With all the hardship in the world, it can sometimes be easy to look around and wonder if there's any goodness.
That's why Archbishop Desmond Tutu and his daughter, Rev. Mpho Tutu, say they wrote their new book called "Made For Goodness." They say that joy and goodness can be found anywhere, if we would only look for it.
"Each kindness enhances the quality of life," they write. "Each cruelty diminishes it."
Read an excerpt of the book below, and then head to the "GMA" Library to find more good reads.
In the bad old days of apartheid the accusation was deadly. Any black person suspected of collaborating with the hated South African security police risked a grisly death. Here the suspected informer was down on the ground, beaten and bloodied. Tempers in the crowd were already frayed. It was yet another in a long procession of the struggle funerals: Duduza Township, east of Johannesburg, in July 1985. It was thought that police had killed the four young men we had come to bury. And now the crowd had their hands on a man they accused of being a police spy. They were preparing the petrol-filled tire that was to be his fiery "necklace."
Without pausing to think, I waded into the middle of the angry mob. "Do you accept us as your leaders?" I asked. They seemed rather reluctant, mumbling. "If you accept us as your leaders, you have to listen to us and stop what you are doing." As I desperately tried to reason with the crowd a car arrived, and my colleague Bishop Simeon Nkoane was able to spirit the injured man away. It was only afterward, when I saw it on television, that I considered my own peril. I tell this not as a story of my heroism but as an illustration of the violence we can inflict upon one another.
I am no dispassionate observer of the litany of crime and cruelty that assaults us at every turn. For three long years I served as the chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commission, our attempt to cleanse our nation's soul from the evil of apartheid. For days on end I listened to horrific stories of abuse. I cannot tell you how many times my heart broke as I listened to the confessions of perpetrators and the testimony of victims. Indeed, at times I became sick to my stomach at the horror of what I heard.
It is not only what I have heard of human depravity that has made my stomach churn, but also what I have seen. As the president of the All Africa Conference of Churches, I made a pastoral visit to Rwanda in 1995, a year after the genocide. I went to Ntarama, where hundreds of Tutsis had fled to the church for safety. The year 1994 was not the first time that interethnic violence had gripped Rwanda. With each previous eruption of fighting any church became A refuge, a sanctuary from the insanity beyond its walls. In 1994 the Hutu Power movement respected no sanctuary. Tutsi people were slaughtered in churches throughout Rwanda. The Ntarama church was no different. It provided no safety for the people, mostly women and children, who had cowered there. The floor was strewn with a record of the horror that had occurred in that place. Clothing and suitcases were scattered among the bones. The small skulls of children lay shattered on the floor. The new government had not removed the corpses, so the church was like a mortuary, with the bodies lying as they had fallen the year before. The stench was overpowering. Outside the church building was a collection of skulls, some still stuck with machetes and daggers. I tried to pray. I could only weep. All over the world people have inflicted unspeakable violence on other people. On missions to the Sudan, to Gaza, and to Northern Ireland I have borne witness to some of the viciousness that human beings can unleash on each other.
Brutality can be as intimate as it is global. Our cruelties are played out in the intimacy of our own homes and neighborhoods as much as they are experienced on the world stage. I have shared my daughter Mpho's anguish as she has described some of her experiences in ministry to me. She has worked with rape survivors in South Africa: a fifteen-year-old girl who spent countless nights sleeping in the school bathroom to escape her father's molestation and her mother's rage and impotence. Mpho cared for an eight-year-old girl twice violated by a neighbor. Because the neighbor had threatened to kill her family, the frightened child named someone else as the perpetrator the first time she was molested. It was only after the second assault that she dared to tell the truth. My daughter sat with an eighty-year old woman brutalized by a stranger. She listened as the doctor who attended the victim struggled to contain her own distress: "The genital lacerations were so ragged and awful, I hardly knew where to begin to sew her up." In Massachusetts, Mpho worked with women of many races and every economic stratum who had fled from domestic violence to homelessness. She has been with wealthy women too ashamed to turn to their friends for support or shelter, and poor women who had nowhere to go. She has provided pastoral counseling to families struggling with the effects of substance abuse: loss of livelihood, loss of self-respect, frayed family ties, and, often, violence.
As married persons, as priests, and as parents we have both encountered the disappointments, failures, and despair that can infect human relationships. Hearing my mother's screams and my father's drunken beatings, I have known that noxious brew of fear and rage that courses through a small boy. Even as adults in our own marriages, we have both known moments when the joy of marriage shrivels in the heat of a bitter argument.
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.
In the past our survival depended on recognizing and being suspicious of difference. If people were in and of our group, we could assume good intent. If people were not in and of our group, we would be safest to assume evil intentions. Vestiges of that belief are retained in our behavior. Palestinians face Israelis across hopeless barriers of mistrust. Christians shout down Muslims without letting their voices be heard. And we argue endlessly about the efficacy of racial profiling in keeping our communities safe.
What the catalogue of fault lines illustrates is that the atomized homogeneous groups that existed in the past are no longer the truth of our world. Our planet will not survive if we cling to the verities of the past. We must recognize that we are part of one group, one family -- the human family. Our survival as a planet depends on it. We are part of one family, and we are fundamentally good.
What difference does goodness make? Goodness changes everything. If we are at core selfish, cruel, heartless creatures, we need to fight these inclinations at every turn and often need strong systems of control to prevent us from revealing our true (and quite ugly) selves. But if we are fundamentally good, we simply need to rediscover this true nature and act accordingly. This insight into our essential goodness has shifted how I interact with other people; it has even shaken how I read the Bible.
Goodness changes the way we see the world, the way we see others, and, most importantly, the way we see ourselves. The way we see ourselves matters. It affects how we treat people. It affects the quality of life for each and all of us. What is the quality of life on our planet? It is nothing more than the sum total of our daily interactions.
Each kindness enhances the quality of life. Each cruelty diminishes it.
If we believe that we are fundamentally cruel and selfish, we act accordingly. The targets of our nastiness feel the effects of our malice. And the consequences of our cruelty are evident in our health. Meanness shows on our faces. Churlishness shows up in our bodies as stress and illness. It is also true that when we recognize our fundamental goodness, we act differently. And we feel different. We are happier, healthier. God is pretty smart. It feels good to be good. And we know it! When we attend to our deepest yearnings, our very nature, our life changes forever, and, person by person, so does our world. We are made for goodness by God, who is goodness itself. We are made for and like God, who is the very essence of goodness. The creation stories in the Hebrew Bible underline these truths about us. These stories do not set out to tell us scientific facts. They set out to tell us governing truths, truths that affect how we live our lives. Whether, like Mpho and me, you read the Bible as sacred text or, if as one who does not share in the Abrahamic faiths, you read it merely as good literature, it offers insight and wisdom distilled from centuries of human experience. And the fundamental point of the creation stories is that we are made by God, for God, like God. But what does this mean? In the first book of the Bible, the Book of Genesis, there are two creation stories. Each tells a particular truth about us. In the first Genesis story God speaks creation into being. Turn with me to these beautiful words. Let us read them for the profound truth they tell rather than for scientific accuracy.
In the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless void and darkness covered the face of the deep, while a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said, "Let there be light"; and there was light. And God saw that the light was good; and God separated the light from the darkness. God called the light Day and the darkness he called Night. And there was evening and there was morning, the first day. (Gen. 1:1–5)
For five days creation is born from the mouth of God with the words, "Let there be. . . ." Light and darkness; the oceans and the heavens; the sky, the seas, and the dry land; vegetation of every kind: trees and seeds, fruit and flowers; the sun, moon, and stars; the sea creatures and the birds of the air; living creatures of every kind: cattle, wild animals, and creeping things -- all come into being at God's "Let there be. . . ." Then, on the sixth day, there is a change. The storyteller has to give a signal that something momentous is about to occur: instead of the formula for every other act of creation -- "Let there be. . . ." -- for this one, God says, "Let us. . . ." It's as though God has to consult. The entire divine court has to be involved in the emergence of this extraordinary creature that is in the image of God, the likeness of God, who is going to be God's representative, the steward of God's creation.
Then God said, "Let us make humankind in our image, according to our likeness; and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the wild animals of the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps upon the earth." So God created humankind in his image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (Gen. 1:26–27)
And when God has completed this act of creation, God sees not that "it was good," as God said at the end of all the other acts of creation. God sees something more. At the end of this sixth day, "God saw everything that he had made, and indeed it was very good" (Gen. 1:31). All of it was very good, including us; no part of it is inherently evil. We are very good. How can we believe this when we see the horror and grief we inflict on each other? We can believe it because we know that we are made in the very image and likeness of God. We say this not only as a faith statement or creed. We say this because we have found that it is the best way to express who and what we are. Perhaps you, like most of us, really do not understand the incredible creatures we are. Perhaps you have not taken in what it means to be made in the image of God. We forget. Or we don't really believe it. But we are made in the image of God. It is as though we want to be dwarfs when God wants us to be giants.
We are endowed, like the creator, with this gift of creativity. Anyone who has seen a dancer in motion or an artist at work, anyone who has enjoyed the skill of a good cook or watched a child build a sandcastle or make a mud pie knows that human creativity is inherent.
We may apply our creativity to good ends or ill. Human artistry can be used to decorate a home or forge a banknote. Human resourcefulness can combine the chemicals to purify a well or poison a watercourse. The beautiful gardens at the Palace of Versailles in France and at Mount Vernon in Virginia were the fruit of human inventiveness. The minefields that still kill and maim in Angola and Cambodia were also planned and planted by human beings.
In our creativity we are like God. We are also like God in our freedom. God is self-constrained in relationship to us. God leaves us free to choose how we apply our gifts and talents. Like a good parent, God renders God's-self powerfully powerless in the face of our choices. When we see the pride shining in a mother's eyes as her little darling squeals out his first clarinet recital, we can imagine the face of God as God surveys our successes. When we watch the pained calm of a parent listening to a report of his child's misdeeds, we can imagine the anguished eyes of God as God sees us stumble, fall, and fail. In all the diverse expressions of humanity we are made like God.
We are made not only like God but also for God. Planted in the center of our being is a longing for the holy. "Don't you know," the Christian letter writer Saint Paul asks, "that you are a temple of the Holy Spirit?" People of faith treat a temple with the utmost respect and reverence. Even for those of no faith there are places that are accorded the status of temples; for some it might be their house or garden, into which they pour all of their effort and love. My wife, Leah, hates housework but will joyfully spend endless hours tending her garden. Each of our homes has been lovely and well maintained, but our gardens have always been true spiritual oases, places for the soul to be refreshed. For some people it might be an office or workshop that is accorded the status of temple: it is maintained with a kind of reverence.
We are temples of the Holy Spirit. Not just our bodies but our very selves, the essence of our being, is the place in which the Spirit resides. The Spirit within us calls out to God to find its place and its home. Saint Augustine says, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in you." Being made for God means, for us, that anything less than God will not suffice. We are hungry for God, but we don't always know that it is God that we crave. Often we are like the woman who stands at the open refrigerator door at three o'clock in the morning knowing that she is hungry for something but not knowing what it is that she needs, so she shuts the mouth of her hunger with something that merely stupefies but does not satisfy. We stand around feeling a vague dissatisfaction and having no idea of what it is that we actually want. So we shut the mouth of our desire for God with busyness, or with things -- gadgets, gizmos, trinkets, and treasures -- and emerge at the other end recognizing that what we have is not what we need.
We yearn for God, yet we feel lost on the way to our own hearts. We want to live lives of goodness. We long for a teacher and adviser close enough to speak the words of wisdom to guide us. Who is this teacher, this adviser? Many can help us along the way, but in the end it is only God whose advice we really need to hear. But how can we reach God? How can we hear what God has to say to us? God may seem distant and inaccessible. Sometimes we stop hearing the voice of God in our lives. And sometimes, though we hear God's voice, God seems not to speak our language.
In this book we will share how we have learned to talk with God. More importantly, we will tell you how we have heard God speak to us. We will offer some ways you can tune yourself to God's frequency, some ways to understand God's language, ways to listen and hear God's words of guidance for your own life. Ultimately, what stirs us most deeply is what is life giving. What is soul stirring, what is life giving, is of God. We are made for God, who is the giver of life. We are made by God, who holds us in life.
We are animated and held in life by the very breath of God. It is God's breath that sustains us. Let us turn again to the book of Genesis, this time to the second creation story. As the mother of a young child for whom puddles and mud are current wonders, Mpho is always captivated by the image in the second creation story. In that narrative we can almost see God playing in the dirt and creating from the dust the earth being, Adam. And we watch God blowing the breath of life, God's own breath, into this first human.
In the day that the Lord God made the earth and the heavens, when no plant of the field was yet in the earth and no herb of the field had yet sprung up -- for the Lord God had not caused it to rain upon the earth, and there was no one to till the ground; but a stream would rise from the earth, and water the whole face of the ground -- then the Lord God formed man from the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and the man became a living being. (Gen. 2:4–7)
We who are human are being kept in being by the very breath of God from moment to moment. Each moment is a choice of God. If God stopped, even for the fraction of a second, from upholding us, from breathing God's breath into us, we would disintegrate. Which is an incredible statement about God; because God does that even for the ones that we call bad people, evil people. God is as intimate with them as God is intimate with the most saintly. There is not a single person that God gives up on, because God knows that we are made to be like God, who is goodness itself. This is not only a faith claim. It is a scientific fact. Science testifies that goodness is a survival strategy. God created us to depend on each other for our very lives.
As primatologist Frans de Waal explains, "We belong to the category of animals known among zoologists as 'obligatorily gregarious,' meaning that we have no option but to stick together. This is why fear of ostracism lurks in the corners of every human mind: being expelled is the worst thing that can befall us. It was so in biblical times, and it remains so today. Evolution has instilled a need to belong and to feel accepted. We are social to our core." Early studies of human survival have noted the "fight or flight" stress response. Newer research has observed that not everyone responds to stress in the same way: instead of fight or flight, some adopt a "tend and befriend" response. By caring for the young and banding together for protection and support, we have ensured the survival of the species. This pattern of relationship building not only ensures physical survival but also contributes to psychic well-being. Those who have been involved in the more nurturing aspects of child rearing can testify to the psychic satisfaction of rocking a baby to sleep. Mpho and I both know the simple joy of being able to heal a hurt with a kiss and banish midnight monsters with a cuddle. Caring for the weak and vulnerable has health benefits for the caregiver as well as for the recipient of the attention. Elder-care settings have demonstrated the physical and psychological benefits to seniors of caring for small animals. Having a pet to tend can soothe anxious children.
Ubuntu is the Xhosa word used to describe the "tend and befriend" survival behavior. Ubuntu recognizes that human beings need each other for survival and well-being. A person is a person only through other persons, we say. We must care for one another in order to thrive.
The impulse to care, the instinct for goodness, is a shining thread woven into the fabric of our being. As human beings we may tarnish the sheen or rend the fabric of our own goodness. We can act in cruel and heartless ways. But because we are human, we cannot completely rip out and destroy every vestige of the godliness by which and for which we were made. We cannot alter our essence. We are made by God, who is goodness itself. We are made like God. We are made for goodness.
The scripture that we read, the places we have been, the people we have seen, the evidence of science and our own life experience have convinced us that goodness is our essential quality. In the next chapter we will see that "being good" is the wrong goal. Attached to that notion of "being good" are all the "oughts" and "shoulds" that we think will win us the prize we truly crave: God's love and divine favor. We are wearing ourselves out in a quest to buy what is already ours: God's unmerited love. I will begin by sharing a very personal story about unmerited love. But first turn with us into the stillness and listen to God speak with the voice of the heart:
My child, I made you for myself.
I made you like myself.
I delight in you.
My heart aches with pity
When you smother joy under the onslaught of busyness.
Then there is barely a minute
To pause and listen for me.
You run everywhere looking for life,
Searching for the life of life.
All the while I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.
You look for me in the pleasures of life.
Things pile upon things,
Experiences crowd out experiences,
Places run together in a hazy blur,
And still you don't find that one thing that will satisfy you.
But I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.
I made you for myself,
I wanted you.
I made you like myself,
I made you good and I made you free.
Listen! For I have carved in you the heart to hear.
Listen and know that I am near.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.
Before you speak the word of worry or worship I hear you.
Before you sing your delight or moan your anguish I speak.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.
With each breath I choose life for you.
I paint the pattern of joy in your heart and leave it there for you to
I build the frame of your flourishing in the center of your being and
Call you to search it out.
I kindled the spark of goodness in you.
With each breath I fan the flame.
I am here.
I am as close as a prayer.
I am breathing in your breath.
With each breath you choose, my child, for you are free.
Will you breathe with me the breath of life?
Will you claim the joy I have prepared for you?
Will you seek me out and fi nd me here?
Will you whisper the prayer?
Will you breathe in my breath?
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