The Babemba Tribe in Africa had a unique ritual called “The Healing Circle.” When a member of the tribe transgressed or acted irresponsibly they were brought before the whole tribe. The offender sat on the ground while the tribe was called to gather in a circle around them.
All work ceased as every man, woman, and child formed a circle around the transgressor. For that moment, the offender was cut off from the tribe. Disconnected. Alone.
Then one at a time each person in the tribe addressed the accused. They recited all the good things the person had ever done. They spoke of the person’s good qualities, acts, and character. Every event and experience was recalled in detail. At length, the tribe recounted all the good deeds, kindnesses, and strengths of the offender.
The ceremony often lasted for hours and occasionally for days.
At the end a joyous celebration took place as the transgressor was welcomed back into the tribe.
- How do we react when someone is not showing up responsibly in our “tribe” (i.e. workplace)?
- What outcomes do we see when we punish employees, team members, or family members?
- What if we tried an approach of honoring the good in others?
- What if we encouraged forgiveness, reconciliation, and acceptance?
I’m not suggesting such an approach is always the right approach. I’m just wondering what might happen if we were to get curious about why this worked for the Bebembas.
People have a hard-wired need to belong. Whether we think of families, groups, teams, or companies, this is true.
“Treat people as if they were what they ought to be and you help them become what they are capable of being.” ― Daniel J. Siegel, Brainstorm: The Power and Purpose of the Teenage Brain
We need not wait for someone to act irresponsibly before we express appreciation to them. In fact, it’s hard for us to think of the good about them in such moments. Nor do we want to excuse bad behavior. But, what if…..?
What if we made it a practice in our relationships with others, with our peers, with our work-mates, to look for the good? To express it openly and often?