Forgiveness is a gift to yourself, says the Arch

2014-05-04 15:00

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In a new book on forgiveness, Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu reveals how he cowered as a young boy while his father abused his mother in fits of alcohol-fuelled rage.

The Book of Forgiving?–?which Tutu co-wrote with his youngest daughter, Mpho?–?offers deeply personal glimpses into the 82-year-old church leader’s life, showing how ­painful incidents shaped his thinking.

At the book’s launch at St George’s Cathedral in Cape Town on Tuesday, Tutu said: “When we forgive, it is not something you do for the other person; it is a gift for ­yourself.

“Anger can actually make you sick, you can get stomach ulcers. Forgiveness is the healthy option, really.”

Mpho Tutu, an Episcopal priest and founder of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage, called the book a “road map?...?a practical guide on how to get from the anguish of having been hurt to the freedom of forgiveness”.

It is dedicated to Angela Machinga, Mpho’s former domestic worker, whom she found murdered at her Milnerton home two years ago.

The first chapter begins with Tutu relaying painful memories from his formative years: “There were so many nights when I, as a young boy, had to watch helplessly as my father verbally and physically abused my mother. I can still recall the smell of alcohol, see the fear in my mother’s eyes.”

On page 194, he writes: “When I reflect back across the years to his drunken tirades, I realise now that it was not just with him that I was angry. I was angry with myself.

“Cowering in fear as a boy, I had not been able to stand up to my father or protect my mother.”

Tutu also reflects on how he learnt to forgive numerous slights and aggressions by white people during apartheid.

Of former president PW Botha, he writes: “We shared a long history, he and I. Over these many years our relationship had changed again and again...

“I had forgiven him for the injuries of the past. We were in a new relationship. Now we were just two South African men,” he writes.

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