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radical renewal

“We cannot change anything until we accept it. Condemnation does not liberate, it oppresses.” ~ Carl Jung

Radical RenewalI’m always looking for ways that will help me to shift from the place of blame — either of someone else or myself — when things go badly in friendships and relationships. Besides simply ignoring the behavior or denying the situation, is there a way to reach a place of reconciliation and radically shift back to positive relating?

In the midst the wonders of new life — as Spring continues to take hold and the celebration of resurrection in Christian circles takes place all around me — I was told this story:

There is a tribe in South Africa, the Babemba tribe, that has an evolved way of dealing with wrongdoers. They hold their way of dealing with irresponsible or unjust behavior as sacred and revered, partly because it is so effective.

When someone behaves in these manners, the warriors go and get the wrongdoer and gather everyone at the center of the village. All work ceases and every member of the tribe gathers around the accused individual. Each person in the tribe speaks to the accused, one at a time, telling every valuable, good, charitable thing that the person in the center of the circle has done. Any incident or experience that can be recalled, is recounted with as much detail as possible. The story tellers do not embellish, exaggerate or flatter. They simply tell the stories.

Eventually, everyone with a story of the accused’s positive attributes, helpful behaviors, giving of alms, kindnesses, and strengths are recited with intention and at length. The ceremony often takes multiple days of around the clock storytelling.

Once the stories are all “told out”, the circle bursts into joyous celebration and the person who was singled out is welcomed back into the tribe.

Truly Radical Renewal

I don’t know if this story is true or not. I think that it’s impact is similar enough either way. It makes an impressive point.

So, I think there is a way to shift beyond our shame and blame into a new light of day. Tell the stories of our friends to our friends. Witness the beauty of the ones we know and love. Welcome each other back to living and loving. In this way, we can experience new life … now.

Playful blessings,

10 thoughts on “radical renewal”

  1. Very unique idea, to bring the person back to their true, good center through shared experiences & memories within a community. I wonder how this could be adapted for our western culture? Small groups: families, school/college teams, corporate groups, close friends.

    1. Hi, Renee,

      Good question! I was thinking of using it more in the internal and relational (one-to-one) space. But I love the idea of taking it to this larger scope as well. I’ve certainly been a part of affirmation circles where the group simple bombarded the recipient (in the center of the circle) with positive feedback, affirmation, etc. But that did not have the purpose that this story brings to the intention for helping the recipient to so radically change.

      Let me know if you experiment with it. Meanwhile, I’ll see you on Twitter. 😉

      Playful blessings,

  2. Stan, this is a brilliant concept. We can learn a great deal from this tribe. I’d like to see our country handle situations this way. Pointing out the kindness, charity, and compassion of the “wrongdoer”.. Brilliant idea! Great great Muze! Man, I’m going to let this steep in my brainbox for awhile… This blew me away! (::)PEACE(::)

    1. Thanks, Mike. Yeah, I am really appreciating the idea even more after writing this. The story gives me chills each time I image it. Thanks for the feedback.
      Let me know what comes of the steeping.

      Playful blessings,

  3. I was reflecting on this in bed last night…thinking what it would be like to be on the giving end of the affirmations & on the receiving end. Wow – this would be so powerful (on both ends.) It gives me chills.

    Lately, I’ve given the advice to a few friends of mine, “The *people* involved in any situation are more important than the specifics of the situation.” This Babemba tribe practice puts that into action – I love it. Here’s to playing with this fascinating practice, spreading forgiveness and love, helping each other see our true beauty and worth, and experiencing new life.

    1. Thanks, Dr. Featro!
      Where or who in your life do you think of when you imagine this practice?

      Playful blessings,

  4. At first, I pictured this practice involving particular people in my life, but then I started seeing it happening in any situation at any time – we all have a need for forgiveness, and affirmation can and should happen much more than it does in the world. I think it’s something that would be done very well in an InterPlay class. 😉 I thought of this, because I know that InterPlayers would be open to this kind of “radical renewal,” but it would be a true blessing for anyone and everyone – not just InterPlayers – to embrace such a practice.

  5. Love the tribal story about giving affirmations to the person who did wrong rather than criticizing and punishment.

    In disagreements within my relationships today, I often find out that remembering the things that I am grateful for helps me to move toward forgiveness and peace.

    As an incest survivor, forgiveness is not always an easy topic to contemplate. When I stopped trying to force forgiveness and gave it over to God to handle until I could, I went on with my job of healing me. After years of working with feelings and changing my beliefs about me and about the abuse, I was able to forgive my abusers. By then, I could look at the abuse and look at the adult that I had become and was able to find the good that came out of the incest. The good has to do with the strong, courageous, caring, compassionate person that I am today. I may not have had any of those characteristics without the incest. We can find good if we look. I would not wish incest upon anyone. I didn’t choose it but it did happen so I have made the best that I can out of my life because I am worthy of having goodness, love and joy in my life.

    Thanks for sharing this. I will have to look to see if shame and vulnerability are keeping me from sitting down and writing my memoir about healing from incest. There is some kind of internal resistance for sure.

    1. Patricia,

      I’m so honored by your response. One thing that you bring to light is that trying to make constructs universal doesn’t work (i.e., you being an incest survivor gives you a different journey to forgiveness, etc.). May your life find more ways to journey towards forgiveness and wholeness.

      I also honor you as you struggle with your memoir. Writers of much less personal stories have struggled with writing. In fact, many of my “exposed to the light” posts here are about this creative work. I’d welcome your public or private (I’ve sent you an email) feedback on any of them. And I look forward to your memoir should you decide to make it public.


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