Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Nobel Peace Prize winner, Chair of The Elders, and Chair of South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, along with his daughter, the Reverend Mpho Tutu, offer a manual on the art of forgiveness—helping us to realize that we are all capable of healing and transformation.
Tutu's role as the Chair of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission taught him much about forgiveness. If you asked anyone what they thought was going to happen to South Africa after apartheid, almost universally it was predicted that the country would be devastated by a comprehensive bloodbath. Yet, instead of revenge and retribution, this new nation chose to tread the difficult path of confession, forgiveness, and reconciliation.
Each of us has a deep need to forgive and to be forgiven. After much reflection on the process of forgiveness, Tutu has seen that there are four important steps to healing: Admitting the wrong and acknowledging the harm; Telling one's story and witnessing the anguish; Asking for forgiveness and granting forgiveness; and renewing or releasing the relationship. Forgiveness is hard work. Sometimes it even feels like an impossible task. But it is only through walking this fourfold path that Tutu says we can free ourselves of the endless and unyielding cycle of pain and retribution. The Book of Forgiving is both a touchstone and a tool, offering Tutu's wise advice and showing the way to experience forgiveness. Ultimately, forgiving is the only means we have to heal ourselves and our aching world.
Though ostensibly retired from public life, Nobel Peace Prize winner and emeritus archbishop Desmond Tutu still has much to say. His newest book on forgiveness in some ways extends and applies the lessons of his pathbreaking No Future Without Forgiveness (1999). Both books draw on his experience heading South Africa's post-apartheid Truth and Reconciliation Commission, but this is freshly informed with experiences that include smaller slights and insults as well as more traumatic wrongs, among them the murder of the housekeeper of Mpho Tutu, daughter of Desmond Tutu. The father-daughter pair relate stories but also include instructions on how to forgive, as well as scientific and moral reasons to do so. No one is unforgiveable; it takes a moral icon such as Tutu to credibly assert this. The book may get a boost from the recent death of Nelson Mandela, about whom Tutu says, "It took 27 years for him to be transformed from an angry, unforgiving young radical into an icon of reconciliation " This book belongs on nightstands, shelves, and altars everywhere.