There is a line in the movie Mandela, Long walk to freedom which struck for its honesty and insight.
While still in prison and negotiating with his captors, at a point they say that he ‘surely wants revenge’.
“I admit I want revenge”, he says, “but I want something more. I want to live without fear and hatred.”
Whether he actually said the words or they are a dramatisation created for the movie, the message is profound particularly when thinking about strategy.
Mandela could have been caught in his emotions of hatred for what whites and apartheid had done to his people. He realised however that this would simply reverse roles. He said to his captors that if focused on revenge, then the end game would be him caught in the same prison that they were in.
An incredible insight.
Like a good chess player, he had played out the scenarios and seen them clearer and further into the future than his enemy at the time.
Personally, by acknowledging his want for revenge and being able to put it aside, he was able to go after what he really desired, sustainable freedom for all South Africans.
He lifted the whole negotiation to a different level.
“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.”
– Nelson Mandela
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