07/29/2010 02:58 pm ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

Nelson Mandela's Legacy Leeches

I read an article recently describing what can only be described as a 'feeding frenzy' over the name and legacy of Nelson Mandela--one of the great leaders of our generation. This isn't different from the kind of greedy infighting between family, friends and constituents that happens far too often when patriarchs become unable to manage their own affairs or simply die before the family is aligned with their intentions. We read the same kind of battle is going on for the estate of Michael Jackson and I am sure there are plenty of similar stories attached to the estates of many more of the rich and famous.

I've seen other less grand examples of family members 'raiding the pantry' to carry away whatever lucre the departed or very elderly have accumulated. I am always a bit disgusted when I see this kind of behavior, and also a little saddened to think that this kind of behavior lies just beneath the surface in many of us.

How civilized are we when adult children fight over the spoils of the parents? A lifetime of love and relationship can be destroyed in a heartbeat and foster generations of resentment and bitterness. And at the end of the process, the lawyers end up winning. For most of us, this is a tragedy beyond words and the last thing we'd want for a legacy.

Nelson Mandela has lived his life to the ideals of love and unity. I hope that he still has the time and the will to declare his intentions for his name and legacy. For the rest of us, we can best pay our respects by focusing on remembering the man and his invaluable contribution to the world.

If any of the competitors for Mandela's voice show anything less than the kind of magnanimity he stood for, then we should recognize that sons and daughters inherit neither the sins nor the virtues of the father--and choose to 'change the channel'.

Virtues need to be earned.

Copyright 2010 Jim Selman. All rights reserved.

Subscribe to the Lifestyle email.
We’re basically your best friend… with better taste.