I just finished Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom, and throughout I kept asking myself, how did he stay true? How did he persevere? By his own admission, there were others who were smarter, bolder, and wiser. So many of the things that he wrote about himself sketched an ordinary man, but there had to be something extraordinary and I wanted to find it. And there is was on page 615, his secret weapon.
"I never lost hope that this great transformation would occur. Not only because of the great heroes I have already cited, but because of the courage of the ordinary men and women of my country. I always knew that deep down in every human heart, there was mercy and generosity. No one is born hating another person because of the color of their skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite. Even in the grimmest times in prison, when my comrades and I were pushed to our limits, I would see a glimmer of humanity in one of the guards, perhaps just for a second, but it was enough to reassure me and keep me going. Man’s goodness is a flame that can be hidden but never extinguished.
Nelson Mandela hated apartheid, but he never hated its agents.