Last week a great man passed on: Nelson Mandela. Mandela has always been a man who impressed me, and was someone I considered a hero. In 1993 Mandela was given the Peace Prize, an honor that was again bestowed on December 10th. There are many reasons why Mandela deserved this honor, and why he’s a man that we all have much to learn from. Today we’re going to recognize two bits of advice from Mandela:
“Courageous people do not fear forgiving, for the sake of peace.”
“As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.”
These two insights that Mandela shared weren’t just insights he had and said, they were words he lived by. Mandela chose peace instead of retribution, and forgiveness instead of hatred. Anyone who lived in prison for 27 years would have reason to be angry. Truly, most of us can find reasons to be mad and hateful if we try. But when we choose to let the past control us, we’re taking away our future.
We can learn from the past and let the past shape our future without it destroying our lives and the lives of those around us. Mandela never forgot the lessons he learned in prison and lived the rest of his live encouraging change and reform in many areas.
Today I ask you to strive for peace in your life. It will take a lot of courage to hand over the rage and reach for the courage to be the better, stronger, more compassionate person. But what Mandela would expect of each of us is to not succumb to the fear or lies that we cannot do it and that we cannot make an impact on the world. The truth is anyone can. If Mandela was able to do great things from within prison, why can’t we do great things in our warm, safe homes? If he can transform a nation, even a world, why can’t we do the same in our relationships and our communities? You can make a difference in the world, all it takes is a little courage.