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Nelson Mandela

December 16, 2013

It was quite amazing to see how the passing of Nelson Mandela at age 95, became such a sensational global media event. Obituaries, short summaries of events in his life, as well as past interviews and video clips were published worldwide.

There is no doubt that he was an extraordinary man that lived an extraordinary life.

Why was he such a hero? What values did he personify that so impressed the world and why was he so admired?

Ben Cohen (a friend) in an insightful article Nelson Mandela and Zionism published by Algemeiner says:

“Mandela’s complicated legacy does not belong to any political streams-and that is a reason to admire him.”

His courage and resiliency to overcome brutal adversity as well as his perseverance in his struggle to bring down Apartheid in his country certainly plays a role in the high esteem he enjoys. Personally what impresses me the most is his capacity to forgive.  The fact that he was able to forgive the 27 years of cruel imprisonment and not seek revenge once he got out of jail is remarkable. His attempt to bring about conciliation avoided violence and bloodshed.

Forgiveness is a concept that we see in the legal system. The President, at the Federal level or a governor at the State level have the right to pardon a crime for whatever reasons such as good behavior. An Amnesty program can also be considered as a form of forgiveness.

Psychologists tell us that to be able to forgive can be liberating and very healthy for our psyche. The Mayo Clinic lists six benefits to forgiving.

They are:

1.      Healthier relationships

2.      Greater spiritual and psychological well-being

3.      Less anxiety, stress and hostility

4.      Lower blood pressure

5.      Fewer symptoms of depression

6.      Lower risk of alcohol and substance abuse

In the financial world, a cancellation of debt is definitely a form of forgiveness.

What about the concept of forgiveness in corporate culture?

It is present in the practice of giving someone a second chance.  A warning can be considered a form of forgiveness. In an article published by Forbes entitled Forgiveness As A Business Tool, Professor at INSEAD (The world’s largest graduate business school) Manfred Kets de Vries says: “We should remember that people who don’t make any mistakes don’t do anything. They are too busy covering their backs. They’re not going to try anything new.” He also believes that forgiveness in the work place also builds loyalty, creativity and productivity. 

As Robert Frost once said:

“To be social is to be forgiving.”


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