As you heard Wendy share, the word ubuntu can best be described as an African philosophy that places emphasis on ‘being self through others’. It is a form of humanism which can be expressed in the phrases ‘I am because of who we all are’ and ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu in Zulu language.

Ubuntu relates to bonding with others: being self because of

Others, respecting the sacredness of unity. This is also in line with the popular Zulu saying: ubuntu ngumuntu ngabantu. “I am because we are”.  It is the foundation of the idea of a society in which “I am

human because I belong, because an individual is human if he or she says I participate, therefore I am.  I belong because I am me and I am in a community that rises and falls with me. The first principle of ubuntu asserts that to be human is to affirm one´s humanity by recognizing the humanity of others and, on that basis, establishes respectful human relations with them. And the second maxim is that if and when one is faced with a decisive choice between wealth and the preservation of the life of another human being, then one should opt for the preservation of life´.

It is the concept that Nelson Mandela used when he was bringing together disparate tribes and communities at the end of apartheid. The word Ubuntu even appears in South Africa’s Interim Constitution, created in 1993: “There is a need for understanding but not for vengeance, a need for reparation but not for retaliation, a need for ubuntu but not for victimization.”

The idea is about a sense of community, a sense that our own well-being is tied to the well-being of others. The idea that danger is shared, pain is shared, joy is shared, and achievement is shared.

So how does this fit with not having bad thoughts about one another?  What did the scripture say to you on not speaking ill of one another?   Why do we do this, criticize?  To prove we know more?  For security? For dominance? No matter the reason, it is not good enough as a Quaker since we aspire to support peace, integrity, equality, and community.  Unless a person’s life is imminently endangered by someone, is there any need to speak bad of them? Is there another way other than to speak ill of someone.  How can we better choose our words?  By choosing our thoughts.  When you find yourself thinking evil  of another, or that another is not sacred —  banish the thought after you think about the need that brought that thought into being. Thoughts are like breaths to the body. The mind drinks them in and spits out concepts.  So if you want good outcomes, good concepts, think of yourself as the generator of this goodness.  Create as many good thoughts as possible.  Your life will shift and change for the better.  Not avoiding our shadow side, but loving it, embracing it, and helping it to learn humility and grace.

Let me very clear – do not keep in secret anything negative that has happened to you or try to avoid that person being given the opportunity to grow from their mistake of hurting you.

But in an average day to day life, as Quakers we say we are guided by the values of equality and community.  But are we if we speak ill of (put someone down) or victimize another (cut someone down)? Are your words not reducing at least the value of the person so that they will be less in the other’s eyes?  Isn’t saying something derogatory about someone just you trying to make them think less of another. Doesn’t that clearly violate the principle of equality.  If we speak ill of or victimize another we also do not stand behind the idea of true community.  Community only functions when we are all equal, all loving and generous, all forgiving and humble.  We can only have any of our testimonies if we first have integrity and look at ourselves with self awareness and grace — forgiving ourselves – but also learning to forgive others.  Imagine a world of ubuntu.  Imagine a world where our good thoughts bring about goodness and life for all around us.


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