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10 Life lessons we can all learn from Nelson Mandela

As we mourn the loss of one of the most inspiring men in the world, we take comfort in knowing Nelson Mandela leaves behind an indelible legacy of love. Here are a few notions the Nobel Peace Prize winner’s selfless actions and profound words taught us.


Never, ever give up

Nelson Mandela

I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons will live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for. But, my lord, if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Nelson Mandela spent 27 years — 27 years! — in prison for fighting against the apartheid government in South Africa. Upon his release, he went on to become the country’s president through its first democratic election. And, after his term, he spent his life tirelessly campaigning for peace and equality.


Our failures speak volumes about our character

Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.

When all is said and done — when the milestones of your life stretch out before your eyes — it won’t be the successes that define your character. It will, as Mandela said, be the way you responded to failure and never quit. There is so much to be said for the tenacity of the human spirit.


We don’t all have to have the same opinion

I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.

If more people grasped this concept, the world would be an infinitely better place. We can agree to disagree. We can like different football teams. We can even have different political affiliations — and still be friends. And we’ll be better for respecting and seeing the merit in perspectives other than our own.


We’re all in this together

A fundamental concern for others in our individual and community lives would go a long way in making the world the better place we so passionately dreamt of.

Regardless of age or sex or creed or color, the bottom line is we’ve all been put on this earth together. As Mandela so poignantly reminds us, the world can be a better place if we work together to make it one.


If it were easy, everyone would be doing it

Difficulties break some men but make others. No axe is sharp enough to cut the soul of a sinner who keeps on trying, one armed with the hope that he will rise even in the end.

The things that are truly worth having in life are usually the hardest to come by. It’s the people who persevere and push through the difficulties who ultimately accomplish what they set out to achieve.


Knowledge is power

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.

Change can be met with resistance from people who fear it. Or who don’t understand it. There are few things more effective as an impetus for change than knowledge — people can’t fight for something if they don’t understand what they are fighting for.


You can do it

It always seems impossible until it’s done.

People are capable of so much more than they give themselves credit for. So, whether it is while struggling through an intense workout or mourning the loss of a global icon, Mandela’s simple sentiment is a refreshing, much needed reminder. You can do it. Anyone can, as he reminds us: “Everyone can rise above their circumstances and achieve success if they are dedicated to and passionate about what they do.”


Intelligence and kindness make you strong, not weak

A good head and a good heart are always a formidable combination.

How is it that, in today’s society, kindness and compassion are often mistaken for weakness? And that there are smart people who attempt to dumb themselves down so as not to be branded “nerdy” or “brainy?” As Mandela points out, being smart and being kind make a person a force to be reckoned with.


Color is irrelevant

Let the strivings of us all prove Martin Luther King Jr. to have been correct, when he said that humanity can no longer be tragically bound to the starless midnight of racism and war. Let the efforts of us all prove that he was not a mere dreamer when he spoke of the beauty of genuine brotherhood and peace being more precious than diamonds or silver or gold. Let a new age dawn.

Sadly, the starless midnight of racism still blankets some crevices of the world. But in Mandela’s immortal words, it’s time for the dawning of a new age — one in which people remember that the same frame of bones lies underneath every person’s skin, no matter the color.


Love always wins

No one is born hating another person because of the color of his skin or his background or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.

Mandela could have chosen to become bitter after being imprisoned for nearly three decades. Instead, he rose above the din of anger to speak out about the virtues and healing power of love. If simply hearing those words doesn’t make your heart grow a little bit bigger, we don’t know what will.

More Nelson Mandela

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The world reacts to the death of Nelson Mandela
A nation mourns as a hero falls: RIP Nelson Mandela

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