Our supposedly civilized societies have much to learn from certain “primitive” tribes and peoples. In some South African tribes, when someone does something wrong, the tribe takes them to the center of the village where all the villagers surround that individual and for two days they remind the “offender” of his importance in the group and all. it’s positive for them.
These tribes believe that while everyone makes mistakes, everyone has a basically good heart, and wrongdoing and mistakes are a cry for help. Instead of blaming and blaming the so-called offender, the villagers do everything in their power to encourage the offender to know how much he is loved and valued.
Instead of punishing, they choose to assert the importance of positive interactions and relationships within the tribe. These wise people intuitively know that “Ubunti-Unity” is the best motivator for positive change.
In New Zealand, in some native tribes, when a child or teenager misbehaves, the extended family comes together to affirm that person’s many good things. It is only after reassuring the perpetrator of the love and concern of the community that they seek to help them create a plan whereby they can make amends and develop better ways of interacting with the community. community. What a contrast to our American conception of justice which has no place for forgiveness or reparation.
Instead, our system is all about punishment and neither forgets nor forgives as our justice system continues to judge and punish the offender for the worst thing he has ever done instead of allowing him to become criminals. active members of society.
The ninth step reminds us that God’s way of dealing with wrongdoing is to redeem himself, not to hold a grudge. We are all guilty of callousness, recklessness, blunt judgments and being downright rude and mean at times.
As I write these words, I have a flashback. My husband and I had visited his parents during a time when we were having marital problems. We had both tried to look good, but as we packed our bags for the ride home, he said something that triggered me.
I let go of a series of angry profanity that stunned everyone in the room, myself included. As we were saying our goodbyes, her mother got over my outburst and went out of her way to let me know that she had accepted and affirmed me. My first reaction to his “I love you” was shame. Later, when I made amends with her, she accepted my apology with “never forget you are so much more than any temper tantrum”.
Perhaps one of the best ways to redeem ourselves, along with those we have hurt and those who have hurt us, is to take a page out of the “primitive” practice of calling on each other’s best.
I know my mother-in-law never forgot about my ugly blasphemy blast, but she also chose to think of me as more than my blast. Admittedly, my first response was shame and anger, but his willingness to place my many failures in a context of love was a better model.
This is, I suppose, what the apostle Paul meant in Romans 12: 17-31: “If anyone harms you, do not reward him with a wrong. Try to do what everyone thinks is right. Do everything in your power to live in peace with everyone. Never avenge yourself, my friends … but if your enemy is hungry, feed him.
If he is thirsty, give him a drink, because this will make him aware of his shame. Don’t let evil get over you. Instead, overcome evil with good.
Joyce Shutt is the author of Steps to Hope, a 12 stepper veteran and pastor emeritus of the Fairfield Mennonite Church.