Learning From Madiba: Six Important Lessons To Take From The Inspiring Life Of Nelson Mandela

by Yasmine Hassan

December 5, 2013 will forever be remembered as the day humanity lost one of the most influential public personalities of our time. Nelson “Madiba” Mandela led a life that inspired generations upon generations of people who have read and studied his work and plight for human rights and justice. No matter how old or young, whether you heard his speeches or not, everyone knew Nelson Mandela’s story and everyone was profoundly touched by his life.

From a political prisoner on Robben Island to the President of South Africa and the leader of the anti-Apartheid Movement, Mandela dedicated his life to being the voice of the unheard and the suffering. He showed us that through kindness and love, mountains can be moved and dreams can in fact be achieved. His reconciliation with his oppressors showed us to be forgiving to one another rather than seek revenge.

Finally, his persistence and undeterred stance taught us the true meaning of standing up for what you believe in no matter what the situation around you may be.

So, as a tribute to the great man who has and will continue to inspire generations to come, here is a list of Nelson Mandela’s most influential quotes and what we can take away from them.

"I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear."

Mabida emulated this quote throughout his life time and time again by always looking fear in the eye and standing up to it, rather than backing down. Whether it was during his early days of protesting, during his trials and time spent in prison, or as president when he was breaking down an aged Apartheid regime, Mandela was never afraid to stand up for his ideals and devote his life in every way towards his quest to leave the world a greater place for all of us.

“For to be free is not merely to cast off one's chains, but to live in a way that respects and enhances the freedom of others.”

Many see freedom as a selfish need, one that only affects our person and is not related to anyone else around us. If I am free, I am happy. But this is merely the beginning of the concept of freedom, as many times your freedom may be the very thing that impedes on someone else’s ability to live in the same way. Madiba spent his life trying to bring people to understand this concept of unity and help plant the seed in the minds of the masses that their ultimate goal should be respecting one another. By providing that mutual respect, we are automatically providing one another with the freedom that we need to be, and live in any way we see fit.

“Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”

We have all, at one point in time, been victims of resent and revenge. But in the end, what happens when we feel these emotions is that we are destroying ourselves while hoping to destroy the person in front of us. We must learn to quell these feelings in order to be at peace with ourselves and with the rest of the world.

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

The essence of life is that it will always be filled with obstacles. No matter what you may be thinking, everyone is going through a rough time at this moment. The key to success, however, is not how easy a given person has it; it’s how gracefully they get up after having attempted to surpass an obstacle. Getting back up again means that you have passion and drive and shows how badly you want to achieve your goals. It shows your willingness to fight for what you want and that you will stop at nothing to achieve your goals. These are the qualities that are true to a successful person.

“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 dreamed of.”

We talk of world peace and discuss the different routes to get to it during international conferences and make complicated roadmaps towards it when the solution is very simple. Genuine kindness goes a long way when it comes to changing the world, and it doesn’t have to be strides in the beginning.

Starting small by simply helping out a neighbor or being nice to a stranger on the street will likely inspire others to do the same and will create a ripple effect that will eventually have everyone helping each other. We’ll be on the road towards the better place we so passionately dream of. All big achievements always start with a small step, and what better icon than Nelson Mandela to inspire that small step in each and every one of us today.

“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.”

Racism and hatred is a plague that we must fight and crush immediately as it is something that we teach one another to do. Children play together without any preconceived notions on race, gender, religion or identity, while adults will shun one another for these exact reasons. Rather than fueling hate, we should learn to fuel love. We must learn to look past the superficial and see what lies beneath, and we may very well be surprised by what we find out about people.

While he may have left the physical world, Nelson Mandela will never leave our hearts or our memories. This greater leader and peacemaker lead a life that will be taught to everyone in hopes that we may take away a few lessons on passion and the willingness to fight for what we believe in. Mandela’s memory will forever remain alive in our hearts and minds, and in our political arenas and history classes, but for now, he leaves us with one final thought:

“Death is something inevitable. When a man has done what he considers to be his duty to his people and his country, he can rest in peace. I believe I have made that effort and that is, therefore, why I will sleep for the eternity."

Photo credit: Getty Images