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Don't Drink Poison

When a truly great person dies, the world never really loses him or her. In fact, often we begin to pay even more attention to what they did and what they said than we did when they were amongst us. We still study Lincoln's life and his words. We are still inspired by Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Mother Teresa. And so it is with Nelson Mandela.

Like so many people around the world, I have thought much about Mandela in the last few days. His great teaching -- "you must move beyond resentment to reach your goal" -- is a concept that can truly lead to world peace.

Mandela said: "Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies." Imagine spending almost three decades in a terrible prison and walking out with your natural resentment under control, with an incredibly resilient nature, and with inordinate optimism. He was an amazing man. Mandela also said that "a good heart and a good head are a formidable combination." I think "good heads" are plentiful, but much more effort should be put into developing "good hearts" like Mandela's. The power of the "good heart" is great.

Mandela may have given us the key to breaking the hold that violence has in the world: control the resentment. Harboring resentment, or feeling "dissed," or keeping score, or believing you have to get even -- these things only lead to wars and violence in communities. Blood feuds. Gang feuds. What is the end goal for people who harbor resentment? Just getting even and living for the next round of violence? Mandela knew that getting even is not a high-enough goal. Peace and prosperity for all South Africans was his goal.

It's really hard to let go of resentment, isn't it? We all harbor hurt at wrongs done us. But what a role model Mandela is for countries and tribes and sects and religions at war. If Mandela could get beyond his resentment of his treatment and the treatment of an entire country of black South Africans, surely there can be hope for other people to do the same in other areas of the world.

People need to be shown the value of letting go of wrongs done, letting go of resentment. If our only goal is to "get back", then we are caught in an endless cycle of violence. But if we can move beyond resentment to get to the greater goal, then containment of our resentment is a strategic tactic to get to the place we are seeking. Getting even is a low-level goal. Education, health care and opportunities that give one a shot a prosperity and happiness are real goals. Peace and securing human rights for all are the ultimate goals.

Don't drink poison. Thank you, Nelson Mandela for all your lessons.