Today marks 100 years since Nelson Mandela was born.
He grew up to be one of South Africa’s and the world’s iconic leaders of this generation. His fight against apartheid and the suffering he experienced at the apartheid hands have become vital lessons in the struggle for independence and identity.
As much as Mandela became grand on the world stage, his involvement in politics cost him his family. He not only divorced his first wife but had a tumultuous marriage with Winnie Mandikizela. The situation was made even worse with his jail time, causing such strife especially in terms of reconnection.
Here are four important lessons to learn from Mandela’s experience.
- Be there for your children
Although Mandela could not be there for his children physically when they were growing up, he always had them in his mind. According to letters he wrote to them from prison, Mandela was as involved as can be in his children’s affairs. His letters are peppered with fatherly advice from how to be proud and what music to listen to.
In other letters to his relatives, he expresses his pain of being away from his children and questions the essence of the rightness of ‘condemning’ his children to a life of poverty while trying to save the world.
He also proved to be there for his grandchildren as per their tales. After having spent so much time away from them, he was set aside time to interact and connect with his grandchildren.
“Being a grandfather was foreign to him, being a nice person was not. Meeting each one of his grandchildren was like building a new friendship with a stranger essentially,” Kweku, one of his grandsons said.
- Encourage your partners to be the best versions of themselves
Mandela had the first-hand experience with political brutality, from being exiled to being arrested haphazardly. But this did not stop him from encouraging Winnie to be involved in politics. Although Winnie was hesitant at first, it was clear that she needed to get into politics to be part of Mandela’s public life.
Following the state’s interference in their lives, Winnie had no choice but to become involved in the politics of the country and that of the ANC.
- It is never too late to find love
His third marriage to Graca Machel showed that it is never too late to find love. He was 80 years old when he married Graca, who has gone ahead to uphold his legacy. According to Mandela, Graca’s love made him bloom like a flower.
“I’m in love with a lovely lady. I don’t regret the reverses and setbacks because late in my life I’m blooming like a flower because of the love and support she’s given me,” he had said after his romance with Graca came to the limelight.
- Know you are still human
Mandela was bestowed national and global importance, and to many, this meant existing without fault, something that Mandela tried to avoid. Over and over he said that he is still human and as such he made mistakes. What matters though is how he reacted to the mistake. He not only believed in making amends, he also believed in creating an environment of peace and tolerance.