The dark side within us has long been a subject of much discussion, debate, and fear. No human being is entirely “good-natured”, or entirely “bad”. Each one of us contains the potential for tremendous acts of cruelty, or kindness. We see the darkness within us — through our darkest impulses and emotions — and wonder what stops us from acting on them.
We often work to repress this part of ourselves, trying in all of our actions to deny they even exist. But they do exist. In fact, the darkness within is inherently valuable in that it provides the contrast to our light. A person with no darkness inside wouldn’t have to ever choose to be good. They would just be good, by default, and thus have no understanding or appreciation for the good in others.
This is why our own inner darkness is essential in cultivating empathy, and in understanding the mistakes of others. Without it, we would lose perhaps the most binding thing between all humans: our constant struggle against evil and ignorance in ourselves.
The quotes below challenge common conceptions of the darkness within us. They ask us to look a little deeper, and see how this darkness can be channeled into productivity, creativity, and self-reflection.
Yet we must be careful not to glorify our demons. With so many tortured geniuses in our world, it can be easy to think darkness is a base requirement for greatness. This is not the case. But the darkness within will always be there, so we as humans must work to see its value in our lives.
The beauty of this quote is in its simplicity. It merely states a near self-evident fact. Yet when applied to the darkness within each one of us, we can see the deeper meaning. A sky filled with stars, with no darkness, would be blinding, and certainly not beautiful. It’s the darkness between the stars that makes them beautiful.
Stars are always present in the sky, but until the night comes, they are made invisible by the sun. This metaphor helps us to contemplate the ways in which our flaws allow our virtues to be seen. This is often why the constantly ‘nice person’ is taken advantage of, whilst the usually cruel person in commended for a single act of kindness. Contrast illuminates.
Similarly to the previous, this quote states a basic fact of nature. Shadows are a natural byproduct of light. This is a powerful message of self acceptance when applied to our own shadows. We must remember they exist, and will always exist, because that is the order of nature.
The darkness within all of us is there because greatness and beauty is also there, and you cannot have one without the other. Once this is accepted as a fact, we can start to build on greatness, and leave the darkness where it is; accepting, but not complacent in the face of it.
“We cast a shadow on something wherever we stand, and it is no good moving from place to place to save things; because the shadow always follows. Choose a place where you won’t do harm — yes, choose a place where you won’t do very much harm, and stand in it for all you are worth, facing the sunshine.” ~ E.M. Forster, A Room with a View
Our inner darkness can lead us to the place in life where we are supposed to be. When we find the place where our darkness is minimized, and our greatness is optimized, we can be said to have found our home. In this way, darkness can be a useful compass in finding the place where we belong.
Too many people just run from their own demons and issues, without really paying attention to the valuable lessons those problems are there to teach. They can show us our weaknesses, our achilles heels, as well as our greatest strengths.
Hope is no less realistic than despair. It's still our choice to live in light or lie down in darkness. ~ R. Yancey Click To Tweet
Though inner darkness may be an unavoidable aspect of humanity, it is important to remember it is not all-encompassing. A shadow is cast by a candle, but is not the candle itself. The darkness surrounds the stars, but does not conceal them. This quote reveals how darkness is just one choice, or one path we can take.
We are never forced into darkness, and another choice is always available to us. Sometimes despair seems like the only option. In these difficult times in life, it’s important to step back and see that there is always some light or hope. In the same way the light needs darkness to exist, the darkness needs the light.
I’m not afraid of the darkness outside. It’s the darkness inside houses I don’t like. ~ S. Delaney Click To Tweet
At first this quote may seem cryptic, and much less direct than the others. Yet it may hold the most important meaning of all: that the natural darkness of the human condition is not so scary or ominous. It is the darkness and dysfunction that we manufacture as a part of modern life that can destroy us. We may all be familiar with this experience.
The darkness of an open field, below the moon may seem almost welcoming and mystic, whilst the darkness of our bedroom appears existentially dreadful. This quote reminds us that, similarly, some of the darkness within us was put there by ourselves, and must be removed by ourselves.