I am currently reading the book, Mandela’s Way, fifteen lessons on life, love and courage. I find the book to be a fascinating study on elements that can help one build character and find the strength to live life with integrity. Mandela lived 27 years in prison. And during that time had a lot to reflect on. It’s clear that most people would have ended up broken and perhaps would have surrendered their values to find ways to survive in that very life breaking place. On the contrary, Richard Stengel argues that Mandela was taught to play the “long game”. In Stengel’s words the impatient Mandela changed.
“As a young man, Mandela was impatient: He wanted change yesterday. Prison taught him to slow down, and it reinforced his sense that haste often leads to error and misjudgment. Above all, he learned how to postpone gratification – his whole life embodies that.”
When I read those words, it struck a chord being an impatient person myself. We all want things instantly. Speed is part of our cultural makeup. It’s hard to wait even for your computer to boot up. However, when you are involved in trying to change things in your life, it may take time for change to marinate. After all, it took years of racism and repression to be created in South Africa. It would take a long time to overcome the damage of all of this. Mandel kept a total picture in mind and like a long distance runner; Stengel wrote he became “a long distance thinker and prison was his marathon.”
The more I think about it the more important it becomes to look at your life in longer terms and to prepare yourself for the long distance you will have to travel. Faith can be the important element that allows you not to grow cynical and not to become paralyzed by the various turns in the road. I have a famous saying that came to mind when I was reading this book: “The bend in the road is not the end of the road unless you cannot make the turn.”
I am into this thing called life for the long term. There will be obstacles along the way as well as some losses. But my faith will give me hope to continue despite all of that.