Episode 23: Let it Go

Episode 23: Let it Go

Nelson Mandela, the first black President of South Africa and the first President to be elected in a fully representative election, spent 27 years in prison, right up until apartheid ended. He had every reason to hate the people who put him there and his captors.

Terry Lees shares a remarkable true story of Nelson Mandela, as told by former US President Bill Clinton, that highlights why Mandela was such a great human being.  Terry Lees explains that letting go of resentment and hate towards others is the not a weakness – it is in fact the strongest, most empowering thing you can do for yourself. Thinking negative thoughts about the one who wronged you will not harm that person in any way, shape or form…the only person it hurts is you.

Listen to the episode below, or continue on to read the transcript.

Episode Transcript:

The following is a true story about Nelson Mandela, as told by former US President Bill Clinton:

“That was pretty smart of you to have your jailers come to the Inauguration and all of that but let me ask you something.” Bill Clinton said, “Didn’t you really hate them for what they did?”

Mandela said, “Oh, yeah, I hated them for a long time.” He said, “I stayed alive on hate for 12 years. I broke rocks every day, and I stayed alive on hate.” And he said, “They took a lot away from me. They took me away from my wife, and it subsequently destroyed my marriage. They took me away from seeing my children grow up. They abused me mentally and physically. And one day,” he said, “I realized they could take it all except my mind and my heart.” He said, “Those things I would have to give to them, and I simply decided not to give them away.”

And so – Clinton said, “Well, what about when you were getting out of prison? The day you got out of prison in 1990, it was Sunday morning, and I got my daughter up early in the morning, and I took her down to the kitchen, and I turned on the television, and she was just a little girl then, and I sat her up on the kitchen counter. And I said, ‘Chelsea, I want you to watch this. This is one of the most important things you’ll ever see in your life.’ ”

And Clinton said, “I watched you walk down that dirt road to freedom. Now, when you were walking down there, and you realized how long you had been in their prison, didn’t you hate them then? Didn’t you feel some hatred?”

Mandela replied, “Yes, I did a little bit, I felt that. Frankly, I was kind of afraid, too, because I hadn’t been free in so long. But as I felt the anger rising up, I thought to myself, ‘They have already had you for 27 years. And if you keep hating them, they’ll have you again.’ And I said, ‘I want to be free. And so, I let it go. I let it go.”

Hatred is a poison that destroys us from within, producing bitterness that eats away at our hearts and minds. Letting go of grudges and bitterness can make way for improved health and peace of mind. Forgiveness can lead to healthier relationships, improved mental health, less anxiety, stress and hostility, lower blood pressure, fewer symptoms of depression, a stronger immune system, improved heart health, and improved self-esteem

Some people are naturally more forgiving than others. But even if you’re a grudge holder, almost anyone can learn to be more forgiving. Forgiveness is a commitment to a personalised process of change. To move from suffering to forgiveness, you might: recognise the value of forgiveness and how it can improve your life; identify what needs healing and who needs to be forgiven and for what; consider joining a support group or seeing a counsellor; acknowledge your emotions about the harm done to you and how they affect your behaviour, and work to release them; choose to forgive the person who’s offended you; move away from your role as victim and release the control and power the offending person and situation have had in your life. As you let go of grudges, you’ll no longer define your life by how you’ve been hurt. You might even find compassion and understanding.

In the Bible, Paul the Apostle teaches: Any bitterness or bad temper or anger or shouting or abuse must be far removed from you — as must every kind of malice. Be generous to one another, sympathetic, forgiving each other as readily as God forgave you in Christ. The Book of Ecclesiastes teaches: There is an appointed time for everything… A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away.

It is said that you will never find peace until you learn to finally let go of the hatred and hurt that lives in your heart. To move on, you must know why you felt the way you did, and why you no longer need to feel that way. It is about accepting the past, letting it be and pushing your spirit forward with good intentions. That is very much the process Nelson Mandela followed.

Instead of wasting your energy on hate and resentment, isn’t it better to invest your energy in love and contentment.?  Letting go of resentment and hate towards others is the not a weakness – it is in fact the strongest, most empowering thing you can do for yourself. Thinking negative thoughts about the one who wronged you will not harm that person in any way, shape or form…the only person it hurts is you.

Freedom involves the abandonment of hate because hate is the abdication of freedom. It is the projection of our conflicts onto an external force whom we can then blame, but only at the cost of denying responsibility. That was Moses’ message to those who were about to enter the promised land: that a free society can be built only by people who accept the responsibility of freedom, subjects who refuse to see themselves as objects, people who define themselves by love of God, not hatred of the other. To be free, you have to let go of hate.

The future is not some place we are going to, but one we are creating.  The paths to it are not found, but made, and the making of those pathways change both the maker and the destination.

Together, we are the change we want to see in the world!


Look for the silver lining.

This is Terry Lees

[Music: Let it Go (from Frozen) – Idina Menzel]