Some years ago a mentor of mine was murdered. It came as a terrible shock to all who looked to him for his wisdom and guidance and the funeral was attended by hundreds of people. After the formal service in a church packed beyond reason and with so many standing outside, we went to a local park with enough room to accommodate all.
What stood out were the words of a colleague who led the proceedings, as he said things that stunned me. He offered his forgiveness to his friend, my mentor, for his having died, even for his having been murdered. Then he forgave the murderer.
How in his grief and sorrow could he possibly have the clarity and courage to forgive his friend for leaving him so soon? And how, in his moment of anguish and grief, with his anger and sorrow so strong could he forgive the killer?
Nelson Mandela died yesterday at the age of 95. He spent 27 years in prison for the crime of opposing apartheid in South Africa. He saw people killed and brutally beaten for no reason by the 15% minority that ruled that country. He saw his countrymen exist with no rights whatsoever and so many thousands abused and jailed in a complete absence of justice.
At last he was released from jail and 4 years later became president of his country. Many were expecting revenge by those newly in power, but that did not happen. Instead of putting the former tormentors on trial for their brutality, he formed the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, wherein people who had suffered greatly were given voice, the chance to be heard. Their former tormentors were made to hear of their suffering and many gave apology.
There is much to say and learn from these examples and these men, but the focus here is on your leadership. So, the question is whether in the midst of torment and confusion, even after terrible wrongs visited upon you and your people, whether you would have the wisdom and the courage to act in something other than a reflexive way and instead lead your people to a higher place. Do you have the mindfulness to be so uncommon? Such is required of you because your people need that from you.
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