Last night Archbishop Desmond Tutu appeared on The Late, Late Show with Craig Ferguson. It was great. This aging leader in the Anglican Communion sitting with one of our greatest jesters was quite a sight indeed. It worked well really since Tutu is so playful and so full of joy himself. Despite the fact that Ferguson is a comedian and not a ‘news man’ this was a great interview.
Ferguson asked the Archbishop if freedom could only be achieved through forgiveness and how it is that he and people like Mandela could get to that place of forgiveness in the face of such horrible hurt. When speaking of Mandela, Tutu articulated that he felt that Nelson Mandela learned ‘ubuntu’ forgiveness through suffering. He spoke of the many tragic stories that were told to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and how he too had to learn to forgive. The story of black people being burned across the way from where the perpetrators of such unspeakable violence barbequed and drank beer was mind blowing really. There is no doubt that Tutu is a saint among us. He is quoted having said, "Thus to forgive is indeed the best form of self-interest since anger, resentment and revenge are corrosive of that summum bonum, that greatest good, communal harmony that enhances the humanity and personhood of all in the community,"
This seems to be a theme, the idea of finding forgiveness in the most unspeakable of situations. A few days back I wrote about Immaculée Ilibagiza who said that in her ‘imprisonment’ (being hidden in a pastor’s bathroom for 90 days) she learned to forgive her oppressors. She learned to forgive those who killed her family with machetes. It is Lent, a time to focus on repentance and on forgiveness. There are probably situations in your life where you are holding on to anger or resentment. Tutu said in the interview last night that when we hold that resentment ‘we feel it in our tum, tum." We know in the pit of our gut that we are all tangled up with anger. Surly if Mandela, Tutu, Ilibagiza can forgive such atrocities we might be encouraged to look inside of our own suffering and find a way to forgive those in our lives who have harmed us. Because it is true, it is our self-interest to learn to forgive.
"Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us."
If we have uttered those words lately we need to think hard about how we can make it happen.