Nelson Mandela’s passing was not unexpected or shocking. He was a man full of years. Still, we all immediately felt a sense of great loss, as though a person very close to us died – a member of our own family, a father or grandfather, perhaps? How could a man invoke such a response from countless people, cutting across nations, races, religions and generations?
Nelson Mandela started his life with violence but in incarceration, when a lesser man would have become bitter, he learned to love, forgive and unite people consumed with hatred. All the years in prison, he prepared himself to lead his people. And how could a man prepare to lead a country when he was in a cell? In a crucible of hatred, he learned to love. He learned to see Heaven on Earth. He learned that he had to walk his talk. He learned that inner transformation precedes external change. He put his people above himself, not seeking any personal gain. Does he not remind us of Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa? When a person truly lives the eternal value of love, the world wants to surrender itself willingly to such a person. The world wants to return that love many fold and handover the reins of leadership to that person – not that he was interested!
The three great lessons that we can learn from this great man are:
LOVE: Love is the ONLY force in the universe that has the power to convert a mortal enemy into a blood brother. From the beginning of human history, all the wars, weapons, and brute force have failed to subjugate the human soul but love always triumphed through people like Mandela. He was an epitome of moral courage – examined himself ruthlessly, exorcised his demons, and became a MAN, as God saw man when He created him in His own image.
VISION: Where there is no vision, the people perish, says the Holy Bible. On the contrary, where there is vision, people flourish. Mandela had a vision for his country that no one else had. He had the purity of thought and clarity of purpose to see a utopian South Africa. He saw it for his people and for his unborn generations, not really for himself.
ACTION: He exercised great gumption to put into practice what he envisioned and what he believed, both in his personal and public life. He led his people from the front and when the time came, handed over the reins to another. He was not interested in power. He was interested in self-actualization. He was interested in becoming “Nelson Mandela”, what God intended him to be. Most of us want to become somebody else, and in the process relinquish efforts to become our true selves.
Let’s salute this great soul, a child of God, for proving to us that we can make Heaven on Earth. Let’s ask ourselves why is it then so difficult for us love, envision and act?
May his soul rest in peace!