Lessons from Madiba (10 December 2013)

My blog is a few days late this time, alas; but my uncoachlike disorganisation means I am now writing after the death of Nelson Mandela. We had a staff member at One World Action who talked of Madiba and what he had done, and I understood from her the strength of feeling about him.

My own apartheid memories go back to my time at Exeter University in the late 1970s: two fellow geographers were part of the invading group who halted the Springbok rugby game against our local club; and my next-door-neighbour in university flats, a black South African, knocked on my door – well, thumped on it really – at 3am, drained bottle of brandy in his hand, to announce that Mugabe had beaten Nkomo in the first free election in Zimbabwe, thus avoiding civil war. “South Africa will be next, Graham; the time is coming”. Well, things didn’t quite go smoothly – re Mugabe and the delay until the release of Nelson Mandela - but things did come to pass.

I took my young twins to see the Christmas lights of London today, but also to leave flowers for Madiba outside the South African Embassy, which once hosted an OWA event. Many others had done the same.

So what was it about Nelson Mandela that causes this great charge of emotion in people?
There are many reasons, but surely one of – perhaps the – greatest is the unconditional forgiveness he offered, not least through the Truth & Reconciliation Commission, a groundbreaking, risky but necessary way of moving on without punishment, while acknowledging the injustice of the past.

In all this, there is a coaching lesson, and it is about the barriers that hold us back. We often blame people for what has happened to us; in our professional or personal lives, other people have done things that have hurt or damaged us. We often can’t forgive; which is a great way of not taking responsibility, taking control and moving on to new horizons.

Who do you blame? Forgive them now – write to them, or tell them, or forgive them in your head. And then get on with life!

Happy Human Rights Day

All the best


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