The prisons in our minds

‘As I walked out the door toward the gate that would lead to my freedom, I knew if I didn’t leave my bitterness and hatred behind, I’d still be in prison’ – Nelson Mandela

I am certainly not the only person who will be writing about the legacy of Nelson Mandela. All South Africans owe him a tremendous debt of gratitude. He was an extraordinary man.

But I find myself reflecting the above quote. So many of us are imprisoned by our thoughts. We are imprisoned by our bitterness at the actions of another, or we imprisoned by regret over our own actions.

Many of us do not even recognise that we are imprisoned. We take for granted the well worn perception of reality which we have uncritically accepted to be ‘the truth’. Nursing scars and wounds for far longer than we should.

This is not to suggest that our wounds are not real. It is not suggest that we need time to grieve, to process and to heal. But too often we accept the resultant crippled response as being the new norm. And in so doing we allow our world to shrink.

True healing requires grace. It requires that we consciously put ourselves in God’s path. It requires that we are willing to be shown a new perspective.

There is nothing quite like the liberation from a thought prison which I have created. I cannot claim a great variety of experience with this, but it has happened at least a few times in my life. In my experience, I always find it challenging to remember quite why it seemed like such a big deal before the freedom has emerged.

Sometimes my prisons are old wounds, sometimes they are identities I have created for myself, sometimes they are both. The trick is to recognise that I am indeed trapped.

Nelson Mandela was released from a real physical prison, but he could so easily have carried the mental prison with him. I am deeply grateful to him for this lesson. It is a lesson I need to return to periodically because it is all too easy to forget.

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