In the Babemba tribe of South Africa, when a person acts irresponsibly or unjustly, he is placed in the center of the village, alone and unrestrained. All work stops, and every man, woman, and child in the village gathers in a large circle around this individual.
Next, each person in the tribe speaks to the individual, one at a time, each recalling the good things the person in the center of the circle has done in his/her lifetime. Every incident, every experience that can be recalled with any detail and accuracy, is recounted. All his/her positive attributes, good deeds, strengths, and kindnesses are recited carefully and fully. This tribal ceremony often lasts for several days.
At the end, the tribal circle is broken, a joyous celebration occurs, and the person is symbolically and literally welcomed back into the tribe.
HOW BEAUTIFUL IS THAT.
I’ll go ahead and answer my own question: phenomenally beautiful
We all know hurt people hurt people, right? If you didn’t realize that then, well, now you know. It’ll explain A LOT on why people do what they do.
If people are acting a fool and are being rude/unkind/inconsiderate/nasty/etc, it’s because they’re not right with themselves. They’re insecure/traumatized/etc. They’re so consumed by pain and negativity, they have little to no capacity for empathy and love. And since anger feels better than pain/shame, people lash out. Here are some examples of people masking their pain/insecurity with hatorade:
An employee vilifying their boss for not promoting them
A jealous person blaming the other woman/man for “seducing” their partner (“You homewrecker! You ruined my relationship!”)
A business owner demonizing a competitor
An individual reviling a provider of well-intentioned constructive feedback
We could go pretty deep here exploring the many elements to this, but suffice it to say: Hurt people hurt people.
I’m grateful I realized this truth early on in my life. It’s softened the blow when I’ve had venom spit my way, or faced betrayal. Don’t get it twisted: it can still sting, but at least I understand the cause, and know not to take it personally. That’s crazy liberating. It’s like there’s an invisible bubble protecting your sense of self worth, deflecting the hate and doubt from permeating.
And just because you empathize with the causes of someone’s negative behavior doesn’t mean you condone it. That’s where boundaries come in. You can still love them while making it clear certain words/actions are unacceptable.
And also - and this can really bite the big one - be wise and humble enough to recognize the truth bombs in negative feedback. Sure, that person’s delivery could REALLY USE SOME FRIGGIN’ POLISHING, but try to remain open. Try not to shy away from reflection. View it as an opportunity to become even more of an allstar. If the feedback hit a nerve, that right there reveals an unhealed part of you. Lean into it. Figure out why.
And maybe the affected nerve is the one of caring too much of others’ opinions, and requiring external validation. The key to making it through the cleansing - but often brutal - fire of negativity-inspired self reflection is to operate on a solid foundation of self love. Knowing your shadows don’t define/control you, and neither do others’ opinions. Knowing you’re strong enough to brave the blows and use them to become even STRONGER and more self aware. Knowing you can directly face the negativity and extract what you need to evolve and get better, not bitter. This comes from loving yourself through ALL of your phases, even the ones where you feel beaten down or less than. You may not feel you’re quite there yet, but it is absolutely within your reach.
So I was listening to a podcast with Marianne Williamson on Oprah’s SuperSoul Conversations. Marianne introduced a novel perspective:
When people are physically injured, we typically react with compassion, and usually try to help. You’re bleeding, I’mma grab a bandage/tourniquet/etc. But if someone shows us (intentionally or - more often - unintentionally) their insecurities/traumas/etc, it’s easier for us to ignore/judge/dismiss. But they’re the people who need the most compassion!
Sure, as I mentioned, boundaries are key. You can empathize with people and not condone certain behavior, and it can be tricky distinguishing between empathizing and enabling. But no matter what, you can always offer love and kindness. Sometimes this must be from afar, but love is always the answer. We all get “hurt” and all need love. Some are better at healing themselves than others, but we all have healing power within us we can apply to both ourselves and others.