Do unto others as you …

SHARE   |   Wednesday, 03 October 2018   |   By Tumie Forthright

"Susu ilela suswane gore le ene a go ilele" loosely translates to "do unto others as you would want them to do unto you". I learnt this in a mind jerking experience when I was a little under ten years old. My cousin who was 15 at the time had a tiff with my uncle. It was bad, really ugly and for a homestead with children with zero outbursts (you risked being killed by my grandmother if you did). It is one of the things that have remained etched in my memory. When my grandmother came in to see about this "fight" between these two unlikely people we were certain it would be my cousin's funeral by tomorrow, but when she turned and said to my uncle "suswane ya ilelwa" we were both stunned and happy, and later she would tell us what it meant. I remember being in awe of this small woman at the time and then appreciating all of this life lesson even more later in life.

Respect is the mainstay of any relationship; be it a child and mother one, between partners, or colleagues, or bosses and subordinates and that between well, any two people really. Do you know about it being earned too? It also allows for Independence and trust in the relations and makes them bearable.


My grandmother, my mother, my children and I grew up and are growing up in eras that are very different, especially regarding people’s relations. Where some grew up in times of "give me that!" sometimes accompanied with a not so nice push or even a smack in your bum, others grew and or now grow in a "would you be kind enough to pass me that cup sweet cakes?" Okay maybe exaggerated but I don't get anything out of my children without a please and or a thank you. In teaching them to be civil people and to relate better with folks I stressed the importance of please and thank you and good manners generally and "ee rra/mma" and "nnyaa mma/rra". Of course these go hand in hand with body language because accompanied with "rolls eyes" it don't go anywhere close to respect. My grandmother ordered us around a lot but her kindness came through in other facets of our relations. "Ntlela kopi ngwanaka?" is loaded with respect and rounded of by ngwanaka over "Ema, ema o lese go atlhama o lere kopi ke ele!!" I probably would not even at ten get up to bring that cup but for others that is the order of the day and these folks grow up knowing this is how you arrest people's attention and get them to do anything for you. This is how we end up with nasty bosses who call you 'ngwananyana' or the partner that thinks it's okay to point out your shortcomings, that you know and live with, to you! Our parents tell us they were ordered around for everything, never asked and plenty times accompanied with 'seme'. Now that was a hard time to grow up in but amidst all of that there was ways to show affection albeit oddly, which in turn made them respect their elders over being resentful and rebellious.

Interactions in our new daily show a broken society that thrives in pointing out wrongs in others, without any attempt at helping you 'fix the wrong' and to outright disrespect towards others as a norm. In offices, in homes, at parking lots, at school, on social media and this is aggravated by what I'll term 'keyboard bravery' if you will. Broken people who will go off at you even at a "hello" if they thought they heard something else! Angry folk who will see no problem in taking the parking space they saw you waiting for, and stomp off with attitude. Bosses that will belittle you and taunt you to feel better about themselves. Friends who will miss what an awesome person you are, or know, but not tell you but constantly remind you how big and ugly your fingers are. All of this, all of it, can be fixed from the very beginning, from the home. Our level of respect at home interaction will reflect in our grown relations. My child with a head that is bigger than average will not remember the size of their head in the day over how awesome or what a handsome boy he is in the day if told this over the other not so nice stuff from the place that matters in the end, the home. Of course children are the worst taunters and they will remind him but he'll also be armed with knowledge that the size of his head doesn't change what a great person he is, that coupled with affection from the home and  being taught to remain respectful at all times leaves him a winner.  


At the height of our social Media campaign #IShallNotForget we were attacked and called all sorts of names and all the ugly you can imagine, we made a conscious decision that in all of this we shall remain kind and not stoop low to insults and the mudslinging. You can guess how that went.

There was outrage in social media corridors, about two weeks ago, about a Permanent Secretary that had hurled insults at his juniors (school heads) about their not so great school results. Upon outrage from these who were subject to the insults, and the citizenry some exclaimed "but who doesn't know that this man speaks to people this way, and has been forever and it gets results?" I do not think so. If one of these school heads had got up and hurled back insults at him would it have been understood that it is the way he is? I do not think so either, but it also would not have been far-fetched because whether older or higher in ranking nothing gives any the right to talk to the other in a disrespectful manner because remember also these are people with feeling? Anyone, ten, seventy, fifteen, forty-three or whatever age has feeling and any wrong done towards them is felt, as does disrespect.


Kindness and respect on the other hand go a long way in making out daily interactions pleasurable and with great results in getting anything done for you or by you for another. A thank you and a please accompanied by a smile from a mother to a child, a stern talk but within respect will have your junior wanna go the extra mile. A nod and a smile at a total stranger as you let them go ahead of you will be remembered and make someone's day. A random kiss and a "you're beautiful/handsome" to your partner is the magic to a great relationship, well and more of course, don't quote me, but you get the idea right? I don't know about you but good feeling of any kind which can be fuelled by random acts of respect and kindness leave me feeling some type way and I pray tell me if that can't work towards making our already trying life a tad bearable? Let's ...

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