DLGP

Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

This is Costly

Written by: on September 15, 2022

When we think of people like Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, we admire who they are and their contribution to the world. Therefore, we are not surprised at the magnanimity by which people hold them. How did they become so admired by the world? What did they do to capture the world’s respect?

         In reading the stories of Mandela and Tutu, it is evident that the road to a magnanimous life lived well for the world, one can’t expect popularity every step of the way. In fact, the lives of Mandela and Tutu display that one can commit to a cause as inspiring as racial reconciliation, and still receive criticism from all fronts. Mandela and Tutu were committed to racial reconciliation that involved extending forgiveness to the oppressors. This was not a popular idea. Many white people did not feel like they needed to be forgiven or even desired reconciliation and relationship for that matter. They mockingly called the Truth and Reconciliation Commission the “Kleenex commission.”[1] And many of the black South Africans wanted retributive justice delivered rather than forgiveness. In reading Tutu’s accounts of terror inflicted in No Future without Forgiveness, one can hardly blame them.

         The Jewish psychologist Viktor Frankl wrote about an experience he had after recently being freed from a concentration camp. He recounts one day walking with a fellow survivor in his renowned Man’s Search for Meaning:

A friend was walking across a field with me toward the camp when suddenly we came to a field of green crops. Automatically, I avoided it, but he drew his arm through mine and dragged me through it. I stammered something about not treading down the young crops. He became annoyed, gave me an angry look and shouted, “You don’t say! And hasn’t enough been taken from us? My wife and child have been gassed – not to mention everything else – and you would forbid me to tread on a few stalks of oats.”[2]

Desmond Tutu was aware of this vicious reality. He writes, “Tragically, those opposing apartheid frequently became brutalized themselves and descended to the same low levels as those they were opposing.”[3] The key was to lead people down the road of forgiveness to heal the wounds of the country. This was not the road to take when one wants to be popular. For this third way of justice, the way of truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation – as opposed to thwarting justice or pushing for retribution – was the road less traveled. Being remembered as magnanimous figures was no guarantee.

         But this is the road men like Mandela and Tutu chose. Mandela was regularly criticized, especially by the ANC (the anti-apartheid organization he was a leader in).[4] But Mandela knew that healing the wounds of a country divided by racism meant choosing to work with white people. He was even eager to practice his Afrikaans, which was the language of the oppressors.[5] But when we realize that we all share in our humanity before we separate due to differences, we are less likely to be tribal and see ourselves in an “us versus them” dualism. This dualism that Mandela and Tutu avoided, as the late Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes, “leads you to see yourself as a victim. And It allows you to commit altruistic evil, killing in the name of the God of life, hating in the name of the God of love, and practising cruelty in the name of the God of compassion.”[6] Leading people away from this dualism required Mandela to “move out ahead of the flock, go off in a new direction, confident that he is leading his people the right way.”[7] The risk of stepping out only to have no one follow you is the risk a leader sometimes faces.

         In reading the experiences of Nelson Mandela and Desmond Tutu, I cannot escape the fact that living a great life of service to others cannot be divorced from criticism. The question I have to ask myself is this: do I want popularity, or do I want to commit my life to serving others? One is easy. The other is costly but far more meaningful. And the work of peace-making in our world is costly. But it is a cost worth counting and committing to. As Tutu writes, “Cheap reconciliation is keeping peace when there is no peace. Real reconciliation is costly. It cost God the death of His only begotten Son.”[8]

 

[1] Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (Crown Publishing Group, 2009), 163.

[2] Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning, Gift Edition (Beacon Press, 2014), 85.

[3] Desmond Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness (Crown Publishing Group, 2009), 197.

[4] Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 417, 590.

[5] Ibid. 545

[6] Jonathan Sacks, Not in God’s Name: Confronting Religious Violence (Schocken Books, 2017) 54.

[7] Mandela, Long Walk to Freedom, 526.

[8] Tutu, No Future Without Forgiveness, 270.

 

About the Author

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David Beavis

David is Australian by birth, was raised in Southern California, and is the Youth and Young Adults Pastor at B4 Church in Beaverton, Oregon. David and his wife, Laura, live in Hillsboro with their dog, Coava (named after their favorite coffee shop). M.A. Theology - Talbot School of Theology B.A. Psychology - Vanguard University of Southern California

4 responses to “This is Costly”

  1. mm Jean de Dieu Ndahiriwe says:

    David, I liked reading your blog and the questions you asked, “do I want popularity, or do I want to commit my life to serving others?” It hard looking at what these men had to suffer especially Mandela. He faced very harsh treatment for a long time trying to serve others. Most of us are unfortunately tempted to take easy road do the least costly and die safe don’t we? Looking forward to meeting you next week and learn more with our team.

  2. Jenny Steinbrenner Hale says:

    David, Thanks for your blog post this week. I really appreciated your theme regarding good leadership putting one in positions that may not be popular, and I found the additions from Frankl and Sacks interesting! Your statement, “The risk of stepping out only to have no one follow you is the risk a leader sometimes faces,” is sobering, but somehow I think it instills courage in your reader. I am inspired by Tutu and Mandela’s selflessness, self-reflection, and intense growth trajectory over the course of their lives. Looking forward to future conversations as to the leaders we are becoming in light of the individuals we are reading and the experiences we are encountering and contemplating.

  3. Audrey Robinson says:

    David,
    You raised many thought-provoking, reflective questions. But unfortunately, standing up for justice, truth, forgiveness, and reconciliation is the road less traveled today. It wasn’t popular for Mandela and Bishop Tutu, and it will be less so for us today due to the divisive nature of the topic.

    Becoming Brave author, Brenda Salter McNeil wrote of the need to speak the truth, which will mean being unpopular. But, she wrote, “reconciliation happens by repairing broken systems and confronting power.” (Page 191.)

    What road do you envision yourself traveling?
    Audrey

  4. Michael O'Neill says:

    Great post! Your comment from Tutu regarding men who were oppressed or brutalized and often sought similar acts in return made me immediately think of a situation that entered my home recently. I was attempting to share some biblical words of wisdom with my daughter who came to me with some recent drama that was taking place at her dance studio. I advised her not to get involved in “girl drama” but since she is a girl, and drama is in her DNA, she needed to learn how to deal with it. I started with Jesus and turning the other cheek but as the words came out of my mouth I was reminded that this is an extremely difficult concept for most adults to master. How can I expect my frustrated 11-year old to show heavenly poise when everything in this world accepts, if not encourages, a selfish, “me-first,” eye-for-an-eye mindset? I found this conversation to be extremely special and humorous as the intensity of this certain scene unfolded before me, also realizing in her very detailed story that she had almost nothing to do with any of this debacle and only being defensive for some girls that were chastised. I actually admired the reasoning behind her frustration and appreciated her not acting on any of her ridiculous initial impulses.

    • I apologize for this winded story. There is a point.

    I asked her how – in any way shape or form – she could think of a way to get revenge and not be just as guilty as the person that initiated the wrong? I asked her to walk me through some hilarious options of revenge and then how these may affect many different people involved. I was cracking up at some of her ideas but bottom line; she solved her problem for herself when she was able to see how ridiculous retaliation is and that no one wins. I told her that even if there was temporary satisfaction; you would now be just as guilty and simply no better. We are commanded to be different and it’s not our place to take action in this department. I asked her if she were allowed to speak on my behalf or do the “dad things” that I do. She nodded “no.” I said this is no different with God. He’s our heavenly father and this is a “dad thing” that falls under his jurisdiction, not ours. I promised that he would deal with the girl at the dance studio but not to overlook a potential opportunity to show light, maturity, class, and Godliness. I told her that God may very well be using her to show something to this “mean girl” and all the girls involved. I reminded her that actions speak much louder than words, that she was a leader whether she liked it or not. Lastly that her ability to rise above anyone or anything that tries to bring her down will be testament of God’s glory. It’s not even the people that are the problem. It’s the sin in this world acting out through people. I promised her that God would have her back on this. And so would I.

    “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Eph 6:12). I truly wish the world was less aggressive in so many ways and we would just realize it’s not men we’re fighting against. We’re all on the same team! People don’t get it. Governments don’t get it. It’s really a shame. Tutu’s and Mandela’s magnanimous character was a beautiful example of forgiveness and focus. I admire their character and relentless will power. We need more leaders like this. More people to be willing to stand up for what is right. To stand up for the Glory of God and not waiver. To fight evil and not men. To be willing to suffer the consequences and be strong in the faith. I’m praying for future Mandela’s and Tutu’s of the world and that my daughter may follow in similar footsteps one day too.

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