonderful and enduring in my short time.

  3. Erin Parker

    i like this quote. it’s something to repeat in my head. i was really surprised when i read that Jesus supposedly said it. I have been way too bombarded with “2007 political america Jesus” to automatically assume that such a message of peace and encouragement could come from a person who is supposed to be the prince of peace and encouragement. But i agree with it. and i this it’s outstanding no matter who says it.

    as far as the evil thing goes.., i choose to think that somehow…that when we DONT really really truly slow down and listen to what is within is…that’s when the hitler comes out. it comes out of fear and worry and hatred. and i never want to go there.

    I want to hear the things that my gut is saying…even when they’re hard to hear. I have so much to bring forth and am in the process of listening hard to make sure i’m being true to myself and i’m bringing forth! yay for reminding me of this!! what do i know is within me this coming year?

    -a children’s book
    -encouragement for/to others
    -letting go of perfection and being ok with it
    -loving my body and all it is capable of doing
    -coming to terms with my relationships with other human beings and how they aren’t what i always thought they’d be!

  4. Doc, thanks for the insight about the book of Thomas! I’d disagree with his views about the body being corrupt, since I’m big on “the body is a divine temple” kind of thing — which is different than “body is a wonderland”, by the way. It’s much less annoying.

    Erin, I love that you were surprised that Jesus said it. 2007 Political America Jesus is just so different than the Jesus of the actual Bible and legend. He’s like a totally different model, with a different engine under the hood. And I love that your list of what’s within you is even specific to this year. It sounds like you’re listening well to your inner voices.

    And Courtney, I remember when you were in the depths of writing PGSD, and you expressed severe doubt that you’d ever write another book. It’s beautiful to see many more books on your list of what’s in there. I can’t wait to read them all.

  5. Okay – first I’ll present my list then I’ll talk about whether these things, if not brought forth (does that mean if I don’t do them or if I don’t acknowledge them?) they will destroy me:

    – a movie about growing up on the border of mexico
    – unabashed willingness to serve others, to make the world better than I found it
    – treating my partner with all the respect, hope, and encouragement that she deserves
    – to write a song that at least 10 people listen to

    So, would these things destroy me? I’m not sure, I might just find other things to do.

    I think that’s my main challenge – recognizing what’s really inside – finding that ONE TRUE THING that I’m supposed to do.

    I forgot one – and that’s to search, to keep looking for that which makes me a better man. If I were to stop looking then yes, that might destroy me.

  6. Sometimes, it seems like statements like “what you bring forth will save you” are just ways of pressuring us just a little bit more – only now we’re adding a spritual element to it! So, i’m always very careful when I use this quote with songwriters I teach, and in my creativity classes.

    That being said, I’ve been a performer and songwriter professionally for 13 years – and I know, without a doubt, it was the creativity and the risks I took that “saved” me. I thank my courageous side every day for taking the chances and being creative and facing fear. And it continues to evolve as my career expands.

    I don’t believe it had to be songs though. I think it had a lot more to do with being bold and being creative. I don’t know that I was MEANT to do any one thing. I’ve gotten a lot more relaxed about that as I grow more relaxed about creativity on the whole!

    Great question, great comments! Thanks!

  7. Thanks so much for commenting, Christine! It’s great to get the perspective of someone who’s also a teacher of creativity. I definitely feel that dangerous edge of unnecessary pressure in this quote; it could almost be used to say, “If you don’t bring your dreams to life, you’ll die.” And you’re right — that’s the last thing that any of us need to hear.

    Also, I appreciate your interpretation that it’s the creative act itself that is valuable. Chris, your earlier comment really resonates with this idea. You both make the important distinction that transforms this quote into something that’s sustainable, rather than the idea that once you’ve created that one thing that was within you, you’re all done.

    Thank you both for your insightful comments!

  8. Tony

    first thing’s first: i love that quote.

    with that said…

    i’m beginning to think that, at least in the world we live in today, passages from the bible almost HAVE to be taken out of context in order to better grasp the point. some might consider doing so counterintuitive.

    i’m not smart enough or articulate enough to properly explain why i feel like this. but i can give you an example of someone who was smart and articulate and also thought that, with regards to the bible, style was overshadowing substance: Thomas Jefferson!

    from what i’ve read, Jefferson was turned off by the fact that people were forsaking the ethical teachings of the bible and instead focusing on the supernatural aspects of the life of Jesus. he consequently took the KJV of the bible and pared off a lot of the fat, so to speak, leaving only essential plot points to accompany the actual teachings of the Jesus. his effort, published only after he passed (per his request), is known as The Jefferson Bible.

    and this is the fella who wrote the Declaration of Independence?! i say touche, TJ, touche!

    you ask how the selected passage might appeal to someone with agnostic/atheistic leanings, someone like myself. well, to be completely honest, i am completely open ethical proposals from anyone who’s willing to allow it to remain a proposal. now once it becomes an imposition–once suggestion becomes dogmatic–well, that’s when i feel offended.

    Ghandi and MLK are classic examples of people who suggested their point of views. Hitler and Pol Pot and Milosevic are examples of those who imposed their point of views. and we all know that there is a difference between mere suggestion (albeit strongly at times) and dictatorial imposition (albeit subtle and politically sly at times.)

    again, my opinions tend to lean toward agnosticism. i may not now, but i want desperately to believe in something good. so i am not opposed to believing in God. it’s the bible that i’m personally (key word there) opposed to believing in…unless, of course, passages are wonderfully taken out of context. ha!

    a great example is that biblical quote you brought up in your post; as a passage, it makes a insightful point. but once the context is introduced, well, then it tends to, for whatever reasons, become something else.

    i think the entire world is lacking slightly in their ability to empathize with others, and a lot of this, sadly, is particularly true when it comes to religion.

    (an aside: Kurt Vonnegut has a great quote in The Sirens of Titan (a book that, both fittingly and ironically, expounds further upon the ideas presented here) where Boaz says to Malachi, “don’t truth me and i won’t truth you.” and i think that holds true with what’s going on in the world today. too many people are imposing their views and ideas on others without taking into account that, well, maybe people are fine with who they are.

    let’s say for discussion’s sake that i am an atheists and you are a christian (although any religion applies here.) okay. so then, trying to convince me that there is such a thing as God is just as annoying for me as it is for you when i’m trying to convince you that there isn’t.

    so yeah, we all have our own personal truths…”don’t truth me and i won’t truth you.”)

    i think that there are only two things within me that i care enough about to want to cultivate and project. they are 1) the ability to empathize with others, and 2) a good moral compass.

    …after that, i think everything else will just fall into place.

    wow this comment has officially spun out of control!! too much coffee!

    (all typos are a direct result of being caffeinated)

  9. Antonio

    I speculate that it is the light. When we bring it forth it circulates and heals us in is beneficial flow it saves us. If we do not bring it forth it will destroy us making pressure in the inside, burning us, deteriorating us.

    The Earth is wise and lets its internal energy (light) flow through volcanic acttivity, saving itself from exploding.

    The Sun is doing the same, releasing beneficial light to avoid exploding. The Sun is being saved by giving its light to others.
    When we do the same not only do we benefit others but ourselves as well.