Quotations on Forgiveness from Desmond Tutu (Honorary Board Member of the International Forgiveness Institute)

We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.

Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.

When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.

Forgiving and being reconciled to our enemies or our loved ones are not about pretending that things are other than they are. It is not about patting one another on the back and turning a blind eye to the wrong. True reconciliation exposes the awfulness, the abuse, the hurt, the truth. It could even sometimes make things worse. It is a risky undertaking but in the end it is worthwhile, because in the end only an honest confrontation with reality can bring real healing. Superficial reconciliation can bring only superficial healing.

A person with ubuntu is open and available to others, affirming of others, does not feel threatened that others are able and good, for he or she has a proper self-assurance that comes from knowing that he or she belongs in a greater whole and is diminished when others are humiliated or diminished, when others are tortured or oppressed.


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Categories: Famous People, Our Forgiveness Blog


  1. Chris says:

    I do not always agree with the Rev. Tutu because of his sometimes overly-liberal views, but these quotes on forgiveness and personhood are great. Through his suffering he gets it.

  2. Martha says:

    I very much appreciate that final quote about ubuntu, a South African word for knowing that I am a person because of other persons. We never want to see a fellow “person” tortured or mistreated in any way.

  3. Samantha says:

    Rev. Tutu is saying that the way we think is the way we become. “You are what you eat” has been a common expression to encourage good nutrition choices for health. “You are what you think” is now another challenge to encourage health.

  4. Marta says:

    Sometimes Rev. Tutu is criticized for not going far enough with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. Yet, who else has instituted such a bold political structure to bring fighting people together? Imperfection does not equal defeat.


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