the clothes that you wear, the company that you keep, the kind of education you have and even the church that you go to.
There is prestige that comes with these things. People therefore want things that make a statement to the world. Those kind of things that leave people asking, “who is this person?” Most people do things for the eyes of the world. One wants to get the recognition that comes from all these things that we have and do.
Somehow the world gives such people space. You find that these people are given the “high chairs” wherever they go. They never fail to attract the hangers on who also try to make a name for themselves through association.
I have observed that people by nature want to be associated with success. When someone is successful or an event – wedding, funeral or an evangelistic outreach – receives an accolade you get people who want to be identified with it. You know this attitude that says “ndisu wacho” (we are the people). These same people however, are also the first to pelt you with stones when tables turn.
Think of the story of Jesus Christ’s entry into Jerusalem that is recorded in the Gospels. Probably it was the same crowd that shouted Hosanna and later on called for his crucifixion. The opinions of the multitude however, did not change who Jesus was because his worthy was not determined by the sentiments of others.
You find that people are jostling to find an identity. This is why people go for designer labels, which define them to the world. Even the children want designer labels for their clothing and brand names for their cell-phones and other gadgets. Is it not why men wear their designer suits with the label affixed to the sleeve? How will people know if it is removed?
I find this very absurd. About two weeks ago I passed through a clothing shop that sells designer clothes for men and women owned by friends. During our conversation this issue of labels cropped up. I enquired why the shop owners never tell clients to remove these labels. They said that they do suggest this to clients but it falls on deaf ears. They challenged me to add my voice to it through this column.
The gentleman said let such people know that wearing a suit with a label on it is as bad as moving around with the price tag on. There gentlemen take a cue!
My conclusion as I left the shop was that people are under pressure to be counted. They believe that who they are, is determined by what they wear, what they own and how educated they are. It is therefore not surprising that people become over borrowed just to keep up appearances. They have opened accounts with shops for clothes, furniture and they never hesitate to take up the offers of eat now pay later. The end result is they never find peace as they are always on the run.
It is either they are not at home or work and avoid answering the phone. If they answer by mistake they say they are in a meeting and will call later.
Dear reader, there is nothing wrong in wearing designer outfits or being educated. Actually it feels good to dress well and have a good education because it is a foundation for meaningful participation in the development of your world. What I am trying to put across is, that this should not be the essence of your life because your identity does not come from outside you.
Today, worldly things have become more important than people have. What we have has become more important than who we are. Society has been gripped by the desire to own things such that anything that brings a quick dollar is embraced. There is no consideration of the next person or even norms and values within the social context.
Yet, who a person is does not come from all these external factors because they do not last forever. These things are just enhancers of life and therefore should never be our primary focus. They should never make us proud but be the just means to bless others.
It is unfortunate that some people turn their gifts into weapons of looking down on others. Dear reader, these things can never help us in times of need. Think of the biblical Solomon who was very rich, had all the fame and hundreds of wives and concubines but at the end of it all he called these things meaningless. You can never lie to yourself. The world may see differently and for some time you can enjoy it but at the end of it all reality sets in.
Adadevoh says “reality is a friend” why not confront reality now and see yourself for who you really are. You need to come down to mother earth, break the cycle of debt, see others for what they are worth not in material terms.
There is an old folk tale that is often told of a son-in- law who went to his in-laws to ask for grain since his home area was hit by drought. The mother-in-law gave him some grain and accompanied him up to the river. The river was flooded so as the man was crossing to the other side his piece of clothing made from animal skin (nhembe) was lifted by the water exposing his backside. Taboo isn’t it in our culture, so he had to preserve his dignity. He struggled to keep it down with one hand while the other hand held on to the sack with the grain.
Seeing the struggle and noting the danger that the son-in-law was in – he could drown or lose the grain – the mother-in-law shouted “mukwasha bata chine upenyu!” Literally translated to son-in-law hold on to what has life.
This story has very wise advice for us today. As we move through life we really have to know and understand who we are and whose we are.
This is your true identity and that should shape your behaviour, give you values and define your priorities.