Can you recall a time when you were totally ignored? Have you ever worked for a boss who was sparse, rare or void of positive recognition? When was the last time you walked into a small shop having not received eye contact or a welcome from the worker? Who were you speaking to last when they skipped right over your feelings and emotions and went straight into “fix it” mode?
How did these scenarios make you feel?
Contrast them and the feelings they evoke with that of the Zulu’s, who’s most common greeting is, “SAWUBONA“, which translated means, “We See You“. (My husband and I experienced this first-hand when we had the privilege of spending time in Kenya and Tanzania.)
The greeting “Sawubona” represents the Zulu communities philosophy of seeing each other fully, not with just visual intake but with value and acceptance. Their seeing includes not just the person, but their gods and ancestors. The Zulu realize the need to see each other slowly and as they are. They have prioritized how to feel and listen to others.
After being greeted by “Sawubona”, the response usually is, “Shikoba” which means, “I exist for you”. Wow! What acknowledgement!
This is more than an exchange of greetings or pleasantries, it represnets a deep-seeded value for the community that says, you matter to us, we totally accept you, and trust you. It symbolizes the importance of directing attention to another person and embracing their soul.
Sawubona reminds them to see the other person as they are and pay attention to them.
The Zulu believe fellow humans exist only if others see and accept them.
In our Western society, we have missed this. We greet one another with, “How are you?”, and barely listen for a response. We fail to see each other slowly. Most of the time we fail to acknowledge one another as we should.
This word acknowledge/acknowledgement has been powerful to me of late; both in its possibilities and its cost.
With its absence comes a cost. When we fail to acknowledge people, when we ignore them, don’t listen to them, fail to recognize them, we devalue them. We are saying you don’t matter to me, and they hear I don’t matter at all.
When we acknowledge people, look them in the eye and give them our presence, we are valuing them and assuring them that their life counts, what they have to say is important.
In your family, haven’t you seen this? The simple act of acknowledging a loved ones’ feelings, position, or emotions yields great reward, for understanding begins to flourish because acceptance and recognition has been granted. Both parties have SEEN the other. Both parties have given and received.
When we allow someone to be fully seen, we are giving them a magnificent gift of being who they are, without fear or hiding. Yet, we too are receiving a gift, the existence of another valuable child of God.
The gift of presence, acknowledgment, recognition, Sawubona, is a gift we all have the power to give. It can and will change lives, one person at a time. It can and will validate, and strengthen relationships as well as defuse, and neutralize jealousy, envy and other damaging emotions.
Who doesn’t feel encouraged, accepted, and better understood when someone acknowledges them? It gives energy, purpose and resolve to keep on working, and not give up. It helps us to feel validation although agreement may not have been reached. Acknowledgement empowers.
Those sound like things that we all want. Don’t they?
Give (acknowledgement) and you shall receive.
Cheers to you.