Reviews & Profiles

Living and Loving it: Picking lessons from Nelson Mandela’s life

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By Carol Beyanga

Posted  Monday, December 9  2013 at  00:00

If you saw a picture of my grandfather in his heydays, you would notice a resemblance with the younger looking Nelson Mandela. And I am not lying. His smile, the moustache and that line in his hair made him look a lot like – perhaps – the most famous African President.

Some years ago, we had T-shirts printed with grand-dad’s picture on. Whenever I have put on that shirt, a few people have commented on the picture of “Mandela”. That is how close the resemblance is.

I think the lesson I learnt most from Mandela is that if you are repentant and seek to honestly do good after the wrong you have done, life will give you a second, third or even fourth chance.

Mandela was an icon, revered by almost everyone in the world and respected by presidents and leaders globally. He was loved and every time news came through that he could have died, people who did not even know much about him wept.

So revered was he that those who came up to talk about the wrongs he committed were hardly given time of day.

It is not that Mandela was a saint. The man had a colourful past. His work with African National Congress was not very clean. He was married thrice. His family was never quite what you would have expected of a man of his calibre and philosophies.

He always spoke about peace and reconciliation and even better, showed how it should be done. But the goings on in his ex-wife and children’s lives did not show that peace. Still Mandela was loved, because he decided to right his wrongs.

Why he was loved
He came out of a jail, not a bitter man but one who acknowledged his weaknesses and his wrongs. He hardly spoke about the speck in people’s eyes, because he knew he was still removing the log in his.

Even when Winnie Mandela said and did things that stained the family name, he did not retaliate the way one would expect him to. He was calm, always offering an olive branch to the aggrieved party.

That is the thing I have picked most from this wonderful man. If you say sorry, mean it and stop the wrong you are doing.

If you have hurt someone and you know it is purely your fault, take the first step to apologise and make it up to the person.

If you have been in jail for murder and have been freed, if you have cheated on your spouse and are repentant, if you have left a bad name at your former workplace and realise it, take the time to say sorry truthfully and then prove it. Mandela did his part and did it well. It is time for each of us to do ours as well.