Many of our reflections on the life of Nelson Mandela are deep insights into the obvious, often described in sentimental terms. But few understand, not only the ideas, but the origin and vibrant processes that shaped the ideas of Nelson Mandela. Few of us fully comprehend the secrets to how trials and struggles shaped and sharpened those ideas and even fewer grasp the difference that it is suppose to make, or supposed to have made in all of us in South Africa and in this world.
Admittedly, the goodness, the kindness and reconciliatory spirit of Nelson Mandela are the reasons why we admire him. It is sad, however, that not more of us understand the mental, academic and intellectual strain it took to arrive at such a disposition. We hardly reflect seriously over Nelson Mandela’s disciplined mental spadework, during the times where and when no one was around and how those “habits of the heart and mind” formed the pillars of his brilliance and impact.
We love the story of a forgiving Nelson Mandela, but know very little about the logic behind that forgiveness. We are blind, thinking that forgiveness is illogical. Maybe, at some level it is, and I suppose we mean that it is incredible, surprising and unexpected, especially given the fact that revenge was an expected reply in 1994.
But I am beginning to see that the incredible, surprising and unexpected response of Nelson Mandela was not a blind sweeping of transgressions underneath a mat. While he is not the first in history to do so, it is wise to acknowledge that his capacity to forgive was a deliberate intention to not hold the past atrocities against the perpetrators. Such a thoughtful, deliberate, calculated and volitional response reflect his wisdom and soundness of mind.
Our country, our world needs leaders characterized by this kind of acumen.