Nelson Mandela has left us a legacy of forgiveness, reconciliation and his pledge for freedom for everybody, no matter their race or color. He will always be an inspiration to the world. In the long and cruel battle to achieve this, he has taught us some invaluable life lessons.

1.Never abandon hope or give up

“The struggle is my life. I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela (also known as Madiba) had very clear objectives in that he was committed to ending apartheid and a terribly unjust society. He knew that the road would be paved with enormous difficulties. But he never gave up.

Defining your goal and your objectives are essential to winning the race. Facing setbacks and failure is the most difficult part, but never give up.

2. Learn the art of compromise

“You mustn’t compromise your principles, but you mustn’t humiliate the opposition. No one is more dangerous than one who is humiliated.” – Nelson Mandela

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.” – Nelson Mandela

Whether in politics or in relationships, compromising and negotiating are essential tools. Learn how to give and take. Mandela gave superb advice when he stated that both sides have to gain. It should ideally be a win-win situation.

3. Violence is not the answer

“We can’t win a war, but we can win an election.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela was sentenced to prison for life (and served 27 years) because he and the ANC party had adopted a Marxist strategy of sabotage and violence in the fight for justice. After his release, he did not altogether renounce this policy. It was kept in reserve.

Reconciliation and negotiation were far more effective and powerful weapons and that should never be forgotten. Madiba had the intelligence not to let the past of bitterness and resentment restrict him. Four years of tough negotiations with President de Klerk were rewarded with success and the joint Nobel Peace Prize in 1993.

4. Don’t be put off by difficulties

It always seems impossible until it is done.” – Nelson Mandela

That quote by Madiba reflects that although lives are marked by illness, tragedy, misfortune and pain, people should never get discouraged. Those negative experiences can teach more than anything else. And they can teach that you have to remain faithful to your values and ethics. Mandela wanted freedom from apartheid, and while he changed strategy, he never changed that one principle.

Nelson Mandela

5. Learn how to forgive

“If there are dreams of a beautiful South Africa, there are also roads that lead to that goal. Two of these roads could be named Goodness and Forgiveness.” – Nelson Mandela

Why do you think that Nelson Mandela decided to learn Afrikaans, the language of his oppressors, while in prison? That was the first move in forgiveness.

When you have been hurt, it is only right to feel self-pity. That feeling may be followed by anger and rage and you should let it all out in a safe, private way. If you never learn to forgive, you will always feel bad. Even if the person who hurt you is dead, negative emotions ruin your life. Time to draw a line under it, and once you forgive, you immediately start to feel better.

6. How kind are you?

“I believe that in the end that it is kindness and accommodation that are all the catalysts for real change.” – Nelson Mandela

Try a little kindness today.

7. Bond by sharing experience

 “I dream of Africa which is at peace with itself.” – Nelson Mandela

In South Africa, rugby was the sport of the white elite and many black and colored people cheered the opposing team as a way of protesting. Picture the scene at the 1995 Rugby World Cup when Mandela wore the rugby jersey of the Springboks, the South African team, who went on to win. That one gesture in participating at a great sporting event was a powerful way of bonding a nation.

On a personal level, try hugging (if appropriate!), eating together, taking part in a sport, or hundreds of other ways to strengthen bonding. These shared experiences will help understanding, commonality and reinforce relationships.

8. Fight discrimination

“I detest racialism because I regard it as a barbaric thing, whether it comes from a black man or a white man.” – Nelson Mandela

Madiba was single minded in his approach to the enormous task ahead. Today, society is confronted with many other forms of intolerance that lead to discrimination and oppression.

In addition to racism, you can add sexism, ageism, fat phobia, ableism, homophobia and classism as barriers to unity and equal human rights for all.

Where do you stand on these issues? Have you taught your kids that this discrimination is hurtful and unfair?

9. Draw a line under your past

“We don’t have to be victims of our past, that we can let go of our bitterness, and that all of us can achieve greatness.” – Nelson Mandela

Mandela had every reason to become bitter and twisted and to continue with aggression and confrontation. He was intelligent enough to realize that closure was essential and the new path towards peace and reconciliation was the only way.

How many times have you told that story about your difficult childhood, marriage or boss? Looking for pity is no way to win friends. Time for healing and closure.

10. An unconquerable spirit

At the Rivonia trial, there was a risk that Mandela might be sentenced to death. He was so determined that he persuaded his comrades that they would not appeal. He urged them to have dignity and pride, and to be steadfast.

Mandela’s approach to life when he finally retired was, “Tread softly, breathe peacefully, laugh hysterically.”

 You might also like: One Life Lesson From Nelson Mandela

Featured photo credit: Ted Eytan Creative Commons via Flickr via Flickr

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