The Psychic View – Mandela’s Challenge

By Marjorie Young

South Africa and the world recently lost Nelson Mandela, a towering figure whose impact on humanity is nearly beyond measure. To be sure, he fought against the horrors of Apartheid, ultimately gaining freedom and equality for the oppressed majority in his homeland. Imprisoned for his actions, he served twenty-seven years under bitter conditions; yet upon his release, became the first democratically elected leader in his nation’s history.

That, in itself, is truly remarkable and admirable; but Mandela’s legacy goes far beyond those bare facts. His most magnificent achievement was his extraordinary, almost inconceivable ability to forgive those who had treated him, and all black citizens, with such brutal disdain. Not merely to ‘tolerate’ them, mind you, but to forgive and accept them. While many had feared bloody reprisals, whites were instead gifted with clemency and compassion; allowing for a true reconciliation amongst all the citizenry.

Mandela is not the only possessor of this staggering capacity to forgive. Gandhi and Martin Luther King followed similar paths…demanding freedom, dignity, and respect for those they represented, yet bestowing the same towards those opposing them. Gandhi was once asked why he apparently harbored no ill-will for his British oppressors or Muslim critics distrusting his Hindu beliefs. He laughingly responded that he was so preoccupied reflecting upon his own myriad shortcomings, that he had no leisure to seek out faults in others.

Undeniably, the uplifting example of Mandela and his ilk have generated a splendid illumination which has influenced human history and whose legacy will endure forever. Yet, one question stands out in my mind: while we are powerfully inspired by these peerless beings…why is it so dauntingly difficult to follow their example?

Clearly, most of us are not called upon to overcome tyranny or liberate a people. Yet, we frequently scorn forgiveness in our everyday lives. How many children are estranged from parents? How many siblings go years without communication due to past slights (real or imagined)? How many divorced couples regard one another as bitterest enemies? How many former best friends now actively shun one another?

It is doubtful any ‘sins’ committed against us compare to what Mandela, Gandhi, or King endured. If they had chosen to cling to resentments and hatreds, how understandable that would seem. Instead, they traveled a higher path. But for us ‘mere mortals’, that path may seem not only unobtainable, but even undesirable! How much more satisfying to possessively cling to ‘righteous indignation’ regarding past injuries, major or minor. And how ‘uplifting’ and gratifying to see ourselves as the perpetually injured party! How eagerly we vilify others, in order to win ‘allies’ to our side against the ‘enemy.’ Yet how much damage we do ourselves in the process.

I have hardly risen above such doings, despite a lifetime of spiritual endeavors. Thus, I must reflect again of the dazzling incentive and alternative the likes of Mandela, Gandhi, and King offer us. And whether we choose to merely salute them, or instead permit them truly to open our hearts, is ours alone to determine.

Marjorie is available for readings at the Ballard Sunday Market, her Ballard home, or by phone. Please e-mail her at:
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