Hiding one’s light may not always be a bad thing. The characters in the phrase 和光同塵 (wakō dōjin) mean to soften (和) one’s radiance (光) and become one (同) with the dust (塵). In other words, to conceal one’s talent or knowledge and pass as unremarkable in the everyday world. The phrase can be used to describe Zen priests who do not make a show of their wisdom or good deeds, so they are more able to help others and be an influence for good.
A class meeting after school.
Noriko: “Inoue! Why don’t you ever help with the cleaning?”
Inoue: “Cleaning? That stuff wears me out.”
Noriko: “So only you get to rest. Despicable!”
Inoue: “Ah, shut it. Who put you in charge?”
After the meeting . . .
Mari: “You’re amazing, Noriko. I could never say all that to Inoue. He’s terrifying.”
Noriko: “Of course I’m going to tell him, the way he acts.”
Mari: “Meanwhile, Tanaka does nothing as usual.”
Ayako: “That useless lump.”
Cleaning time that day.
Noriko: “Where is Inoue?!”
Noriko: “I’m not letting this go. Not today.”
Noriko: “Hmm, it’s Tanaka. What’s he doing here with Inoue?”
Tanaka: “Wow, the top of the window’s sparkling. That’s amazing, Inoue.”
Inoue: “You can save the sweet talk.”
Tanaka: “No, it really helps doing the bits I can’t reach.”
Noriko looks on silently.
Tanaka: “Could you give me a hand moving the shelves tomorrow?”
Inoue: “Ah, all right, sure. . . . Not like I have a choice, right?”
Thinking to herself: “You can do it, Noriko!”
Noriko: “Hey, can I help too?”