Friday, December 6, 2013

My Reflections on Nelson Mandela

Image from BCLC

Nelson Mandela was a not only a great man, but also a humble man, and a man of vision courage and wisdom. To me, he was a hero, a hero at a time when we have too few.

Nelson Mandela understood trauma.  He survived twenty-seven years in prison. He believed in justice and forgiveness. He invited his jailer to his inauguration to be president of South Africa.

In 1996 I was invited to South Africa to be part of a delegation of trauma therapists to study post-traumatic stress.  This was a time when South Africa was in the midst of massive social change, beginning to rebuild its very foundation. I had the privilege of attending the inauguration of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Capetown.  President Mandela stood in that church in Capetown because he believed that the traumas of the past must be addressed and acknowledged or they would come to haunt the new South Africa.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a public forum for private grief where many would come to understand the power of community witnessing.  Its mission was to encourage truth telling about what happened during the years of apartheid and, through hearing the truth, to mourn and heal.

Image from History Channel, Text Added

“Ordinary South Africans", Nelson Mandela explained, "are determined that the past be known, the better to insure that it is not repeated. They seek this not out of revenge, but so we can move into the future together.”

In dark times, Nelson Mandela’s story, his legacy, can give hope and inspiration. To transform traumatic experiences into acts of justice and forgiveness is a way to honor his legacy. Surely we will all fall short but that does not give us an excuse not to try.

-Laurie KahnMA, MFA, LCPC, Director of Womencare Counseling Center

1 comment:

  1. Beautiful, Laurie.... I love how you made reference to the trauma he experienced and how he transformed it into acts of justice and forgiveness.....