As you may know, the world lost a giant yesterday as Nelson Mandela passed away at the age of 95. It’s nearly impossible to properly articulate his legacy and the impact it has had on me, but I would be out of integrity if I did not put forth an attempt.
There was once a period in my life where I spent a fair amount of time trapped under the rubble of hurt and anger. I was angry at other people’s choices and believed that their choices should determine how I felt inside.
In my tunnel vision, I believed that I was a victim; someone who was deeply wronged and I refused to let go of my anger until my emotions were recognized and justified. Even though it was a heavy weight, I was content on carrying it as long as it took to prove I was right and the other person was wrong. It was a nasty place to be, but I did not have the courage to move through it.
I don’t remember the exact moment when it happened. Maybe I had to research Mandela’s life for a school project or I paged through a biography at the library. Either way, I was struck by the idea that even after spending 27 years in prison for refusing to settle for inequality, a man could have the strength to forgive those who put him there. At first, I struggled to wrap my head around such a concept. How could he find the strength within himself to do such a thing? What sort of choices did he make to let go of his anger? That’s when it hit me: it’s a choice.
If another human being could choose to forgive after such a devastating experience, I could do the same. While it goes without saying that our situations could not be more opposite, Mandela showed me that forgiveness is possible and it begins with a choice, a choice that I will always have. Internal freedom is what I wanted all along and I have the power to choose it.
Not only is forgiveness a mountain that is seemingly difficult to summit, it takes an incredible amount of courage to push through the negative space. The weight of the pain can certainly be overwhelming and by no means is it easy to cast aside the burden. But I think the first step of moving through it is recognizing the fact that we have the power to choose how we feel. We have a say in whether we want to stay pinned underneath the rubble. How can we move into that “enlightened” space of choice? By filling our souls up with love, light and admiration for the glory of the human spirit. With that being said, I do not believe that anyone has the direct and explicit answer on how to snap into “forgiveness mode”, not even someone as special as Mandela. It’s not that he was more talented at forgiving than us, but rather spent more time creating that emotional space of love for himself, which thus made the forgiveness process more fluid, in addition to more rewarding.
A great light in this world has just gone out, yet we can keep the flame burning: let us choose forgiveness as our liberation, love as both our compass and map. Let us continue what Mandela lived, breathed and shared by moving into that golden internal space as often as we can. We must remember that transformation can start with one thought, one person and one dream. And more importantly, ultimate freedom can begin on the inside by simply choosing to forgive and view our fellow men through a lens of love. Mandela showed us that changing the world is not as difficult as it sounds. It simply starts with a choice and one that we should celebrate.
Rest in peace, Mandiba. You will forever remain the great example. It’s up to us now.
(Copyright 2013 ~ Jason Natzke)