We grieve to the degree that we put someone on a pedestal. I don’t think that any of us have elevated any other human being to the extent that we have with our beloved Madiba.
If we are to move on from this pain and sorrow that engulfs us right now we need to see him for the human being that he was.
Mandela himself once said that he should only be labeled as a saint if your definition of a saint was a sinner who keeps on trying. This must be my favourite saying to ever come from this hero of ours, as it makes it possible for every one of us to be a hero; for every one of us to rise to the greatness that is within us all; and for every one of us to accept the sinner within.
Like Madiba, we all have both – the saint and the sinner, the angel and the devil, the hero and the villain, the lion and the lamb. The greatness of Madiba lay not in him rising above humanity, but in this very humanity itself. From poverty and terrorism and anger came the kindness and humility and forgiveness that we have come to love.
If we only see the good, if we only see the greatness and not the full person, we will always grieve and we will miss the great lessons that he came to teach us all. We need to look deeply now at both the good and the bad encompassed in this man and see where we too have these same traits. We need to look to him not as an example of becoming something larger than life, but as an example of how to embrace life in its fullness; how to see our weaknesses and flaws and trials and to never use these as an excuse to not live out our destinies.
If we constantly look to the past and to our past errors then it will be like seeing Madiba in his struggle days and never seeing beyond. And if we look purely to his strengths and triumphs and exaggerate these, then we will never see the greatness that they were pointing to – the ability within every one of us to make a difference, to go beyond our weaknesses, to follow our dreams.
If I take one thing from this incredible man, it is the power of one person to make a difference; the power of one ORDINARY human being to change the world; the power of every one of us to embrace both the sinner and the saint and in doing so to become whole.
Farewell Madiba – I will forever hold you in my heart.