Every so often a human being emerges that shows us what humanity is capable of. Nelson Mandela was one of those.
A great man
Such a great man, such a great leader can tip us back into buying into the “Great Man” theory of leadership made popular in the 19thcentury. The likes of historian Thomas Carlyle believed that the capacity of leadership is inherent. That leaders are born not made. Effective leaders were seen as those gifted with divine inspiration. Who due to their particular characteristics of charisma, intelligence and wisdom were the ones able to have a decisive historical impact.
The flaw in sticking with this theory is that it fails to account for context, change and human potential. We can end up putting such great people on a pedestal. Which in itself is understandable. There are indeed extraordinary people. It is just a waste of the inspiration and gifts they have for each of us. Worshipping them from afar detaches us from the possibility that they have entered our life, our consciousness, to offer us different ways of relating to ourselves, to others and the world. Or to shine a light on our own great qualities.
We can admire Mandela’s attitudes, actions and achievements. But for our admiration to mean anything, surely we must dig deep to access those qualities we admire in him in ourselves or to work on developing them further.
One of those wonderful qualities of Mandela’s was forgiveness. Forever the freedom fighter, with insight and feistiness he said “forgiveness liberates the soul. That’s why it’s such a powerful weapon.”.
Have we ourselves been similarly consistent in demonstrating our forgiveness? Are we doing it now?
Our family, friends, partners, colleagues, clients, customers, acquaintances, strangers – are we forgiving of them? Are we forgiving of those who intentionally or unintentionally, consciously or unconsciously harm us in some way? Are we forgiving of those who just don’t respond or behave in the way we would like?
The word for-give, as in Italian ‘perdonare’ (for donation) is our opportunity to gift, to donate to ourselves and to others, space, grace, healing and the opportunity to move forward into wholeness, respecting the timing of all.
Who will you forgive right now?
Thank you to my parents and Lions Club International for gifting me the opportunity to experience South Africa. Thank you Madiba, with all what you gave to the world you will indeed rest in peace. Here’s to the vibrancy of Africa and the world. Gareth will keep the South African stories alive with Taika.