Archbishop Desmond Tutu on 'Made For Goodness'

We know all too well the cruelties, hurts, and hatreds that poison life on our planet. But my daughter and I have come together to write this book because we know that the catalogue of injuries that we can and do inflict on one another is not the whole story of humanity, not by a long measure -- as I hope you will see and as you no doubt know in your heart. We are indeed made for something more. We are made for goodness.

We are fundamentally good. When you come to think of it, that's who we are at our core. Why else do we get so outraged by wrong? When we hear of any egregious act, we are appalled. Isn't that an incredible assertion about us? Evil and wrong are aberrations. If wrong was the norm, it wouldn't be news. Our newscasts wouldn't lead with the latest acts of murder or mayhem, because they would be ordinary. But murder and mayhem are not the norm. The norm is goodness.

You can see from the people we truly admire that we are attracted to goodness. We do not revere people who are successful. We might envy them and wish that their money were transferred to our bank account. But the people we revere are not necessarily successful; they are something else. They are good.

Many of us would say we revere Mother Teresa. She wasn't macho. She wasn't even successful. In spite of her many years of lauded and dedicated ministry, people still die in poverty in Calcutta. But even after her death, Mother Teresa is admired, respected, and revered. Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr. Are similarly revered not for their success, although they had important successes, but because of the shining example of their goodness. In our own time Nelson Mandela commands the same kind of admiration. He walks into any place, and people are transfixed -- not because he is mighty and macho, but because he is gracious and good.

You and I, too, are fundamentally good. We are tuned to the key of goodness. This is not to deny evil; it is to face evil squarely. And we can face evil squarely because we know that evil will not have the last word.

Evil cannot have the last word because we are programmed -- no, hard-wired -- for goodness. Yes, goodness can be enlightened self-interest. Kindness builds goodwill. Generosity invites reciprocation. But even if there were absolutely no material benefit to being kind, you can't counterfeit the warm glow that you have inside when you have been kind. You just can't! That glow is something you relish because that's how we've been created. To be hateful and mean is operating against the deepest yearnings that God placed in our hearts. Goodness is not just our impulse. It is our essence.

Recognizing the truth about our goodness matters more now than ever. Our world is shrinking. Modern technology has brought people from the ends of the earth into our living rooms. Our communities have become less homogeneous. People of many cultures, races, religions, and ethnic backgrounds share our neighborhoods and meet on our streets. We can be halfway across the world in less time than it takes to drive halfway across many countries. In the past, conflicts could be contained in one country, one region, one continent. But the push of a button by an anonymous hand can launch a missile that will engulf the world in war.

Page
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...