The other day I engaged in a conversation about “difficult”. It seems like a simple enough word. We have all used it to describe a task or event that we believe requires effort. But what kind of effort is required to define something as “difficult”? My co-conspirator in this linguistic exploration proclaimed that “difficult” is an emotional interpretation, and that although the same effort can be applied by two people, it will not necessarily be perceived as difficult by both. I realize now that an adjective does not necessarily describe the noun that it precedes. “Difficult” is derived from the perception of the initiator, not from the task it describes.
Today, Nelson Mandela has ceased to live on this earth, although, as we all know, he will never cease to exist. As the highlights of his life events were unfolded on the radio, I considered how “difficult” his life was. He sacrificed the raising of all of his children in one way or another, two out of three potentially fulfilling marriages, and decades of freedom to live as we would define as a normal life. But in the final analysis, was this truly “difficult”?
We choose whether to process an experience as difficult as otherwise, don’t we? Nelson Mandela certainly grieved over the deficits of his life. However, the choices he made were made deliberately and with resolve. His willingness to struggle and sacrifice in order to establish a precedence of commitment towards the progress of South African society and the evolution of the black population as a whole can’t qualify as “difficult”. Why? “Difficult” implies some degree of regret, an underlying wish that one could go back and re-choose the “easier” choice. Nelson Mandela, with his unwavering courage to sacrifice and to lead a group of people towards the unknowing, would have never described his experiences as difficult. He was certainly a force to be reckoned with.