The following is an excerpt from an email to an old (mostly) virtual colleague with whom I’ve recently reconnected. The topic of forgiveness came up:

Forgiveness is, as you note, key to healthy relationships, if not all of the human condition. Most people are aware of Bishop Tutu’s outspoken battle against Apartheid, but not many are aware of his work among black South Africans encouraging them to forgive whites for decades of cruelty and deprivation. You can imagine that it was not a popular position among many of his peers – like asking a holocaust survivor to forgive the Nazis.

I was fortunate enough to be a member of a large church in Pasadena where Bishop Tutu came for a couple months each summer to teach (and escape the South African government’s persecution). He and I both taught Sunday school… the great man choosing to take a humble role just like any other parishioner. I found it hard to even conceive of his concept of blacks forgiving the then still-ongoing persecution. He really opened my eyes, and heart, to the capacity of one human to forgive another.

I always felt a special presence when he was in the room – hard to describe, but others have described feeling the same way about Ghandi, Mother Teresa and other “saints.”

Nelson Mandela (I think) said that without forgiveness, South Africa would not be possible. While it’s far from perfect, I guess the whole world recently had a glimpse of a nation that has begun to heal. Such is the power of forgiveness, and it’s something that each of us can do. Untangle the Middle East? Northern Ireland?. It can be…


About Chris Gulker

Chris Gulker, a self-described Infuential Blogger, lived in Menlo Park, California with spouse Linda. He passed away in late October 2010.
This entry was posted in All, My Brain, New Life, Photos, Taking Faith, The countdown. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Forgiveness

  1. Matthew D-G says:

    You’ve been holding out on me! You never told me you taught Sunday school with Bishop Tutu! (Gee, I wonder how many people can say that?). I think most people think of forgiveness as something they do to benefit the person being forgiven. While that can be true, I think the biggest beneficiary of any act of forgiveness is the person who does the forgiving. The act of forgiving, assuming it is genuine, releases the anger, resentment and pain that we hold, and frees us to move forward in a more creative way.

  2. Lynne says:

    Forgiveness benefits not only the forgiven but gives grace to the forgiver as so eloquently stated above.

  3. Dave Winer says:

    Hey Chris!

    Great story! You’re so lucky to have met Bishop Tutu.

    I just wrote my own piece about forgiveness, referencing yours.

  4. SirElric says:

    His forgiveness campaign started AFTER the situation was corrected through much of the world applying pressure to South Africa. Do you see this pressure being equaly applied in the middle east where muslim countries would apply pressure to Palestine while western powers applied pressure to Israel? No you don’t so forgiveness is out of reach for now.

  5. Adam Williams says:

    Part of our cynicism about Elon Musk is that none of our government’s investments in Tesla have broken even although SpaceX is more advanced than another SUV. The other part is that his success is a result of the advantages he gained from Apartheid. Who knows if Tesla, SpaceX, Solar City, or PayPal would have been run by a black CEO if Apartheid didn’t exist.

  6. Tutu impressed my sister.
    So he clearly has something about him.

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