By now most of us have heard that Nelson Mandela has died. Mandela was an anti-apartheid revolutionary who was imprisoned 27 years for treason and released in 1990. He became a politician and philanthropist and eventually was elected President of South Africa serving from 1994-1999. Mandela was awarded the Nobel Peace prize along with Frederik Willem de Kierk in 1993 for their collaborative work for the peaceful end of apartheid and for establishing the foundation for a new democratic South Africa.
Since Mandela’s death there has been an avalanche of expected and well deserved accolades and tributes to him and what he accomplished in his life. The lesson for all of us, and a model to use in our lives, is how he accomplished what he did in his life. I call this the Mandela model. Similar to Mahatma Ghandi and Martin Luther King, both of whom were inspirations to Mandela, he espoused and practiced abundant forgiveness and reconciliation in his efforts to use peace as a means of being successful in his cause.
Mandela was imprisoned in an apartheid-era prison. One can only imagine the racism, brutality and suffering he experienced as an imprisoned black revolutionary whose intent was to change the white apartheid regime. Yet upon release in 1990 he chose the path of forgiveness and reconciliation not the path of anger and revenge against those who inflicted his sufferings. In the end his cause was successful by choosing the path of peace and all that choosing peace entails including forgiveness and reconciliation. This does not mean he excused or justified what his jailors did to him and others. What it means is attempting to be successful at anything using anger, hate and revenge as a vehicle ensures failure.
For those of us who have chosen to establish and pursue a cause in life, regardless of the subject matter or objective, the lesson may be to use the Mandela model as the foundation for your chosen cause. The Mandela model practices forgiveness and reconciliation. Ghandi, Dr. King and Mandela practiced them and were successful in forwarding their cause for the betterment of humankind.
Mandela was a Christian and reportedly in response to being called a saint one day responded; “you can call me a saint if you understand that I’m a sinner who will never stop trying to do the right thing (paraphrased).” None of us are perfect or near perfect. Try forgiveness and reconciliation…it works.