What Nelson Mandela Can Teach Us About Peace

Nelson Mandela is one of the secular saints of our times. His approach to peace can teach us how to resolve conflict in our lives. Here are 8 lessons on how to foster peace:
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1. Never let go of your dreams

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Mandela was incarcerated for 27 years on Robben Island. During this time he never gave up on his dream to end apartheid and bring peace to South Africa.
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2..Look for the good in people

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There is a lovely passage in his autobiography where Mandela describes the departure of prison commander Badenhurst, the most callous and barbaric commanding officer Mandela had witnessed whilst imprisoned on Robben Island. Before leaving, Badenhurst summoned Mandela and said:

“I just want to wish you people good luck.”

Mandela was taken aback. In his autobiography he says,
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I do not know if I looked dumbfounded, but I was amazed. He spoke these words like a human being, and showed a side of himself we had never seen before.
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What Mandela then said to Badenhurst teaches us another lesson about peace.
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3. Be courteous even to your enemies
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Mandela replied to Badenhurst – a man who had ruled the prisoners with unflinching brutality – with this:

“Thank you for your good wishes. I hope you also have luck in your endeavours.”
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4. Talk with those your are in strife with

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When in 1984 Mandela on his own launched negotiations with the apartheid government,  his fellow prisoners were aghast. They thought he was selling out. But Mandela was focused on breaking the deadlock. As Richard Stengel, the journalist who helped him write his autobiography says, Mandela is “the most pragmatic of idealists.”
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5. Be generous even to those who hurt you

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Mandela was a lawyer. It is typical for him that he not only helped his fellow inmates, he also assisted the warders with their legal problems. Remember that the warders of Robben Island were some of the most ruthless and brutal characters of the apartheid regime.
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6.   You can negotiate with even the most intractable and difficult people

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In prison, Mandela consistently tried to better the conditions that he and his fellow prisoner was subjected to. In order to do this he had to negotiate with a succession of bigoted and hostile prison commanders.
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7.    Don’t indulge in ‘them versus us’ thinking.

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Mandela learned to speak Afrikaans and even learned about rugby in order to be able to understand those who were trying to annihilate him. He knew that for lasting peace he had to focus on what he had in common with those who were persecuting him.
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8.  If  you win, don’t gloat: be generous
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When Mandela finally became president and apartheid was finally overturned, one of the first things that he instituted was the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Anybody who felt he or she had been a victim of violence could come forward and be heard at the TRC. Perpetrators of violence could also give testimony and request amnesty from prosecution.
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If we take these eight lessons to heart, we can bring peace to our own life, to our communities, and to the whole world. As Richard Stengle says in his recent article, Nelson Mandela is one of the world’s greatest moral leaders.
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What do think about these eight lessons on peace? How could you use them in your life?

About the author

Mary Jaksch

Mary is passionate about helping people create a happy, purposeful, and fulfilling life. She is the founder of GoodlifeZEN and also the brains behind WritetoDone.com, one of the biggest blogs for writers on the Net. Mary is also a Zen Master, a mother, and a 5th Degree Black Belt.

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