In 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.