~ Nelson Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom
What is your definition of bravery? Usually when asked this question, people don’t provide a definition, but rather an experience or event they have witnessed or endured themselves. However, once in a while you find someone who coughs up a quote or line they’ve heard somewhere that provides the logical answer to that opening question.
Some might be confused as to the difference between true shows of courage are and a lack of personal safety, but luckily there are others who know the true meaning. Probably because those who know the meaning, have had their backs up against the wall and had to fight their way out. They are the ones who have had an almost divine moment of understanding what standing up for yourself means, or what standing up for others means. They are the ones who know what being a hero is really about, and how, when you feel true fear and have no way to escape it, you have to face it. And it is in those moments we know what it means to be sincerely courageous.
Whether it be a soldier on the battle field running towards the violence, or a mother who smiles at her sick child, ensuring them it’s going to be all right when she’s just be told the mass in their brain is growing. Or even something as trivial as confronting someone about something, or quitting that job you’ve had for 8 years with all the securities and starting a new adventure. It takes all kinds of bravery to overcome the fear that, when left untamed, can atrophy our senses and transform us into cowards that rely on someone else to save them.
The good news is that the brave ones are all around us. Everyday we encounter someone who either has been or is currently being very courageous, you just don’t know it because unlike the ones who need saving all the time, the brave ones don’t carry signs that say “Help Me!”
We find them in our books, on our tv’s, or in public. They are writers, actors, firemen, servicemen, nurses, and servers. White collar, blue collar, and every shade in between. They understand that everyone is fighting a battle of some sort, but they also understand that not everyone chooses to fight the battle they’re in. They know because they have been in that situation. That situation when fear steps into a room with them and took over the space, leaving them with that corner that others have been backed into before. Except these folks don’t try to get comfortable in that corner, they stand up and begin to take the space back. One of these brave ones is Nelson Mandela.
A blank four cornered room may not project a lot of shadows, but after 27 years, your mind will start to create a darkness that can engulf the whole room if you let it. I imagine that’s how a 44 year-old Mandela may have felt after receiving the sentence of life in prison. However, Mandela overcame his ghosts of fear and hatred and not only was pardoned from prison, but went on to achieve international recognition for his presidency in South Africa.
In 1995, Nelson penned an autobiography entitled, Long Walk to Freedom. Published by Little Brown & Co. the bio charts Mandela’s early life, education and his 27 year term behind bars. He dedicated the book to, “my six children, Madiba and Makaziwe (my first daughter) who are now deceased, and to Makgatho, Makaziwe, Zenani and Zindzi, whose support and love I treasure; to my twenty-one grandchildren and three great-grandchildren who give me great pleasure; and to all my comrades, friends and fellow South Africans whom I serve and whose courage, determination and patriotism remain my source of inspiration.”