South African Pilgrimage: Invictus

South African Pilgrimage: Invictus

I am the master of my own destiny

me 014 I am sitting on a flight to South Africa and I have just cried myself through “Invictus”.

I am still processing why it affected me quite as much as it did.

It was certainly a bit of a challenge sitting in economy and trying to manage my emotions.



I purchased a book in the airport, its an old one. “Principle Centred leadership” by Stephen Covey. The plane was delayed by an hour on the tarmac so I had time to get through the first ten chapters.

There was one quote that stood out to me from Eric Fromm:

Today we come across an individual who behaves like an automaton, who does not know or understand himself, and the only person that he knows is the person that he is supposed to be, whose meaningless chatter has replaced communicative speech, whose synthetic smile has replaced genuine laughter, and whose sense of dull despair has taken the place of genuine pain”.

Reading that quote before watching invictus was like looking at a negative and the photo it produces.. Nelson Mandela as portrayed in the movie is the antithesis of the person Fromm describes.

A society told Nelson Mandela who he should be, and he chose not to play the game.

I don’t know whether the poem Invictus really was one of the things that kept Mandela from giving up on Robbin Island (I plan to find out), but the sentiment of the person who chooses to stand against the tide and be “master of my own destiny” is beautiful.

There were a number of scenes that really got to me, one of them was when Mandela went against the will of his own party. His own assistant tries to stop him:

Assistant: ‘I strongly advise doing this, especially on your own. It gives the impression of autocratic leadership. You risk alienating your cabinet and your party.

Mandela : Your advice is duly noted

Assistant: Madiba the people want this. They hate the Springboks. They dont want to be represented by a team they cheered against all their lives.

Mandela: Yes I know but in this instance the people are wrong and as their elected leader it is my job to show them that.

Assistant: You are risking your political capital. You are risking your future as our leader.

Mandela: The day I am afraid to do that is the day I am no longer fit to lead.

Assistant: At least risk is for something more important than rugby

He walks into a meeting who are congratulating themselves on overthrowing a symbol of apartheid in the Springboks. He stands and says”

“Comrades, I am here because I believe you have made a decision with insufficient information and foresight. I am aware of your your earlier vote: I am aware it was unanimous. Nonetheless I believe we should restore the Springboks. Restore their name, their emblem and their colors immediately. Let me tell you why……”

He then explains how on Robbin Island he spent a lot of time trying to understand the Afrikaan psychology and came to understand just how important rugby was to them:

“I had to know my enemy before I prevailed against him, and we prevailed, all of us here prevailed. Our enemy is no longer the Afrikaaner.

They are our fellow South Africans our partners in democracy and they treasure Springbok Rugby.

If we take that away we lose.

We prove that we are what we feared we would be. We have to be better than that.

We have to surprise them with compassion, with restraint and generosity. I know. All of the things that they denied us.

But this is no time to celebrate petty revenge.

This is the time to build our nation, using every single brick available to us: even if that brick comes wrapped in green and gold.

You elected me your leader. Let me lead you now. Who is with me on this? Who is with me?”

With the words of Fromm echoing in my head I was watching a portrayal of a man who knew who he was. A man able to communicate deeply and from the heart. A man able to feel emotion. A man used to carrying pain. A great man.

I cried because I know I am not always like that but I want to be.

I don’t know how much license Clint Eastwood took when writing the screenplay, but he certainly produced a character that affected me deeply.

I have a sense as I sit on this plane that perhaps God might have a thing or two for me to learn on this Pilgrimage to South Africa.

When I can I will upload reflections of the trip and maybe a photo or two. I understand that internet coverage isn’t great so I will see how I go.

While I am away I have also lined up a series of blog posts on “Kingdom D.N.A.” . I don’t know how I have gone in communicating what I was trying to, but I hope you can hear the heart behind what I will be trying to say.

Thanks for your company on the journey.

One thought on “South African Pilgrimage: Invictus

  1. Hey Matt,

    The scene that you wrote about in Invictus also spoke strongly to me. I love the line “the day I am afraid to [risk my future as a leader] is the day that i am no longer fit to lead.” It calls me out on what I am willing to stand for, and about how I do or don’t hold onto ego in leadership. Much to learn, but am greatly encouraged by Mandella. And am looking forward to hearing about what else you learn about him.


    my time in halifax was wonderful. looking forward to when you are back and being able to catch up with you.

    all the best in SA!


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