AND Recognize Context

December 8th, 2013

Nelson Mandela died this past week. I found myself listening closely to the stories people told about him, aware of the words used to describe him and his work to end apartheid in South Africa. Here was a man who clearly touched the hearts and dreams of people around the world.

What touches me about his story is the humanity, the combination of the uniqueness of his journey and the every-person part of the story. We are born into and grow up in a particular time in history. We live in the circumstances of our times. AND all of that is the context in which we are invited to bring our best light, clearest voice, and courageous selves to express what is in our hearts and to take the actions that feel most true to us.

When a person, such as Nelson Mandela, steps fully into that light, unafraid of the consequences (including death) of taking a stand that social convention initially deems undesirable, then the impact of a life well-lived touches people and history in ways we might never have imagined. Not many of us have a calling that looks like that of Nelson Mandela. We do, however, have an important purpose for being alive at this time in history and in whatever circumstances we find ourselves.

Amid injustices, reprehensible treatment, or actions that we may deem unethical or immoral, we are invited to find our truth and to express that truth in clear and compassionate ways. Such action involves no competition, no comparison with the journeys or purpose of others’ lives. The invitation to rise above circumstances so that they can be transformed is given to all of us, not just a chosen few. AND however humble our individual paths may seem, each light matters.

If we look more closely at Nelson Mandela, the AND part of heroic achievements that changed lives all over the globe is that there are areas of his life where he may not have achieved such success. AND these parts are not the story we will tell or for which we will be most grateful. It is for his courage, light, humanity, and leadership that he will be remembered. AND the same is possible for all of us. It is not about being perfect. It is about being devoted to what we know in our hearts is our work in the world.

A client recently relayed the story of a young child who was being praised a number of “admirable” traits. AND without any hesitation, this child added, “And I also hit.” The beauty of her truth, her unwillingness to be praised for an incomplete of picture of how she sees herself evidences a kind of innocence or truth-telling that we learn to damper as we age in order to be socially approved or validated.

The small indiscretions, times where we take less than courageous actions or fail to step into our light do not become the main theme of the story of our lives when we choose to follow inner truth—at all cost. The projects we lead, work we do, places we work, and relationships in our lives are not the content of our lives. They are the context, the circumstances, the backdrop, against which we are invited to live into our life’s highest light.

AND doing so is a gift to all we touch, whether we know it or not. Stories will be written and told. We have no control over what others say. The ultimate truth is in our hearts and following that truth with absolute devotion is the highest level of service and contribution we will make in this world. Whatever it takes to step into that light, Nelson Mandela is a reminder to do it now.

One Response to “AND Recognize Context”

  1. Adriana says:

    Thanks for having touched my heart again AND again.
    Like the powerful voice of a little child. So powerful AND so true.
    Un bacio

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