Forgiveness is about giving: inspirational story about Madiba
I recently had the privilege of attending and speaking at EthicsXchange 2014 in Johannesburg. EthicsXchange is an event that seeks to reconnect us to a moral compass and encourages us to become an ethically conscious society.
While at the conference, I met Zelda la Grange, one of Nelson Mandela’s three Private Secretaries. She shared a story from her days working with him, a story which really caused me to stop and think about what it means to forgive, and as a result, to give. It was all about a missing bar of soap.
Whilst Mandela was staying at a hotel overseas, he noticed there was an array of toiletries in the hotel room’s bathroom. He took note of the number of shampoos, conditioners, soaps, etc. Later on, he noticed that a single soap was missing. Enraged, he called Zelda and told her one of the soaps had been stolen. He asked her to arrange a group meeting for the next morning that included every member of his security detail staying with him at the hotel.
Now, it may seem small and insignificant that a soap went missing, but for Mandela, this was a breach of trust. It showed a lack of integrity and honesty.
His guards assembled, Mandela told them that they had until the end of the day to return the soap. Otherwise every single one of them would be fired. By the end of the day, the soap had been returned.
Mandela wasn’t focused on who actually stole the soap. What mattered to him was that someone performed a dishonest act, and that needed to be addressed. If the soap was returned, all would be forgiven and no one would suffer any consequences. If it wasn’t, everyone would pay the consequences.
See, Mandela was about integrity and honesty, but he was also about forgiveness and redemption. In fact, if you look at the word ‘forgiveness’, you see that ‘give’ is right smack dab in the middle. Forgiveness is about giving – giving redemption.
Mandela also understood that we all must work together to create an ethical society. If one person falters, we all falter. If we live lives of integrity, honesty and giving – the way Mandela hoped to inspire us to live – there is no good we can’t accomplish.
What have we learned, as individuals and as a society, in the year since this great man’s death? Have we gotten better at forgiveness? Have we opened ourselves up more to giving?
I also believe in giving. In fact, to me, giving is the greatest gift we have. And since the holiday season is a time known for giving gifts, it is an excellent time to stop and think about what we each can give. What better way to give than to do what we can to build a better society for the future?
This season, I challenge you to DOT – to Do One Thing – to help build a more sustainable future for us all. Will you accept my challenge? Will Mandela’s story inspire you to do your part?