What does it mean to be brave?

In a digression from posts about bread, today’s is a short post about virtue – the other half of Virtuous Bread, the organisation that has its roots in insomnia, sourdough obsession, and The Virtue Project, which determined that virtue is the set of behaviours we see when we are forming and maintaining progressive and positive relationships, and that at the heart of this set of behaviours lies forgiveness – both giving it and receiving it.  Meaningful relationships are long and we are imperfect and that means we are highly likely to make mistakes in our dealings with others.  Forgiving and accepting forgiveness are, in the end, all we have to maintain and develop long term relationships.

Today is the morning after Nelson Mandela died.  If anybody embodied virtue it was Mandela who, in his years in prison, decided the only way forward was forgiveness.  He needed to forgive, he needed to accept the forgiveness of others and he needed to convince a frightened and angry nation that they needed to do the same.  His world view and his leadership agenda were based on this and reading the papers today in Cape Town – moving beyond the tributes and the obits and the announcement of the current president – demonstrated just how far the situation in South Africa has sunk.  The papers are full of stories about institutionalised corruption, greed, obfuscation, and injustice and nothing at all – nothing at all – justifies any of it.  This is not the behaviour of people who have forgiven.  It is the behaviour of angry and hateful people who feel entitled, and who take what they feel they are entitled, to take.  Hang the cost and devil take the hind most, if you will.

My husband, who interviewed and photographed Mandela in 2008, is genuinely saddened by his death and wrote to me today that he feels comfort in the fact that I am here, close to the final resting place of Mandela.  He also wrote that his heart feels a little bit smaller today as a result of Mandela’s death and I am sure that other people who are genuinely mourning Mandela’s death feel the same way.  And so mourners should mourn – sing and dance, ululate, dress up in a colourful shirt and hug people and smile, sit and sob.  Do whatever works for you because in the end the fact is that all of our hearts need to grow, just a little bit, to make up for the giant heart we have lost.

Forgive someone today.  Accept forgiveness from someone today.  That is what bravery is.  That is what Mandela was. And that is the best way to honour his memory.  Through virtue.

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