The anger, violence, hatred, and killing that goes on every day is hard to stomach. The combined greed, ignorance, and short-sightedness of humanity are now shafting the Earth. In this startling work, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984 and former Chairman of South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation Commisson, and his daughter Mpho, executive director of the Tutu Institute for Prayer and Pilgrimage in Washington, D.C., state that murder and greed are not the norm for human behavior: the norm is goodness. These two Episcopal ministers set out to make a case that goodness changes everything: the ways we see ourselves, the world, and others.
In the creation story, the Tutus discover that human beings have been made in the image of God, endowed with creativity, and challenged to see themselves as made for God. "The impulse to care, the instinct for goodness, is a shining thread woven into the fabric of our being." Africans have understood this: "Ubuntu is the Xhosa word used to describe the 'tend and befriend' survival behavior. . . . A person is a person only through other persons, we say." In their assessment of goodness, the Tutus go on to discuss the grace of God as unmerited love; the toxins of guilt, shame, and nervous questing; the futility of aiming for an anxious flawlessness; the preciousness of the human freedom to choose; dealing with the habits of wrongness; suffering as part of the human condition; the trials and treasures that failure can bring; why God allows us to follow our own paths; going home to goodness; hearing God's voice; and seeing with God's eyes.
Along the way, the Tutus share vignettes and experiences from their lives and ministries. They also ponder the Scripture and let poems at the end of each chapter spell out the mysteries encountered on the Christian path. In the last chapter, the authors suggest a spiritual practice to help us see ourselves as God sees us:
"God's gaze is like the gaze between lovers wrapped in a tender embrace. God looks at us the way a mother looks lovingly at her newborn baby. If you can see the loving gaze between mother and child in your mind's eye, you can begin a small meditation on being held in God's loving gaze. Once you are able to fix the gaze in your mind, put yourself in the sight line of the one gazing. Allow yourself to be the subject of that long, loving look. In this way you can imagine, then experience, the loving gaze that God turns to us. As we allow ourselves to accept God's acceptance, we can begin to accept our own goodness and beauty. With each glimpse of our own beauty we can begin to see the goodness and beauty in others."