Words of Encouragement

When I viewed the movie Invictus, I was very moved by the message that was being sent as I’m sure others were as well. “I am the master of my fate. I am the captain of my soul.” These words were to have been spoken by Nelson Mandela while being imprisoned for over thirty years since 1964 … words that were to have kept his mind and soul intact during his extremely long ordeal as a result of Apartheid inAfrica. The words were taken from a Victorian poem that he would recite to help him stand when all he wanted to do was to lie down. How could simple words provide the incentive to continue to live? What does this all mean? How might we apply the meaning of those words to our lives?

In some ways, we, too, are imprisoned by greed, dishonor, graft, the Great Recession, unethical behaviors, fear of nuclear disaster, world-wide economic breakdown and a strong sense of resentment on the part of most people. As life takes on a sense of impending doom, is it possible that something positive could be salvaged in the process? How can one person with a sense of hope and positive thinking salvage us from the ruins of these catastrophes? To answer this, I am reminded of an exercise that was performed many years ago that was attributable to the Christopher movement where the lights in a sports stadium were turned off. There remained but one person with a lit candle who, in turn, lit the candles of those all around him. Slowly, systematically and almost painfully, the stadium began to light up until the whole complex shone with the brightness of everyone’s’ candles. I’m sure that was quite a spectacle to witness live although I was only able to view it on video.

During hard times, it is so much easier for people to become negative and waddle around as a naysayer in condemnation of what has befallen them. Indeed, it is very difficult to maintain a sense of hope … a sense of positive thinking and behavior … when everyone else is damning everything around them. To complicate matters, in addition to the news media, we now have millions of e-mails circulating suggesting that we need to become consumed with the hate that many feel and wish others to share in. Yes, it certainly is difficult to maintain a sense of balance and a belief that in the final analysis, good will prevail. That point will not be reached without paying a price … perhaps a very heavy price … but part of the human element of survival is based on the willingness to pay that price in order to achieve the “greater good.” Change results from conflict.

If nothing else, history shows that periods of travail may have even been necessary in order to regain a sense of balance in societies. What about our society? Our society is based on certain, specific principles which, although some may attempt to manipulate them, stand like huge rocks being battered by the unrelenting force of the ocean. Still, they stand despite the forces that tend to break them down. Just imagine for a moment, as I have, being incarcerated for some thirty years in an 8 X 10 cell with the only view of the outside world being that of the prison yard where prisoners go daily to break up rocks with a pick axe. Imagine being imprisoned for something that you did not do but for political reasons you have been “chosen” to be punished as a symbol of a movement that others are trying to crush. Imagine the myriad of feelings that might overcome you daily as you ponder your fate. I can’t imagine a more helpless, futile existence with the tendency of all of the negativity that that situation would bring overcoming anyone from time-to-time. Yet, the will to live, to be free … if only in one’s mind … could take over and provide us with a sustenance, an emotional and mental food diet, that would keep us alive both physically and emotionally. The basic instinct to survive and not let an unjust system break us could result in the kind of positive anger that can provide an incentive to go on.  Thoughts and memories of those whom we love and even of those who put us in this dungeon might provide some solace and comfort in the absence of any other form.

We, all of us, have that same power of positive thinking. Realizing that fact and refusing to succumb to the negativity that may tend to automatically fills our hearts and minds is most important in dealing with crises such as the one that we are all now experiencing. Calling on that power is difficult and is even more difficult to sustain it but it can be done. No, it won’t fix anything in our helplessness for that is a long-term goal and not one that be experienced immediately. No, it won’t put monies into our bank accounts because the reality of the situation won’t allow it. but there is something to be said for wanting to survive against all odds.

Yes, Mandela is an extraordinary man … but only a man nevertheless and a beacon for all of us during these difficult times. Take a moment to ponder your power of positive thought and relish the opportunity to use it when you choose to stand tall when life’s circumstances suggest that you should lie down.


Both as a consultant and author, Charles Bonasera’s story-telling have motivated people to change patterns and resolve problems in their lives. All of his books contain valuable, practical lessons that people can easily apply to bettering and managing their lifestyles. He has also written a myriad of articles which can be found on his website at www.charlesmbonasera.com.

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