By Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu
We all need to forgive, and there are many of us who need forgiveness. The question is, how do we forgive? In their new book, The Book of Forgiving, Archbishop Tutu and his daughter Mpho Tutu share their experiences, the stories of others who have inspired them, and what they have learned about the process of forgiving, to help all of us learn the answer to this. And, they are calling YOU to join the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, to join them in undertaking the path for healing ourselves and our world: www.forgivenesschallenge.com
Many people are disconnected from their feelings and their
own experiences. This is often the result of old suffering that
has caused us to numb ourselves. For this reason we must
sometimes relearn to feel. Reclaiming our ability to feel is
essential for learning to forgive. I have found it often helps
to take a few quiet moments at the end of a day or the end
of a week and take an inventory, to see if I am holding on
to any fresh resentment or harboring any new hurts. When
I take a few quiet moments to reflect, it is easier to feel if
I am in pain. Often I am not even conscious of the hurt,
but I may find it has lodged itself in my body. Sometimes
an unspoken hurt feels like anxiety or an uneasiness in my
stomach—this can be a sign of fear. Sometimes the silenced
pain is experienced as tightness in my chest or a feeling that
tears are sitting close behind my eyes—this can be sadness or
shame. If the body feels unusually tired or heavy, this can be
depression. Any of these can be indicators that there is some
work to be done and some hurts still to be named.
We choose to heal and we choose to move forward by
being brave and vulnerable enough to feel. While human
emotions are universal, they often exist below our consciousness.
The emotional regions of the brain, scientists remind
us, are older than the intellectual regions of the brain. We
had feelings before we could express them. This is often still
the case. We don’t always have the vocabulary to express our
feelings. The more conversant and comfortable you can be
with your emotions, the richer your experience of life will
be, and the more capable you will be of forgiving.
It may be easier to name the hurt when it comes to those
family and friends closest to us. The hurt often cuts deeper
when someone we love causes it, but the risk that comes with
naming the hurt may not be as great. We all have blind spots.
We all have moments when we behave without thought for
other people’s feelings. Even if we thought carefully about every
action, we could never anticipate how all people
Our lives are entwined with one another, friend
and supposed enemy, loved one and stranger, each and every
day. We are one human family. As members of one family,
we will inevitably hurt each other—sometimes
horribly, sometimes unimaginably, and sometimes irrevocably.
Yet as members of one family, for us to flourish there must be forgiveness.
There must be healing.
Excerpted from The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World by Archbishop Desmond Tutu and Reverend Mpho Tutu, reprinted with permission by HarperOne, an imprint of HarperCollins Publishers. Copyright 2014.
To sign up for the Tutu Global Forgiveness Challenge, visit forgivenesschallenge.com.
Anglican Archbishop DESMOND M. TUTU won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and the Templeton Prize in 2013, and was the founding chair of The Elders from 2007 to 2013. In 1986 he was elected Archbishop of Cape Town, the highest position in the Anglican Church in South Africa, and in 2009 he received the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the United States’ highest civilian honor. In 1994, Tutu was appointed as Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, where he pioneered a new way for countries to move forward after experiencing civil strife and countless atrocities.
The Reverend MPHO A. TUTU, an Episcopal Priest, is currently the executive director of The Desmond & Leah Tutu Legacy Foundation and has run ministries for children in Worcester, Massachusetts; for rape survivors in Grahamstown, South Africa; and for refugees from South Africa and Namibia at the Phelps Stokes Fund in New York City. She is pursuing a doctorate on the subject of forgiveness from Vrije University, Amsterdam. With her father, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, she has authored Made for Goodness and, now, The Book of Forgiving.