The October reading group selection, Made for Goodness, provided just the encouragement I needed this month. Desmond Tutu and Mpho Tutu invite us to “let go of the illusion of our own omniscience, let go of the accomplishment tally, and live a surrendered life.” I highly recommend this book, full of reminders and helpful insights on living with God-consciousness. Both authors are priests in the Anglican tradition, but this book is suitable for readers of all faith traditions.
If we are designed for and attracted to goodness, why do people often do so many things that are counter to goodness? The authors write that we “need to rediscover our true nature, and act accordingly.” In reading the news, or reflecting on the deep needs and challenges of our world, I find it easy to become overwhelmed. When I see so much evidence of people not pursuing goodness, doubt sneaks in.
The authors reassure that “when we choose goodness we can be certain that, in the fullness of time, the end will be right.” They come to this conviction not because of blind optimism, but through a deeply-rooted faith that has sustained through times of great tragedy, including many incidents of pain and violence in apartheid South Africa. This book does not present a naive theology, but a liberating view of God’s love for each of us and what that requires in response.
The authors distinguish between “goodness” and “being good.” Goodness is God-given, “our home.” When we lose our way and fall into sinful behavior, we need to rediscover this goodness. When we feel angry at another, we need to recall that God has put goodness within that person, too. In contrast, “being good” might look something like a to-do list. It consists of those requirements we make up for ourselves in order to measure up to a standard that we impose upon ourselves. (I should eat more vegetables, exercise, clean house more thoroughly, etc.) Why do we feel this need to be good? Who are we trying to please? As the authors write, “God does not love us because we are good. God loves us because God loves us.”
This book includes a couple of helpful practices for use in one’s quiet/prayer time, such as the examination of conscience and simple breath practices for centering. There is a reader’s guide at the end for the benefit of discussion groups. Religious communities, secular reading groups, and individuals could all find this book beneficial.