Lifelines: The Black Book of Proverbs

Saturday, May 15, 2010

To Zayda: Truth and spilled water

Today’s Proverb: When water throw away, we cannot pick it up. (Jamaica)

Dear Zayda,

What is happening to Bruce Golding now shows just how hard it is to to pick up water once we have spilled it.

Let us say someone lies, and then lies to cover the lies. The day he tells the truth, do we believe him? First thing we are bound to ask is why now? Why decide to tell the truth now? Can the spilled water return to the bucket?

Not long sago, a policeman named Lyn Sue admitted that his lie sent a man to prison. He arrested a man and could find no witness to say the man was guilty. Lyn Sue so strongly believed the man to be guilty, that he created a witness and wrote an imaginary statement. The case went to court and the judge accepted the statement because Lyn Sue said the witness could not attend court. That was actually true, how cold the witness attend court if he did not exist? The arrested man was tried, found guilty, and sentenced to spend several years in prison.

Well, Lyn Sue had a change of heart. Since the court case, he had become a Christian. He therefore wanted to confess his sins so he could find peace in his heart and with his God.

Still, Lyn Sue had done wrong. He had misled the court. Because of his lie, a man spent time in prison for a crime he did not commit. At least there was no proof the man had committed any crime, so he was entitled to his freedom. As a result, Lyn Sue had to pay a penalty. He was tried for obstructing justice, and spent about six months in prison for that offence. Some people thought he should not have been punished for telling the truth. However, Zayda, actions have consequences, and it is never all right to lie especially if that causes other people to suffer.

People confess to lies for different reasons. Let us imagine a little boy whom we will call Fred. He took some money from his mom’s purse, and bought ice cream. When his mom found out that the money was missing, she looked all over the house for it, and she decided she probably lost it when she went shopping. She didn’t ask Fred about the money, and he said nothing. Some may say Fred didn’t exactly lie, but he did. That was a lie by omitting to tell the truth.

Fred felt he got away with lying (as well as stealing) and he boasted about it to his friend Jimmy. “My mom thinks she is so smart, but I fooled her,” he said. Jimmy didn’t advise Fred to admit the truth to his mom. He didn’t tell him to try to find the money to pay back his mom. He said, “That’s a great way to have ice cream whenever you want it.” So Jimmy joined the web of lies.

A couple of days later, Jimmy came across Fred who was eating chocolate chip cookies, the tender moist cookies that made Jimmy’s mouth water.

“Give me a cookie.” Jimmy said.
“This is my last one.” Fred swallowed the last of the cookie and brushed away the crumbs.
“No, I can see you have another one in the bag.”
“That’s for my mom.”
“Tell her it fell and a dog ate it.”

Jimmy tried to grab the bag, and Fred held it behind his back.

“Well, I am going to tell your mom what you did to get ice cream.
Did you steal her money again to buy cookies?” Jimmy said
“She won’t believe you.” Fred’s upper lip trembled as he spoke.
“Try me.” Jimmy said as he walked away.

Fred realized that if his mom heard the story from Jimmy, she would probably ground him for life. When his mom came in from work that evening, the dishes were all washed up and the table is set. His room was tidy for once, with all the toy cars lined up and the books on the shelf. He had also done his homework.

When his mom was seated on the couch, sipping a glass of red wine, Fred sat down next to her, with tears in his eyes. He told her he found the money on the floor and put it in his pocket till he could give it to her.

“I just forgot about it,” he said. The tears are spilling now. “So I spent it with the rest of my pocket money. When I heard you asking for the money, I just didn’t know how to tell you without your getting mad at me.”

“You know you won’t watch any television this weekend. You can’t just take money and spend it without knowing where it came from.”

“I am so sorry, mom. I wouldn’t be in this trouble if it wasn’t for Jimmy.”

“What does Jimmy have to do with this?”

“He tells lies all the time. He told me not to tell you about finding the money. I don’t think I want to be around him anymore.”

“I agree,” his mom said. “You did wrong, but you are a brave boy to come and tell me the truth.”

Many people think Bruce Golding is brave to have finally told the truth. Many others wonder whether what he said was as yet the truth, or whether he was trying to excuse himself by pointing fingers at other persons. A few people wonder why he is telling the truth now after lying for so long. Was he converted to the truth by a baptism of some sort? Was he forced to confess before someone else spilled the story?

Your best bet, Zayda, is to tell the truth the first time around.


Your shangazi


jaycee said...

Dear Yvonne. Alot to digest and really think on here. Alot of lessons to learn.
I agree with you wholeheartedly that those who attempt to defend the PM's actions are merely being disingenous. Our PM never came to us to concede his lack of full disclosure, any wrongdoing or any error on his part. The PM made a declaration of his orchestration which was preceded by a full justification and defense of his action. No sense of contrition or guilt. In face of all the outstanding questions and new ones he then announced that he had nothign further to say on the subject.

How can any one in their fully right minds call this a confession. I must say though that I was one person very sympathetic to the Lyn Sue case. I felt that there can always be room for granting pardon in the face of guilt depending on the circumstances and I was prepared to ask for a lighter penalty than Mr. Lyn Sue was allowed. I believe what he did took bravery and he did confess from a place of true contrition and willingness to accept the consequences. I might have been wrong then but not now.

I do wonder at the motives behind PM's "confession" and perhaps we'll never know.

I try to remind folks who are quoting story of David on this matter, that he had God forgiveness because he asked for it (Bruce has not) but David still suffered the consequences of his action via the death of his child. Forgiveness and consequences are two different things.

I am praying though that he makes good out of this bad situation....the Gleaner letter of the day describes it best!! Thanks always and God Bless.

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

Hi Jeanette,

Thanks so much for your thoughtful and thought-provoking response to my blog post.

Like you, I was somewhat sympathetic for Constable Lyn Sue, especially as so many police get away with faking witness statements. However, a Malawian proverb says, "Sorry doesn't heal the wound, but medicine does." So there is confession, remorse, and then reparation. Lyn Sue went through all three stages, including facing the consequences of his misdeed.

Bruce Golding barely made it to the first stage - confession - and we have no idea why he decided to confess now. The absence (so far) of remorse or reparation speaks volumes. Instead, we got arrogance, defiance, defensiveness, and justification. Unlike David and the Prodigal Son, Golding has not asked for forgiveness.

To me, the lessons to be learned here are about us as a society, about the political choices we make, and most of all about our willingness to hold our politicians accountable. Even if the Golding resigns, the problems remain, unless we decide to use our power to find solutions that move us forward.

Hopefully, the current outrage at Bruce will fuel greater responsibility on our part as electorate. Hopefully.



jaycee said...

"Even if the Golding resigns, the problems remain, unless we decide to use our power to find solutions that move us forward. Hopefully, the current outrage at Bruce will fuel greater responsibility on our part as electorate. Hopefully."

I am so with you there. The price of apathy towards public affairs is to be ruled by evil men. Don't remember who said it but lawks is true. I too am hoping for more than a step towards betterment in public affairs from this and if not my concern is, to what extent will this reinforce the apathy and confirm in some minds that nothing changes.

I try to remember that April - May 1938 was a huge tipping point in our affairs...started around labour issues and grew into more. I can see similarities with Apr - May 2010 but do we have an AGS Coombs and William Grant among us. I try to tell myself this waiting on a 'Joshua' is what's costing us progress but I don't have the answer Yvonne but I am searching earnestly. I wish I were home with you all to throw my cap into the fray but thats another year away. Til then hold down the fort and be assured that though I have not yet seen the change, I will stubbornly believe it to be near, as faith still moves many a mountain.

With affection

Yvonne McCalla Sobers said...

I very much appreciate your positive energies and your thoughtful analyses, as far away from the rock as you are at the moment.

Like you, I am searching for solutions. On Friday I was a guest on a radio programme, and the host asked me what was my mood at the moment. I told her I felt inspired by the opportunities we have at this moment to make our country better.

Yes, in 1938 people must have felt hopeless and helpless facing the might of the British Empire with nothing more than a passion for change. We have to hold on, we have to dream. We have to be part of this change.



Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.


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