There is a tribe in Africa which, when a man commits an offense like adultery or theft, presents the offender before the tribe at which point the offender is reminded of all the good things he had done in his life. This approach has been shown to be highly effective to deter future crimes.
What immediately struck me when I read this was that punishment is not the only response to crime. Obviously, there are other ways to respond and that have the same ultimate desired effect than imprisoning or fining the offender. This reminded me that there are always other ways, approaches, responses.
And I don’t suppose this kind of approach, to remind the offender of his good qualities, is any better or worse than any other. It’s just one possibility, that’s all.
I was then struck by the double effect this ‘reminder approach’ could have on the individual being reminded.
One, it serves to bring to the offender’s mind a picture of the individual held in the minds of the others in his community. We all want to look good to others. We want others to think well of us. We desire their approval and admiration. Of course, then, it shames us deeply to have presented to us the picture of ourselves in an ideal light. We are not condemned in this process, we are confirmed. We are confirmed as the greater light within the crucible of our soul.
The second effect it could have is simply to remind us of the fact that there are other possibilities. That’s it. There are other possible actions that could have been taken. Other paths that could have been followed. Other choices made. The committed crime was not the only option, not the only possibility. There always are other possibilities, and we need to be reminded of that.
So when you are in a funk, in a bind, in trouble, or in a rut where nothing seems to be working for you – take a moment to remind yourself that there are other possibilities. Possible ways of seeing, thinking, and behaving.
And remind yourself of the good, or great, things you have done, the shining aspects of your character, or of the things people have said in praise of you. And if the voice of doubt speaks – you know, the one that says ‘you’re full of it!‘ or ‘you’re a fraud!‘ or ‘you suck!‘ – then just let that voice be. Let it talk, because you are not that voice – you are the awareness of that voice.
Stay focused on what’s possible and on the light of your character – sometimes it feels as if the reminders are all we have.