Mpho Tutu was careful to mention her mother several times when she was speaking on stage at Greenbelt festival in August, “I have a mother. Her name is Leah.” This remark always brought forth laughter and cheers, but it is Mpho Tutu’s father who most of us will be familiar with.
Archbishop Desmond Tutu was a key part of the struggle against Apartheid. Denounced for ‘bringing politics into the Church’, repeatedly censored and arrested and suffering all the indignities and violence that black people faced under the brutally racist South African regime, he nevertheless became an icon of hope and forgiveness, eventually chairing South Africa’s Truth and Reconciliation Committee (TRC). The TRC applied the Christian principles of grace and forgiveness to the terrible crimes committed by many white and some black people during the years of Apartheid, on both sides of the political divide. Those who confessed fully were granted amnesty. Those who did not want to participate were punished. South Africa averted civil war and the healing of the ‘Rainbow Nation’ began with an outspoken Christian campaigner for justice at its moral helm.
Growing up in the shadow of a father as celebrated for his goodness as Desmond Tutu is can’t be easy. “It’s very hard to stay angry with him,” says Mpho, “but I can figure out how!”
Nevertheless she has had cause to forgive. Not her father, necessarily, though. “Most of the time, my having to forgive my father has been around the way he pours himself out,” Mpho says. “He is over 80, not under 18.” She describes her father as being exactly the same in private as our public perceptions of him. “The way he appears in the world is the way he is: kind, loving, lovable, affirming and accepting.”
But, from her grandfather’s abusive relationship with her father and grandmother to the murder of a close employee, and the larger journey of forgiveness black South Africans have undertaken, Mpho Tutu has done the hard work of forgiveness. Here are some key insights she shared:
Ten quotes about forgiveness from Mpho Tutu
- “We keep being told that forgiveness is good, but nobody tells us how to get there from here. We know that we should and we know why we should, but not how. “
- “Forgiveness does not subvert justice. The thief on the cross was forgiven, but he still died on that cross.”
- “The grace and beauty of forgiveness is that ultimately it doesn’t depend on the one who injured us. Even if there is no remorse or repentance, it is still possible to forgive.”
- “We often touch our story and then run away from it, because it is a tender place. We want to deal with it, but it seems too difficult. The hope is in having a handbook… a process through which I can come to forgiveness.”
- “The starting point of forgiveness is always telling the story.”
- “Asking forgiveness is not demanding forgiveness. It’s a way of saying: ‘I recognise I have wronged you, and you are worth more than the way I have treated you. It may help the other on their forgiveness journey.”
- “The best piece of advice I was given when I married was: ‘Be kind to each other. Forgive each other every day.'”
- “Forgiveness steps you out of being a victim and allows you to be a survivor.”
- “Forgiveness allows you not to be defined by the one who harms you.”
- “The invitation to forgiveness is the invitation to a beautiful place.”