Nelson Mandela was a great inspiration in my life. I grew up in The Netherlands, during a time when apartheid filled the evening news. Night after night I became outraged at the atrocities in South Africa, not understanding why people could carry so much hatred towards other human beings, only for reason of their skin color. And, being Dutch, I learned I'm also part of the problem. The Dutch colonized South Africa in 1652. My people were at the root of starting apartheid.
During my own struggles with trauma I found solace in Nelson Mandela. When Mandela was released in 1990 I expected him to fight. Instead, he negotiated. Four years later, when Mandela became the first black President of South Africa and apartheid was abolished, I expected him to retaliate. Instead, Mandela taught compassion. I was confused.
It was a few years later that I understood Mandela's approach, which was fueled by love, not by hatred, and largely the result of his own self-realization. Today, through the lens of SE, I see his approach as further evidence for the way self-regulation and self-optimization for just one person can affect the collective body. Mandela understood that a great country could only shed its horrible past by articulating, digesting, and understanding it— and by learning from it. When fueled by love and compassion such an approach can result in relief and peace, strikingly similar to the SE work we do with our clients.
Mandela modeled compassion-based leadership to the world, and the world took notice. In 1993 he won the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts.
Today, I cry, Nelson Mandela. My heart is full of love and compassion. You touched millions of people, not with your ideas, but with your actions. You leave a legacy that could be, and should be, an example for our leaders, worldwide. You are an inspiration to humanity. May your gift continue to give to this world.
– Rob Gussenhoven
“No one is born hating another person because of the color of his 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.”
– Nelson Mandela
Rob Gussenhoven is the interim executive director at the SE Trauma Institute.
Image by H. Michael Karshis