LIVE BY DESIGN | The liberating power of forgiveness

There is a Zulu hymn that goes:

“Zonk’ izono maziphele (Let all our sins be erased)

Inhliziyo zibe ngcwele (And our hearts made Holy) 

Yiza ungithethelele (Come and mediate for me) 

O Nkosi yam’ (Oh my Lord) 

It’s a chorus often sung on different occasions, whether by those seeking forgiveness or at Christian-officiated funerals, as those honouring the death acknowledge that the departed were not saints.

It’s a song that often comes to mind when I think of the forgiveness journey, which I still need to travel to repair or release unresolved relationships. I sing the chorus when I feel any sense of loss or grief for those known intimately and admired at a distance, including celebrated people. It’s a song that I had sung repeatedly this week.

In 2018, I struggled to cope with losing my previous life as an editor-in-chief and managing director of a 24-hour news channel. Searching for a distraction, I turned to reading the gripping Red Notice and Tina Turner’s My Love Story. Both provided me with a much-needed respite, but Tina’s biography left a truly lasting impact on me.

I am in awe of the incredible breadth and depth of Turner’s experiences. She had faced heartbreak and adversity at every turn, from escaping an abusive marriage to coping with the devastating loss of her children. Yet through it all, she remained true to herself and her values.

Forgiveness is the gift you give to yourself

Upon hearing news about her passing, I sang this hymn because My Love Story teaches us about forgiveness through Turner’s experiences. One of the most notable moments was when she forgave her ex-husband, Ike Turner, for his abusive behaviour towards her.

Discussing her journey to forgiveness with Oprah Winfrey, Turner shared a perspective that forgiving her ex-husband was not about excusing his behaviour but rather about releasing herself from the burden of anger and resentment: “Forgiveness is a gift you give yourself; it doesn’t have anything to do with the person you are forgiving.”

Through forgiveness, she could move on from the past and find happiness in her life. This serves as a powerful reminder that forgiveness can be a transformative and healing process, allowing us to let go of anger and pain and move forward with a lighter heart.

Reading Turner’s biography gives the impression that she lived a fulfilling life, placing importance on repairing relationships and seeking forgiveness, whether forgiving others or herself. I sang this hymn because, besides my adoration of her, I know there were things she did not share publicly.

What I do know about forgiveness is what the late Archbishop Desmond Tutu wrote in his “Book of Forgiving”:

“I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one undeserving of forgiveness…..until we forgive the person who harmed us, that person will hold the keys to our happiness, and that person will be our jailor. When we forgive, we take back control of our own fate and feelings. We become our own liberators.”

While contemplating Tina Turner’s life, I was hit by the sad, shocking news of Eusebius McKaiser’s unexpected passing. Despite being much younger than Turner, Eusebius had already achieved as a broadcaster, commentator, and author with three books under his belt. It is hard not to think about what we will miss – how much more he would have contributed through his thought-provoking discussions and debate.

His passing is undoubtedly a loss for present-day South Africa as we navigate important questions about the state of the nation and the future we envisage for future generations. His unique insights will be sorely missed.

Eusebius and I shared a working experience with Karima Brown. She was a force of nature in the world of journalism, with talent and complexity that was truly remarkable. While working with her could be challenging at times, the experience was always rewarding and enriching. When Karima died of Covid-19 in March 2021, Eusebius was interviewed by John Perlman on 702.

He applauded her contributions and noted that not everyone liked the way she worked and that her legacy was not uncomplicated. As I think of Eusebius, his own words about Karima aptly describe himself and his working relationships. His debating style could be harsh and leave people bruised.

There’s an aspect of end-of-life readiness to die that is referred to as “making right”. When we have a progressive illness, we have the privilege of time on our side to do this work. Some will have this opportunity, and some won’t.

We need to live with the optimism of looking forward to a long life and with the humility of knowing that impermanence and sudden death may be on our doorstep. Therefore, what might we consider bringing forward in terms of personal work of resolving relationships?

I aspire to live with relationships that are resolved rather than reaching my life’s end (date uncertain), with a lot still to be done in terms of forgiveness and loose ends.

What relationships are there in your life that are not entirely resolved?

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