The Top 5 Life Lessons Learned From Nelson Mandela

by Samantha on January 1, 2014

Nelson Mandela and Kids

In 2013 we lost Nelson Mandela.

A role model, a teacher and an undying supporter of human rights and equality, he was cherished by so many around the world. Regardless of their race, colour or religious affiliation, he united us through not only his words, but his actions and treatment of others. He taught us so much and was the epitome of strength in the face of adversity.

Mandela was an inspiring figure and  person who underscored the importance of some of the most basic of life lessons that many of us are striving to follow. For parents in particular, Mandela’s messages and actions form the basis of some of the most important learnings that we can pass on to our children.

The life lessons that he taught us are simple but powerful, and if we’re successful in passing on these on to our kids, we’re doing well:

1) Anything worth having is worth fighting for - Nelson Mandela was committed to seeing justice for the oppressed people of South Africa. In his prolonged fight against Apartheid, including his considerable prison sentence, he showed the world that the strength of our convictions is worth the difficulty that we may have to endure in order to realize our dreams. In other words, it may be a long and difficult road to get to where we want to be, but if it’s worth having, it’s worth making the journey.

2) Patience is a virtue - If you want to see the epitome of patience, just remember the 27 years in prison that were served by Nelson Mandela, before his eventual release in February, 1990. The strength of this ability alone makes all of our  kids’ demands for things now seem trivial and trite. Remind them of the importance of patience and the ability to wait for things next time they say that they must have something immediately.

3) Remain true to your principles - It’s often hard for kids to understand the importance of integrity and staying true to one’s values. This is particularly the case as kids grow up and pass through their “tween” and teenage years. In spite of what their peers may tell them, they often know that what they’re being tempted to do is wrong. As Mandela taught us, it may be difficult to stand against the majority but doing so for the sake of your beliefs is worth it in the long run.

4) All people are equal and therefore deserving of basic respect and dignity - All people. A tough thing for many of us to remember and even tougher for kids. After all, it’s often only with maturity and life experience that we gain the empathy, understanding that results in a kinder heart. Remember Mandela’s most important lesson and one that he gave up most of his life fighting for: that we’re all equal and accordingly, should treat each other as such. 

5) Forgiveness - It’s easy to stay angry and much harder to forgive. Nelson Mandela showed us the power of forgiveness and the ability that we all have to extend this courtesy to even our most hurtful opponents. Teaching a child to take the high road and not hold a grudge is a lesson that will fare them well in their lives well beyond their childhood. As Mandela rightly said as he walked out of the prison gates after 27 years of incarceration: ““As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison.” Finding the strength to forgive after even the most difficult of experiences is an ability that will make our children stronger and happier people overall.

What life lessons have you learned from Nelson Mandela? Which ones are the most important to pass on to your kids? Leave me your thoughts in the comments section below.

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