Few religious voices need no introduction. Desmond Tutu is one of them.
As the former Archbishop of Cape Town, Tutu became a leading human rights advocate who has championed causes such as poverty, racism, homophobia, sexism, HIV/AIDS and war. He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 and the U.S. Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2009. In his newest work, The Book of Forgiving (co-authored with his daughter, Mpho Tutu), he offers four steps to forgiving and healing:
- Telling the Story
- Naming the Hurt
- Granting Forgiveness
- Renewing or Releasing the Relationship
Here, we discuss this process, how his experiences with apartheid relate to it, and how he answers those who’ve criticized it.
RNS: Your first step to forgiveness and healing is to “admit the wrong and acknowledge the harm.” Doesn’t that just dredge up old pain?
DT: For both the offender and the victim, the pain is there, often unacknowledged and that is when it can cause harm through festering. When I ignore a physical wound, it does not go away. No, it festers and goes bad. [tweetable]It may be initially painful to open up a wound, but then it can be cleaned out and cauterized.[/tweetable] And you can pour a healing balm.
RNS: Another step you list is “asking for…and granting forgiveness.” How do you forgive someone who doesn’t think they’ve done anything wrong?