Eighteen years ago I had the honor of spending several hours with a personal hero of mine. This person, one of the people I admire most in my life, is author, Anglican Bishop, and Nobel Peace Prize winner Desmond Tutu. I will never forget those three hours; they still seem to me like they just happened yesterday. Bishop Tutu was in town to lead a worship service and speak at a reception and I was invited to be part of a small group of clergy group that participated in the service. I was fortunate to spend a fair amount of time with Bishop Tutu as part of a small group preparing for the service.
What I remember most was his graceful presence and his sense of humor. He put us all at ease, making us all feel as though we were with a dear friend, someone we had known for years. There was not an ounce of self-importance or pride in this man. He spent a considerable amount of time thanking us for our prayers in support of the work he was doing in South Africa to end apartheid. He also spoke with us that day about how the greatest challenge that he and others were facing in the aftermath of apartheid was learning how to practice and extend forgiveness to the people that caused him and countless others unspeakable hurt and humiliation.
Now, eighteen years later, Desmond Tutu is again talking about the challenge of forgiveness. In fact, Bishop Tutu and his daughter the Rev. Mpho Tutu are inviting all of us to sign up and join them for a 30-day “Forgiveness Challenge” that begins on May 4, 2014. Anyone signing up for the Forgiveness Challenge, will receive daily emails for thirty days. These emails will include exercises to teach us how to forgive, plus inspiring stories and interviews with people who have been transformed through the act of forgiving or through being forgiven. Individuals will also receive excerpts from the Tutu’s new book, “The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World.”
The title of this book rings true for me when it talks about forgiveness as a path to healing ourselves and our world. In my work with our Living Compass wellness program, the topic of forgiveness comes up quite often. Some people talk about needing to forgive another who has hurt them, while others talk about needing to make amends and seek forgiveness from someone they have hurt. In both instances, people are seeking healing by seeking to receive or to offer forgiveness. Forgiveness is on their minds and they know they need to offer or receive it as a step in moving forward toward greater health and wholeness.
Is there someone in your life that you need to forgive? Is there someone from whom you need to seek forgiveness? The forgiveness you need to seek or need to offer, might be related to something that just happened yesterday, a month ago, or many years, even decades, ago. No matter how recent, or how big an issue involved, Desmond Tutu is right to remind us that forgiveness is a challenge. It is a challenge that takes commitment, perseverance, patience, humility, and a deep spirituality.
I’ve signed up for the “Forgiveness Challenge.” I hope you will, too. You can do so by going to forgivenesschallenge.com Together, let’s do our part in healing ourselves and the world.