Can People Only Like Nelson Mandela Achieve Forgiveness

mandelaIn a moving tribute to Nelson Mandela, Maya Angelou (see below) made the point that courage is the greatest of human virtues on which all the others rest, including forgiveness. It was Mandela’s incredible courage that enabled him to choose forgiveness over the need to get revenge for all that he, and all blacks in South Africa, had suffered for decades at the hands of white South Africans. That same courage was displayed, in response to very similar conditions and to much the same effect in America, by another black man, Martin Luther King Jr.

Yes, Maya was right. It does indeed take great courage and humility to forgive. This is no less true for any one of us even though we now have the process of Radical Forgiveness to make it quick and easy. The fact is, it takes a lot of courage just to go as far as even picking up a Radical Forgiveness Worksheet with an intention to begin the process. Nine times out of ten, we don’t — even those of us who know the power of Radical Forgiveness to heal mind, body and spirit. We simply take the soft option and choose to remain in judgment and resentment. Then, in order to justify our weakness and our lack of courage to forgive, we say that only moral giants like Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King have what it takes to do it. We ordinary mortals do not.

And, to the extent that forgiveness still contains the notion that no underlying spiritual purpose was served by what happened, this is true. That kind of forgiveness is, in every sense of the word, extraordinary. Bear in mind, that for the first eleven years of his 27 year jail sentence, Mandela remained extremely angry and bitter. This is not unusual for conventional forgiveness. If it took him all those long years before he could even consider forgiveness as an option, how long would it take most of us? (I wouldn’t mind betting that through contemplation, he eventually enlarged his vision of the situation and became willing to see the hand of God in it. If so, he had, in effect, created his own form of Radical Forgiveness.)

Mandela also demonstrated in a very powerful way that forgiveness is not only the courageous choice but a very pragmatic one. Forgiveness and reconciliation will, in the long term, always produce the best outcome for all concerned. Everyone concedes that had Mandela chosen the opposite of forgiveness, mayhem would have broken out countrywide, and millions would have died terrible deaths.

So, whenever you are faced with that same choice of whether to forgive or remain a victim seeking retribution, ask yourself which option would lead to the best outcome for all concerned, including yourself. Yes, revenge may be sweet in the short term, but in all cases the result will be a bitter pill to swallow very soon afterwards.

As we celebrate the life of Nelson Mandela and his extra-ordinary contribution to humanity, let us look at our own lives and do our best to make the courageous choice. At least we now have the tools at our fingertips to make the job a lot easier. The only choice now is whether to go for it or not. You can no longer hide behind the moral giants. Forgiveness is now not just for them to demonstrate. It’s for anyone who chooses it.

(Note: Worksheets are available for download in Colin’s Cafe. You will find them under Free Stuff. Registration is needed but no credit card is required. Click here to register now.)

His Day is Done – A Tribute Poem for Nelson Mandela by Dr. Maya Angelou.

11 thoughts on “Can People Only Like Nelson Mandela Achieve Forgiveness

  1. Linda Mullin welch

    You Colin Myself I have to sit w my choice of whether to take the long road or the shorter road to forgiveness ……. I know forgiveness is healing for me and allows grace to enter. I want that grace I want to be free from the pain anger hatred. I must remember that gods grace is in on and through any of my challenges I surrender it all to the light I let go of my need to punish my desire to hurt and shame The more I can forgive and let go the lighter I can feel. I have experienced this feeling and that ease joy lightness of being is my goal. Ty for your post of Maya’s poem

  2. Jan

    Hi Colin, as I write this I am listening to Nelson, Madiba, Mandela’s, Memorial Service on the radio in my office, in Johannesburg, South Africa. I thank you for your tribute to Madiba for he was a truly, remarkable man, with a huge presence and aura, whom everybody in SA adored and still do. You wrote that the death of Princess Diana opened the heart chakra of the UK. I think that is what Madiba has done for us here in SA, even in his transitioning. The outpouring of love, admiration and just sheer joy at what he has done for us all in SA is palpable. It has brought people of many races, cultures and religions together and united us again, as we were when he was released from prison and then elected as our first democratic president. Over the past five years it would appear that our current President and government have lost their moral compass, with corruption running rife in higher eschelons and everything that is done is done to serve those at the top and not the people. People of all walks of life were in despair that it would then continue. However, a miracle has occurred and it
    would seem that Madiba’s passing has suddenly inbued the people with a new spirit and determination and we have been reminded of what we had and what we can still have if we unite together. He was truly a great, remarkable icon, who touched not only us in SA, but the whole world and his forgiveness, extraordinary humility and warmth will contiue to touch us and inspire us for many years to come.

  3. Millicent

    Many Thanks to you Colin for this beautiful post and for the gorgeous work of Radical Forgiveness. I was reading a lesson this morning from A Course in Miracles – Lesson 334 which says, “Today I claim the Gifts Forgiveness Gives.” This is a powerful work as you know and in this lesson it says in part, .”…Today I would behold my brother sinless. This Your will for me, for so will I behold my sinlessness.” This is the work – as you teach and as Mandela embodied – to forgive whatever happened and see the hand of God in it all and know that we are all healing angels for one another.

    Thanks for posting Maya’s Poem. I was moved deeply by it, especially the part of where she said, “…we were enlarged where we saw former prison guards invited courteously by him to watch from the front rows, his inauguration….” And he did it with dignity, forgiveness and a love supreme. What a model for us. I pray that our world leaders really get the life lessons this teacher imparted.

    No sun will outlast its sunset, but will rise again…Thank you Maya for this poem and thank you Colin for the work you do. I love you!

  4. Marian

    Your comments are true but screwed, you refer to” blacks in South Africa and you refer Whites as White South Africans. Slip of the mind? Or same old thinking?

  5. Pat Hanson

    Thank you for this illumined model of Forgiveness … and the work in the world you do Colin, helping us all reach for those free worksheets, sometimes again and again.

  6. Anne

    Beautiful, beautiful tribute – thank you for posting…
    Mandela’s passing has re-inspired me to go further, keep trying and delve deeper with real forgiveness…
    Such an empowering example of how we, as individuals, are truly all connected and we, as individuals, can make a difference to really live in Love in this world…..
    Blessings to Madiba’s Soul, his family, his countrymen, his brothers and sisters in every world xxxx
    (and thank you for the Tipping Method to make the whole process easier for me)…

  7. Karla Garrett

    Thank you, Colin. Many wonderful things have been written and said of Nelson Mandela in the last few days. I greatly appreciated one of the remarks made by Bill Clinton in an interview for one of the news broadcasts. He said of Mandela, “His enduring power is that he showed us that there is true freedom in forgiveness and in the mental and emotional discipline to live in the present and think of the future.” Radical Forgiveness allows us to go beyond pure will power or self-discipline by simply using the tools we have been given in order to bring our energy into the present and to find there, our own freedom and personal power.

  8. The Happy Forgiver

    Yes, learning to forgive is difficult, but learning anything new can take perseverance and courage. We all have those characteristics, however, and we’ve demonstrated them repeatedly. We used them to learn to walk, to read, to find jobs. In fact, we use them every day. Forgiveness is not any harder than most of the challenges we face in life. And it is the one with the biggest payoff–peace.

    Mandela is a great inspiration, because he moved past his resistance and fear, accomplishing complete forgiveness and acceptance. Perhaps his single greatest legacy is that he has shown us the way. We can all do it, too.

  9. Christel

    I love Maya Angelo, and own one of her books (“Letter to my Daughter”) but she must be unaware that the words “bantu” and “boer” used in her poem are frowned upon in South Africa. “Boer” has 2 meanings: literally it means “farmer”, but in a political context it is a derogatory term for “white person” or the police. I would NEVER call somebody a “bantu” to their face in SA. It is not quite as bad as the n-word, but it is not respectful. I am sure this mistake was made out of ignorance.

    Christel van Zyl (Cape Town, South Africa)

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