I’ve lived in South Africa all my life.
It is a beautiful country with an ugly past that sometimes seeps into the future. Pain is etched into its often harsh and unforgiving geography – tattoos of suffering that have not yet faded even under the legendary African sun.
But so, too, is redemption part of this brilliant and brilliantly bewildering land that I’ve called home for the past 33 years. I’ve always had a love-hate relationship with South Africa, I suppose. I’ve cursed it aloud and I have cried for it and I have been silent in the presence of its mountains and its shores and its forests.
And then there are the people. While reference is often made to the blazing African sun, it is the warmth of its people that deserves to be written about in poems and tales of this wonderful, terrible continent.
When a particularly ugly road rage incident – recorded by one of the parties involved using his cellphone camera – recently made headlines, South Africans once again prepared for the inevitable backlash and escalation into something even uglier. I, too, held my breath in anticipation that the event would almost certainly bring out the worst in people, especially the keyboard warriors who so often take to social media to make their political leanings known in the most unappealing of ways.
And then something remarkable happened.
Approximately a week after the incident came under the public’s attention, the two men forgave each other.
With cameras rolling, the two men wash each other’s feet in the traditional Christian display of humility. Whether or not you are religious, it’s difficult to deny the power of this gesture and the unexpected outcome of what could have so easily blown up even further.
As someone who has spent the vast majority of his life mired in negativity and poisoned by thoughts of anger and hatred, watching the video had a profound impact on me. Choosing a path with a more optimistic outlook is something that only recently happened for me, and it happened because I realized that these feelings and thoughts kept me anchored to the past, and how was I ever going to move forward if I remained fixated on what has already come and gone?
Besides the obvious benefits to one’s emotional and psychological wellbeing, letting go of grudges and making the conscious decision to forgive can actually be beneficial to your physical health, as explained in this article published on the website of Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Forgiveness is also mentioned in my article on 20 Ways to be Happier Than You Were Yesterday.
Faith in humanity restored.