How Nelson Mandela Can Save Your Marriage


If you allow Nelson Mandela's principles and life’s work to sink in, they can truly save your marriage.

In 1990 one of the world’s most famous prisoners was released from Robben Island Prison, Nelson Mandela. Mandela then went on to win the election for President of South Africa becoming the country’s first black president! That’s right, South Africa, which used to be known as a nation of haters because of their Apartheid government was now run by a black man. This man, Nelson Mandela, if you allow his principles and life’s work to sink in, they can truly save your marriage. How? What I love about this post is that I do not even have to make a stretch on how to relate the ultimate work of Nelson Mandela to the saving of your marriage.

When Mandela took office I can remember wondering if he was going to go about the business of paying back all the harm done to blacks in South Africa through Apartheid. It would make sense, right? The way blacks were treated for generations in South Africa was disgusting, cruel, and on a level with evil. As a white American, I can not even begin to relate or understand what it must have been like for blacks during Apartheid. So it made sense to me that they would go after all the main leaders of the hate and punish them severely. No mercy!

Strangely, Mandela did not promote the idea of “getting back” at all the people who were leaders in Apartheid. In fact, he did just the opposite. He issued the strategy of Reconciliation. He wanted his country to move forward, no backward, and to do this he knew the only way was to forgive and reconcile with the enemy. This is not a history post of all the details of Mandela’s policy of reconciliation, but it is important to note that his policy worked. I’ve personally been to South Africa three different times, and I can assure you that things in that country are very different, and for the better, since Mandela took over and lead the way to lasting and authentic change.

How can Mandela save your marriage? One word, reconciliation. If your spouse has hurt you through an affair or lack of interest in the marriage and you decide to hold that against your spouse, then things will never get better. If you are consistently holding the mistakes of your spouse over her head, then you will never recover and experience the joy and healing power of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the only way to move forward in any relationship, but especially in the relationship with your husband or wife.

Reconciliation is not only forgiving someone for their mistakes it is a decision to move forward and go about the work of repairing the damage done in the relationship. Charles Hauss had this to say about further defining reconciliation, “However, almost everyone acknowledges that it [reconciliation] includes at least four critical components identified by John Paul Lederach — truth, justice, mercy, and peace.”

Each one of the four components of reconciliation work beautifully in saving a marriage. If your marriage is stressed out, then first start with the truth. Keeping secrets does not grow couples closer together. Secrets push you further a part. When we keep secrets from our spouse, we are denying access to our full selves. When we deny access to ourselves, fully, then our spouse will feel disconnected. No one wants to feel disconnected. Truth is about loving each other enough to have integrity, even when it is going to hurt.

Justice. At first this word might feel scary. It did to me. But justice is not about punishment. I am understanding justice as being more about love. In the context of marriage, justice can be doing the right thing and standing up for the marriage even thought things are not going well. Justice is about doing good and avoiding harm. Justice fits with reconciliation because it moves us forward and does not take us backward toward revenge or hate. Justice says to me, “I want this to work, so what is it going to take?” Justice is doing good for your spouse and not punishing.

Mercy and peace are easy ones to see in the process of saving a marriage. If you can not have mercy toward each other, you can not have peace. What does every couple want when going through a crisis? Peace. But before peace we must have an attitude of mercy. Mercy is when we decide to love our spouse even though we are not being loved back. Mercy is about making a loud noise with our kindness, graciousness, and humility rather than our shouting, blaming, or pride. When we are merciful, our spouse will respond in kind. It is the natural law of human relationships. Be good to others and they will be good to you. When mercy is running at full speed, peace is not far behind.

Peace is the idea that you can live together in harmony and enjoy each other’s company. Who doesn’t want that in a relationship? Peace is the goal. Peace allows us to sit back and relax on the pleasure of our relationship. There is no crisis in peace. If you want to save your marriage, then spend your energy on reconciliation. Spending energy on bitterness or unforgiveness will only make your life more miserable. It does not have to be that way. You have a choice through the power of one to really turn your attitude around. If you clothe yourself in reconciliation, then you will be setting up the marriage to thrive!

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