Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

For Zayda: Telling the whole truth

A fault confessed is half redressed. (South Africa)

Adinkra symbol of understanding and agreement

Dear Zayda,

Saying sorry is never going to be easy, but we can do best if we say sorry quickly and truthfully. The longer we wait is the more questions we are likely to need to answer. The more willing we are to answer questions, is the less people will think we still have something to hide. .

Last Monday night, Jamaica's Prime Minister Bruce Golding apologized after behaving for weeks as if he had nothing to apologize for. Up to Sunday night those closest to him said he had nothing to apologize for. I commend him for finally apologizing to the whole country on television, even if he was forced to change his mind. But that was just the job half done.

Let us suppose a girl, whom we shall call Betty, hid her school report from her parents because her grades were so poor. Her parents found out Betty lied when they called her teacher to ask when the report would arrive.

Betty could write her parents a letter of apology, confessing the fault. However, as part of redressing the fault, she needs to sit with her parents to clear up a lot of questions that go well beyond the hidden report. Betty’s answers to her parents’ questions might show many other problems that need to be solved. For example, Betty might need to move to the front of the class where she could see the board and hear the teacher better – perhaps she has sight or hearing problems and needs to see special doctors. Her brain might be showing her the letters of the alphabet the wrong way around, and so she will need help and patience. Perhaps Betty has difficulties with her teacher, or with her classmates. Perhaps something happened to Betty to cause her mind to drift away from schoolwork. She might be keeping a secret that is a burden on her mind.

If she doesn’t answer questions, her parent just have to guess what caused her to lie to them. They could most likely guess wrong, and Betty might lie again to hide her problems. Or next time around the cover up could be worse. In the meantime, Betty and her parents might continue to have problems trusting and understanding each other.

So Golding still needs to talk. He still needs to answer questions. Yesterday he had a chance to answer questions in Parliament, and he didn’t. People in Parliament could have questioned him the way you can’t question a face you are looking at on television. Often the way people answer questions can tell us if they are genuine or not.

Therefore, we are still waiting. A half-way apology is never enough to build back trust.


Your shangazi


nash said...

Saying sorry after so long is tantamount to I am sorry that I have been caught, not I am sorry that I did it. Even now his cabinet maintains that he did nothign worng, so what was his talk, another brilliant speech. I feel humiliated by him and am ashamed to have him repressent me in the international arena

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Hi Nash,

Thanks for your comment.

I agree that the apology is about getting caught (or fearing more revelations) than about feeling remorse.

No matter who is in power, as a people at home and abroad we need hold politicians accountable. I think this set, like others before them, have this sense of entitlement. We need rid them of that belief by not letting them forget the power we have to hold them accountable.

This debacle has already had the effect of reminding us of people power. Now we need to keep the pressure on anyone who puts themselves forward to represent us.


When the occasion arises, there is a proverb to suit it. (Proverb from Rwanda and Burundi)

Welcome to this space where we can talk about proverbs that we can relate to (or not), and proverbs that make sense to us (or not). Most of all we can discuss how proverbs make us think about life and living. We can also share experiences of proverbs that have provided us with lifelines or just the chance to reflect.

Some of the proverbs here may also be found in "Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs", published by Random House and authored by Askhari Johnson Hodari and me. The foreword is written by Archbishop Desmond Tutu.

One of the unique features of our book is that we arranged the proverbs according to life cycle, in sections including, Birth, Childhood, Love, Marriage, and Intimacy, Challenge, and Death.

For more proverbs and for information on Lifelines: the Black Book of Proverbs, please visit us at