120 Inspirational Desmond Tutu Quotes Quotes [2021]

120 Inspirational Desmond Tutu Quotes Quotes [2021]

Desmond Tutu is a South African Anglican cleric and theologian. He is known for his work as an anti-apartheid and human rights activist.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1984, the Pacem in Terris Award in 1987, and the Golden Plate Award of the American Academy of Achievement in 2003.

May 13 was proclaimed as Desmond Tutu Day in 2008.

In 2013 he received the £1.1m ($1.6m) Templeton Prize for "his life-long work in advancing spiritual principles such as love and forgiveness".

Some of his writings include God Has a Dream: A Vision of Hope for Our Time, The Book of Forgiving: The Fourfold Path for Healing Ourselves and Our World, and The Book of Joy: Lasting Happiness in a Changing World

We've put together an incredible collection of Desmond Tutu quotes to read.

Here they are:


List of Inspiring Desmond Tutu Quotes

“If you want peace, you don’t talk to your friends. You talk to your enemies.” – Desmond Tutu

“Your ordinary acts of love and hope point to the extraordinary promise that every human life is of inestimable value.” – Desmond Tutu

“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.” - Desmond Tutu

“Without forgiveness, there can be no future for a relationship between individuals or within and between nations.” - Desmond Tutu

“When we see others as the enemy, we risk becoming what we hate. When we oppress others, we end up oppressing ourselves. All of our humanity is dependent upon recognizing the humanity in others.” - Desmond Tutu

“Forgiveness does not mean condoning what has been done. Forgiving means abandoning your right to pay back the perpetrator in his own coin.” - Desmond Tutu

“Differences are not intended to separate, to alienate. We are different precisely in order to realize our need of one another.” – Desmond Tutu

“It is by standing up for the rights of girls and women that we measure up as men.” - Desmond Tutu

“Because forgiveness is like this: a room can be dank because you have closed the windows, you’ve closed the curtains. But the sun is shining outside, and the air is fresh outside. In order to get that fresh air, you have to get up and open the window and draw the curtains apart.” – Desmond Tutu

“There is nothing more difficult than waking someone who is only pretending to be asleep.” - Desmond Tutu

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.” – Desmond Tutu

" We need other human beings in order to be human." - Desmond Tutu

“Suffering is part and parcel of the human condition, but suffering can either embitter or ennoble us. It can ennoble us and become a spirituality of transformation when we find meaning in it.” - Desmond Tutu

"Life is more than breath and a heartbeat; meaning and purpose are the life of life." - Desmond Tutu

"When your dreams turn to dust, vacuum." - Desmond Tutu

“Children are a wonderful gift. They have an extraordinary capacity to see into the heart of things and to expose sham and humbug for what they are.” – Desmond Tutu

"People are not born hating each other and wishing to cause harm. It is a learned condition." - Desmond Tutu

"Do not heal in isolation. Connecting with others is how we develop compassion for others and for ourselves." - Desmond Tutu

"I would like to share with you two simple truths: there is nothing that cannot be forgiven, and there is no one un-deserving of forgiveness." - Desmond Tutu

“A person is a person because he recognizes others as persons.” – Desmond Tutu

"Language is very powerful. Language does not just describe reality. Language creates the reality it describes." - Desmond Tutu

"It is through weakness and vulnerability that most of us learn empathy and compassion and discover our soul." -Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

“We are each made for goodness, love, and compassion. Our lives are transformed as much as the world is when we live with these truths.” – Desmond Tutu

“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.” - Desmond Tutu

“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.” - Desmond Tutu

“If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.” – Desmond Tutu

“Today we have no excuses.” - Desmond Tutu

“Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” – Desmond Tutu

“Love is universal. You don't have to tell somebody that loving is better than hating. You don't have to believe in God to know that stealing is bad. All of God's children and their different faiths help to realize the immensity of God. No faith contains the whole truth about God. And certainly, Christians don't have a corner on God. All of us belong to God.” - Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

"The quality of human life on our planet is nothing more than the sum total of our daily interactions with one another. Each time we help, and each time we harm, we have a dramatic impact on our world." - Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

“You don’t choose your family, they are God’s gift to you, as you are to them.” – Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

“Give young people a greater voice. They are the future and they are much wiser than we give them credit for.” - Desmond Tutu

“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.” - Desmond Tutu

“We have a planet that is at risk, where resources don’t have permanent life. We are going to have to make the decision: are we going to survive or are we waiting for our extinction? One day we will wake up and find people are fighting not for oil but water.” - Desmond Tutu

"How could you have a soccer team if all were goalkeepers? How would it be an orchestra if all were French horns?" - Desmond Tutu

“Forgiveness says you are given another chance to make a new beginning.” – Desmond Tutu

"Resentment and anger are bad for your blood pressure and your digestion.” - Desmond Tutu

“God’s love is too great to be confined to any one side of a conflict or to any one religion.” - Desmond Tutu

"When we see the face of a child, we think of the future. We think of their dreams about what they might become, and what they might accomplish." - Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

“My father used to say, don’t raise your voice; improve your argument.” – Desmond Tutu

"Like when you sit in front of a fire in winter — you are just there in front of the fire. You don't have to be smart or anything. The fire warms you." - Desmond Tutu

“If we could but recognize our common humanity, that we do belong together, that our destinies are bound up in one another’s, that we can be free only together, that we can be human only together, then a glorious world would come into being where all of us lived harmoniously together as members of one family, the human family.” - Desmond Tutu

"Hate has no place in the house of God." - Desmond Tutu

"In God's family, there are no outsiders, no enemies." -Desmond Tutu

"It is our moral obligation to give every child the very best education possible." - Desmond Tutu

“Religion is like a knife: you can either use it to cut bread or stick in someone’s back.” - Desmond Tutu

“Love is stronger than hate.” - Desmond Tutu

“Dream. Dream. And then go for it!” - Desmond Tutu

“All of us experience fear, but when we confront and acknowledge it, we are able to turn it into courage. Being courageous does not mean never being scared; it means acting as you know you must even though you are undeniably afraid.” - Desmond Tutu

"We must be ready to learn from one another, not claiming that we alone possess all truth and that somehow we have a corner on God." - Desmond Tutu

"It is true that when we harm others, we harm ourselves; but it is just as true that when we help others, we also help ourselves." - Desmond Tutu

“We are made for loving. If we don’t love, we will be like plants without water.” - Desmond Tutu

"Healing means that our dignity is restored and we are able to move forward in our lives." - Desmond Tutu

"Order to truly forgive oneself, one must either explicitly or implicitly acknowledge that one’s behavior was wrong and accept responsibility or blame for such behavior." - Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

"Our maturity will be judged by how well we are able to agree to disagree and yet continue to love one another, to care for one another, and cherish one another and seek the greater good of the other." - Desmond Tutu

“Ultimately our greatest joy is when we seek to do good for others.” - Desmond Tutu

“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.” - Desmond Tutu

“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 rights.” - Desmond Tutu

" God is not upset that Gandhi was not a Christian, because God is not a Christian! All of God's children and their different faiths help us to realize the immensity of God." - Desmond Tutu

"I think it is a good exercise to ask oneself, "How would I have wanted to be treated." - Desmond Tutu

“Children learn about the nature of the world from their family. They learn about power and about justice, about peace, and about compassion within the family. Whether we oppress or liberate our children in our relationships with them will determine whether they grow up to oppress and be oppressed or to liberate and be liberated.” - Desmond Tutu

“I can’t control what happens to me, but I can control how I respond to it.” - Desmond Tutu

"We are always at our best when compassion enables us to recognize the unique pressures and singular stories of the people on the other side of our conflicts." - Desmond Tutu

"Life is funny and we are really funny, especially when we get to be hoity-toity; we can be so ridiculous. Life is fun." - Desmond Tutu

"An abusive relationship should be easy to identify though often one of the most difficult to end." - Desmond Tutu

"Trust is one of the fundamentals of human existence. We need to be able to trust one another. A man who can no longer trust anyone will become sick." - Desmond Tutu

"Our Lord wanted us to be Christ-like. Christ-like doesn't mean not having faults. It means that you do actually have a capacity to draw out the good that is in others." - Desmond Tutu

"A person who is assured of the love of God will see his fellow men in a different light and treat them and himself differently, and of course this also applies to business leaders." - Desmond Tutu

"Dream of a world where children can laugh and play and not be blown up by a mine they thought was a toy." - Desmond Tutu

"Nuclear abolition is the democratic wish of the world's people and has been our goal almost since the dawn of the atomic age. Together, we have the power to decide whether the nuclear era ends in a bang or worldwide celebration." - Desmond Tutu

"In order to turn around and do something better, we must first escape the vicious circle of self-righteousness and denial. And that calls for the humility to say "I'm sorry. Please forgive me." - Desmond Tutu

"Like humility, generosity comes from seeing that everything we have and everything we accomplish comes from God's grace and God's love for us… Certainly, it is from experiencing this generosity of God and the generosity of those in our life that we learn gratitude and to be generous to others." - Desmond Tutu

"Forgiving is a gift to the forgiver as well to the perpetrator." - Desmond Tutu

"Once lost, trust can only be regained if we are as good as our word." - Desmond Tutu

"Laugh more. Don't forget to enjoy the blessings that God bestows on this beautiful planet." - Desmond Tutu

"There is no situation that is not transformable. There is no person who is hopeless. There is no set of circumstances that cannot be turned about by ordinary human beings and their natural capacity for love of the deepest sort.' - Desmond Tutu

"The future of our fragile, beautiful planet home is in our hands. As God's family, we are stewards of God's creation. We can be wantonly irresponsible, or we can be caring and compassionate. God says, "I have set before you life and death… Choose life." - Desmond Tutu

"Easter says to us that despite everything to the contrary, his will for us will prevail, love will prevail over hate, justice over injustice and oppression, peace overexploitation and bitterness." - Desmond Tutu

"Have you seen a symphony orchestra? There is a person at the back carrying a triangle. Now and again the conductor will point to him or her and that person will play "ting." That might seem so insignificant, but in the conception of the composer something irreplaceable would be lost to the total beauty of the symphony if that "ting" did not happen." - Desmond Tutu

"And you remember the rainbow in the Bible is the sign of peace. The rainbow is the sign of prosperity. We want peace, prosperity, and justice and we can have it when all the people of God, the rainbow people of God, work together." - Desmond Tutu

"My vote is my secret." - Desmond Tutu

"Each one of us can be an oasis of peace." - Desmond Tutu

"Nursing a grudge is bad for your health." - Desmond Tutu

"One of the greatest gifts we can give to another generation is our experience, our wisdom." - Desmond Tutu

"Making the truth public is a form of justice. This is a moral universe and you've got to take account of the fact that truth and lies and goodness and evil are things that matter." - Desmond Tutu

"There is room for everyone; there is room for every culture, race, language, and point of view." - Desmond Tutu

"Anything war can do, peace can do better." - Desmond Tutu

"Every single one of us can do something, however small, to make a difference." - Desmond Tutu

"There can be no healing without truth." - Desmond Tutu

"Arrogance really comes from insecurity, and in the end, our feeling that we are bigger than others is really the flip side of our feeling that we are smaller than others." - Desmond Tutu

"No peace is impossible when people are determined to achieve it." - Desmond Tutu

"There are things that must evoke our anger to show we care. It is what we do with that anger. If we direct that energy we can use it positively or destructively." - Desmond Tutu

"Never let anyone make you feel inferior for being who you are. When you live the life you were meant to live, in freedom and dignity." - Desmond Tutu

"You and I are created for transcendence, laughter, caring. God deliberately did not make the world perfect, for God is looking for you and me to be fellow workers with God." - Desmond Tutu

"We must embrace our differences, even celebrate our diversity. We must glory in the fact that God created each of us as unique human beings. God created us differently, but God did not create us for separation. God created us differently that we might recognize our need for one another. We must reverence our uniqueness, reverence everything that makes us what we are: our language, our culture, our religious tradition." - Desmond Tutu

"True reconciliation is never cheap, for it is based on forgiveness which is costly. Forgiveness in turn depends on repentance, which has to be based on an acknowledgment of what was done wrong, and therefore on disclosure of the truth. You cannot forgive what you do not know." - Desmond Tutu

"We must not only speak about forgiveness and reconciliation, we must act on these principles." - Desmond Tutu

"A life of wholeness does not depend on what we experience. Wholeness depends on how we experience our lives." - Desmond Tutu

"The world is awful but also the world is beautiful. Human beings are awful, but ultimately human beings are tremendous." - Desmond Tutu

"Each of us is precious to God because each of us has their name written on the palms of God's hands. And God says there are no outsiders - black, white, yellow, short, tall, young, old, rich, poor, gay, lesbian, straight - everyone. All belong. And God says, I have only you to help me realize my dream. Help me." - Desmond Tutu

"Love is much more demanding than law." - Desmond Tutu

"There is only one way to eat an elephant, a bit at a time." - Desmond Tutu

"Despite all of the ghastliness in the world, human beings are made for goodness. The ones that are held in high regard are not militarily powerful, nor even economically prosperous. They have a commitment to try and make the world a better place." - Desmond Tutu

"I will never tell anyone to pick up a gun. But I will pray for the man who picks up a gun, pray that he will be less cruel than he might otherwise have been." - Desmond Tutu

"Too frequently we think we have to do spectacular things. Yet if we remember that the sea is actually made up of drops of water and each drop counts, each one of us can do our little bit where we are. Those little bits can come together and almost overwhelm the world. Each one of us can be an oasis of peace." - Desmond Tutu

"The moment our dignity is undermined, we get up in arms and want to see our dignity restored - especially if we are humiliated." - Desmond Tutu

"The world's forests are a shared stolen treasure that we must put back for our children's future." - Desmond Tutu

"When people decide they want to be free, there is nothing that can stop them." - Desmond Tutu

"Who can stop climate change? We can. You and you and you, and me. And it is not just that we can stop it, we have a responsibility to do so that began in the genesis of humanity when God commanded the earliest human inhabitants of the Garden of Eden, "to till it and keep it". To "keep" it; not to abuse it, not to make as much money as possible from it, not to destroy it." - Desmond Tutu

"The final and full revelation of God is not a book, it is a person. Jesus Christ." - Desmond Tutu

"Good sense does not always lie with the loudest shouters, nor can we say that a large, unruly crowd is always the best arbiter of what is right." - Desmond Tutu

"One of the sayings in our country is Ubuntu - the essence of being human. Ubuntu speaks particularly about the fact that you can't exist as a human being in isolation. It speaks about our interconnectedness. You can't be human all by yourself, and when you have this quality - Ubuntu - you are known for your generosity. We think of ourselves far too frequently 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." - Desmond Tutu

"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." - Desmond Tutu

"Inclusive, good-quality education is a foundation for dynamic and equitable societies." - Desmond Tutu

Pat Walls,  Founder of Starter Story

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