These Desmond Tutu quotes capture some of the wit and wisdom of the anti-apartheid and human rights activist.
Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu was an activist and social justice advocate from South Africa who dedicated his life to the eradication of inequality.
His voice is one that can be heard around the world, speaking about peace, love, and acceptance of all people. His words are not only touching but also insightful and inspiring.
Here are some great quotes from Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu.
Best Desmond Tutu quotes
If we think we are something special or not special enough, then fear, nervousness, stress, and anxiety arise.
Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread or stick in someone’s back.
There is nothing more difficult than waking someone who is only pretending to be asleep.
It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we measure up as men.
Especially today, there is not much focus on inner values in education. Then, instead of inner values, we become self-centered, always thinking: I, I, I. A self-centered attitude brings a sense of insecurity and fear. Distrust. Too much fear brings frustration. Too much frustration brings anger. So that’s the psychology, the system of mind, of emotion, which creates a chain reaction.
To remain neutral in situations of injustice is to be complicit in that injustice.
People often speak of God being even-handed. God is not even-handed. God is biased, in favor of the weak, of the despised.
We inhabit a universe that is characterized by diversity.
Good Desmond Tutu Quotes
Give a man a fish and feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and feed him for a lifetime. Teach a man to cycle and he will realize fishing is stupid and boring.
We ought not to make people feel guilty when it is painful. It is painful, and you have to acknowledge that it is painful. But actually, even in the midst of that pain, you can recognize the gentleness of the nurse who is looking after you. You can see the skill of the surgeon who is going to be performing the operation on you. Yet sometimes the pain can be so intense that you do not have even the capacity to do that.
Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality, language creates the reality it describes.
Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies.
He’s a tremendous breath of fresh air. The things he [Pope Francis] has done in a short period of time: the fact that he does not live in a huge papal mansion and just dropped by in the dining room where ordinary people have meals. You think of his background, where he didn’t use limousines in South America, that he used public transport. I’m so, so thrilled that he is there at this crucial moment in the history of our world.
I’m coming to believe more and more in the truth that everything we do has consequences. a good deed doesn’t just evaporate and disappear.
I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. I felt fear more times than I can remember, but I hid it, a mask of boldness. The brave man is not to he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.
Motivational Desmond Tutu Quotations
Dream. Dream. And then go for it!
When your dreams turn to dust, vacuum.
I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.
I wish I could shut up, but I can’t, and I won’t.
If we are going to bring about change, then men, for goodness sake, stand up.
Today we have no excuses.
Short Desmond Tutu Quotes
The more time you spend thinking about yourself, the more suffering you will experience.
You must show the world that you abhor fighting.
A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.
Without forgiveness, there’s no future.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
The truth of who we are is that we are because we belong.
You are made for perfection, but you are not yet perfect. You are a masterpiece in the making.
Memorable Desmond Tutu Quotes
It was relatively easy, we now realize, to categorize countries and nations. You knew who your enemies were and whom you could count on as collaborators and friends. And even more importantly, you had ready-made scapegoats to take the blame when things were going wrong.
If you change the names, the description of what is happening in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank would be a description of what is happening in South Africa.
When the missionaries came to Africa, they had the Bible and we had the land. They said: ‘Let us pray.’ We closed our eyes. When we opened them, we had the Bible and they had the land.
Be nice to whites, they need you to rediscover their humanity.
We may be surprised at the people we find in heaven. God has a soft spot for sinners. His standards are quite low.
I would not worship a God who is homophobic and that is how deeply I feel about this. I would refuse to go to a homophobic heaven. No, I would say sorry, I mean I would much rather go to the other place. I am as passionate about this campaign as I ever was about apartheid.
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
Inspirational Desmond Tutu Quotes
The pressure to succeed has a lot to do with why people overstep the line. It is a peculiar weakness of western culture where we have made a fetish of success.
Universal education is not only a moral imperative but an economic necessity, to pave the way toward making many more nations self-sufficient and self-sustaining.
Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for.
What the Dalai Lama and I are offering is a way of handling your worries: thinking about others. You can think about others who are in a similar situation or perhaps even worse a situation, but who have survived, even thrived. It does help quite a lot to see yourself as part of a greater whole
It means a great deal to those who are oppressed to know that they are not alone.
How are we?’ This understanding sees that someone else’s achievements or happiness is a very real way our own. So rejoicing in others’ good fortune really brings a lot of positive benefits.
Finding Joy and Happiness: Desmond Tutu and The Dalai Lama Video
Self-Care Insights by Desmond Tutu
Transformation begins in you, wherever you are, whatever has happened, however, you are suffering. Transformation is always possible. We do not heal in isolation. When we reach out and connect with one another – when we tell the story, name the hurt, grant forgiveness, and renew or release the relationship – our suffering begins to transform.
Much depends on your attitude. If you are filled with negative judgment and anger, then you will feel separate from other people. You will feel lonely. But if you have an open heart and are filled with trust and friendship, even if you are physically alone, even living a hermit’s life, you will never feel lonely.
A compassionate concern for others’ well-being is the source of happiness… a self-centered attitude is the source of the problem. We have to take care of ourselves without selfishly taking care of ourselves. If we don’t take care of ourselves, we cannot survive. We need to do that. We should have wise selfishness rather than foolish selfishness.
All we are asking you to do is to recognize that we are humans too.
Think about it this way. If your health is strong when viruses come they will not make you sick. If your overall health is weak, even small viruses will be very dangerous for you. Similarly, if your mental health is sound, then the disturbances come, and you will have some distress but recover quicker. If your mental health is not good, then small disturbances, and small problems will cause you much pain and suffering. You will have much fear and worry, much sadness and despair, and much anger and aggravation.
Top Desmond Tutu Quotes
We are fragile creatures, and it is from this weakness, not despite it, that we discover the possibility of pure joy.
As soon as I wake up… I remember that everything is interrelated, the teaching of interdependence. So then I set my intention for the day, that this day should be meaningful. Meaningful means, if possible, serve and help others. If not possible, then at least not to harm others. That’s a meaningful day.
If an elephant has its foot on the tail of a mouse and you say that you are neutral, the mouse will not appreciate your neutrality.
We are living in a historic moment. We are each called to take part in a great transformation. Our survival as a species is threatened by global warming, economic meltdown, and an ever-increasing gap between rich and poor. Yet these threats offer an opportunity to awaken as an interconnected and beloved community.
I pointed out that so often our parenting in the West is too focused on our children, and their needs alone, rather than helping them to learn to care for others.
Desmond Tutu on Life
Taking care of others, helping others, ultimately is the way to discover your own joy and to have a happy life.
Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.
How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?
Discovering more joy does not, I’m sorry to say, save us from the inevitability of hardships and heartbreaks. In fact, we may cry more easily, but we will laugh more easily, too. Perhaps we are just more alive. Yet as we discover more joy, we can face suffering in a way that ennobles rather than embitters. We have hardship without becoming hard. We have heartbreak without being broken.
Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.
Your ordinary acts of hope and love point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.
The abolition of the death penalty is making us a civilized society. It shows we actually do mean business when we say we have reverence for life.
There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?
Desmond Tutu Love Quotes
Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other.
As much as the world has an instinct for evil and is a breeding ground for genocide, holocaust, slavery, racism, war, oppression, and injustice, the world has an even greater instinct for goodness, rebirth, mercy, beauty, truth, freedom and love.
We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.
All are welcome: black, white, red, yellow, rich, poor, educated, not educated, male, female, gay, straight, all, all, all. We all belong to this family, this human family, God’s family.
Renewing a relationship is a creative act. We make a new relationship. It is possible to build a new relationship regardless of the realities of the old relationship.
Love is stronger than hate.
Ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.
We are all connected. What unites us is our common humanity. I don’t want to oversimplify things – but the suffering of a mother who has lost her child is not dependent on her nationality, ethnicity or religion. White, black, rich, poor, Christian, Muslim, or Jew – pain is pain – joy is joy.
If you recall the happiest moments in your life, they are all from when you were doing something for somebody else.
I always consider myself personally one of seven billion human beings. Nothing special. So, on that level, I have tried to make people aware that the ultimate source of happiness is simply a healthy body and a warm heart.
God places us in the world as his fellow workers-agents of transfiguration. We work with God so that injustice is transfigured into justice, so there will be more compassion and caring, that there will be more laughter and joy, and that there will be more togetherness in God’s world.
About Caring for Others
There comes a point where we need to stop just pulling people out of the river. We need to go upstream and find out why they’re falling in.
My humanity is bound up in yours, for we can only be human together.
When we see these things (suffering), we realize that not only do we suffer, but so do many of our human brothers and sisters. So when we look at the same event from a wider perspective, we will reduce the worrying and our own suffering.
A person is a person through other persons; you can’t be human in isolation; you are human only in relationships.
Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realise our need of one another.
I am not interested in picking up crumbs of compassion thrown from the table of someone who considers himself my master. I want the full menu of human rights.
We are made to exist in a delicate network of interdependence. We are sisters and brothers, whether we like it or not. To treat anyone as if they were less than human, less than a brother or a sister, no matter what they have done, is to contravene the very laws of our humanity. And those who shred the web of interconnectedness cannot escape the consequences of their actions.
We shall be free only together, black and white. We shall survive only together, black and white. (And) We can be human only together, black and white.
Bringing people together is what I call ‘ubuntu’ which means ‘I am because we are.’ Far too often people think of themselves as just individuals separated from one another, whereas you are connected and what you do affects the whole world. When you do well, it spreads out; it is for the whole of humanity.
People are not born hating each other and wishing to cause harm. It is a learned condition.
Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.
Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.
Family Quotes by Desmond Tutu
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
God’s dream is that you and I and all of us will realize that we are family, that we are made for togetherness, for goodness, and for compassion.
If we have loved well while we were alive, there is life after death here-our love will go on for generations.
The God who existed before any religion counts on you to make the oneness of the human family known and celebrated.
In God’s family, there are no outsiders, no enemies.
You don’t choose your family. They are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.
My father used to say, don’t raise your voice; improve your argument.
In our own ways, we are all broken. Out of that brokenness, we hurt others. Forgiveness is the journey we take toward healing the broken parts. It is how we become whole again.
Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.
We are not responsible for what breaks us, but we can be responsible for what puts us back together again. Naming the hurt is how we begin to repair our broken parts.
Forgiveness is nothing less than the way we heal the world. We heal the world by healing each and every one of our hearts. The process is simple, but it is not easy.
Giving the emotion a name is the way we come to understand how what happened affected us. After we’ve told the facts of what happened, we must face our feelings.
Forgiving is not Forgetting
Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.
We can carry the burden of hurt throughout our lives. We can make the hurt that we have experienced the defining aspect of our stories of ourselves. That means that somebody else gets to say who we are, somebody else gets to decide how we feel, and somebody else gets to decide how we see the world. Forgiveness not only frees us from the burden of someone else’s opinion of us, but it allows us the opportunity to really write a story of ourselves that we can love, enjoy, relish, and live into.
Forgiving is not forgetting; it’s actually remembering – remembering and not using your right to hit back. It’s a second chance for a new beginning. And the remembering part is particularly important. Especially if you don’t want to repeat what happened.
Stability and peace in our land will not come from the barrel of a gun, because peace without justice is an impossibility.
There’s no way in which you can ever win a war against terror. As long as there are conditions in many parts of the world that make people desperate: poverty, disease, ignorance, etc. I hope that we will discover soon, that we can survive, only together. We can prosper only together. And I think people are beginning to realize this, that you can’t have pockets of prosperity in one part of the world and huge deserts of poverty and deprivation and think you can have a stable, secure world.
If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies. True peace must be anchored in justice and an unwavering commitment to universal rights for all humans, regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender, national origin, or any other identity attribute.
By Sara Robinson
Sara is a quote curator who writes about history, education, and religion.
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