MANDELA’S WAY ~ Lesson No. 7


 This is the seventh post in this series of 15 lessons taken from the book MANDELA'S WAY written by Richard Stengel .

EXTRACT : "Some call it a blind spot , others naivete' , but Mandela sees almost everyone as virtuous until proven otherwise . He starts with an assumption that you are dealing with him in good faith . He believes that, just as pretending to be brave can lead to acts of real bravery, seeing the good in other people improves the chances that they will reveal their better selves .

It is extraordinary that a man who was ill-treated for most of his life can see so much good in others . In fact , it was sometimes frustrating to talk with him because he almost never had a bad word to say about anyone . It is not that Mandela does not see the dark side of someone ; it is that he is unwilling to see only that . He knows that no one is purely good or purely evil . He chooses to look past the negative . No one is born prejudiced or racist . No man , he suggests , is evil at heart . Evil is something instilled in or taught to men by circumstances , their environment , or their upbringing . It is not innate .

Mandela sees the good in others both because it is in his nature and in his interest . At times that has meant being blindsided , but he has always been willing to take that risk . And it IS a risk . We tend to think of risk as physical daring , like attempting a dangerous climb , or as making a decision with an uncertain outcome , like putting money into an investment that is not a sure thing . But Mandela believes in and takes emotional risks . He goes out on a limb and makes himself vulnerable by trusting others . We sometimes do that by confiding in others we don't know well . Yet we rarely equate risk with trying to see what is decent , honest , and good in the people in our daily lives . "


  1. tara tyler on August 15, 2011 at 12:09 am

    one of the best, yet hardest things to accomplish!
    like waiters, we take for granted good service and really put up a stink about mistakes.

    • mish on August 15, 2011 at 4:29 am

      You’ve hit the nail on the head … that’s exactly what it is ! Thanks for sharing !

  2. Shelly on August 15, 2011 at 12:54 am

    Kind of like your innocent until proven guitly.

    • mish on August 15, 2011 at 4:31 am

      Absolutely ! As humans we tend to jump the gun and take it the opposite way …

  3. morning on August 15, 2011 at 3:18 pm

    profound words…you rock.
    keep it up.

    • mish on August 16, 2011 at 8:05 am

      Thanks so much , morning ! I really appreciate it !

  4. Victoria on August 15, 2011 at 4:55 pm

    Wonderful reflection on Mandela's wisdom, Mish. I wish I could learn to be less judgmental. That is a great source of peace of mind.

    • mish on August 16, 2011 at 8:07 am

      These are lessons that everybody can learn something from … we never stop learning , do we ? Thanks Victoria 🙂

  5. JamieDedes on August 18, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    A modern day Buddha or Christ. 
    Thanks for sharing this, Mish.

    • mish on August 18, 2011 at 8:34 pm

      Yes … a fitting comparison for a humble & compassionate icon !

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