Lots of People Are Tweeting a Fake Nelson Mandela Quote

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Dec. 5 2013 5:26 PM

A Fake Nelson Mandela Quote Is Already Making the Rounds

Nelson Mandela
Nelson Mandela, when he was African National Congress vice president, addresses a crowd April 1, 1990, at a rally in Port Elizabeth. South Africa.

Photo by Juda Ngwenya/Reuters

There have already been some pretty cynical responses to the death of Nelson Mandela. But as eagle-eyed Future Tense editor Torie Bosch pointed out, many people have been tweeting out this quote in memoriam: "Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate, our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure."

The only problem is, Mandela didn't say that. The American self-help author Marianne Williamson did. Mandela did not even quote Williamson's words—as the NYT points out, how this misconception became popular is a mystery.

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Here's the original quote, from Williamson's book A Return to Love: Reflections on the Principles of a Course in Miracles:

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 doesn’t serve the world. There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. 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.

Madiba has plenty of inspiring quotes to pick from. You don't need to pull a Jonah Lehrer to seem enlightened to your Facebook friends.

Emma Roller is a Slate editorial assistant. Follow her on Twitter.

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