Nelson Mandela – Died Empty (1918-2013)


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I was only 15 when Nelson Mandela became the first black president of South Africa. His achievements will be remembered for generations, both in his country and across the world. Today the world mourns the loss of this icon of peace and reconciliation. 

Though I hadn’t studied the life of Nelson Mandela, I was aware of his imprisionment for 27 years and his fight to to bring down South Africa’s racial segregation policy, apartheid. I know that he won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1993, became the first black president in South Africa in 1994, and from the movie Invictus, gained insight into a variety of complexities in his personal and political life. 

My blog carries the moniker, “Dying Empty.” I figured taking a moment to reflect on the legacy and life of Nelson Mandela would be most appropriate.

Nelson Mandela was a man who definitely died empty.  President Barack Obama said yesterday, “He achieved more than could be expected of any man.”

Though dying empty is not meant to speak only of the quantity of our achievements, but rather the quality, Nelson Mandela’s life succeeded in both. 

Today I started to read news articles and wikipedia pages about Mandela. I see there was a lot more to his life than I was aware of. There was drama and conflict, family tragedies and marital infidelities.

As I grow in age and experience, I’ve learned to appreciate the fuzzyness of life. The twists and turns, mistakes and unplanned events happen to us all. But in the lives of people who achieve world recognition, the highs and lows are often much greater. But world changers and inspirational leaders seem not to stumble over their lows. They find a way to press on.

“One must be more passionate to obey God, than to avoid sin.” Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Dying empty requires a consuming passion that trumps everything else. As a Christian, this passion is rooted in or prompted by God, but it plays out in tangible ways that improve the lives of our fellow man.

The full life of Mandela, ups and downs, good and bad, decades of imprisionment and triumphs in old age encourage me to persevere. I am inspired to pay attention. To pay homage and to honor, even if it’s just one blog post.

You don’t know how your life will end. But if you want to live a life of impact, never give up on what you really care about. No matter how simple it is or how large, live true to your own passions. Allow the stories of greatness, past and present to be your source of encouragement.

Brush off your failures and mistakes of past and try again today.

Create a great day. 

Die Empty.

Arvell Craig