Mandela: Circuitious Route to the Palace
The title might lead us to believe that it is personal ambition or choice that lead’s one to aspire for a country’s highest political position of power. The early dreams of Nelson Mandela were probably not to reach the highest position of leadership in South Africa. But, his quest for freedom and justice for a people, separated by class, catapulted him on to the world stage. He sought freedom for a people who suffered because of the color of their skin not from the content of their character.
Our belief, commitment, and pursuit of justice and mercy can cause men to experience life’s most tragic injustices and torturous inflictions, but at the same time creating the greatest opportunity to experience life’s greatest transformation and life’s greatest praise. This was the life of Nelson Mandela, who from physical imprisonment to personal freedom, transformed the lives of those who hated him into lives that loved and admired him. He showed that physical imprisonment does not imprison the mind and soul. He had a vision that looked beyond his circumstances, and a spirit of forgiveness allowing those who were in bondage to experience triumphant release and a conquering freedom. My wife and I had the opportunity to visit the prison cell where Nelson Mandela spent almost 18 years in Robin Island, and could only imagine the suffering and despair. But on the day of his release, he was no longer a victim, but was a victor. A leader who influenced not only his people but the peoples of the world. President Clinton said concerning Mandela, “He was really good, but his enduring power is that he showed us that there is true freedom in forgiveness.”
“Mandela described a life-changing revelation in the middle of his 27-year imprisonment, being “young and strong,” and living on his “hatred” after being abused by his jailers. Mandela said, “I realized they could take everything, even my life, except my mind and my heart. Those things I would have to give away, and I decided not to give them away.”
What transformational leaders can learn from a transformational leader like Nelson Mandela is that there can not be justice without mercy, nor freedom without forgiveness and that the imprisonment of our body does not have to mean the imprisonment of our heart and mind. These attributes can take a person to a place they never dreamed even though it might be a circuitous route.