Babemba Positive Punishment

Robert Strand

The lifestyle of the Babemba tribe in South Africa was featured in a TV documentary on Apartheid. Within this community of people, anti-social or criminal behavior is very rare. HOWEVER, when it occurs, the Babemba have an interesting and beautiful way of dealing with it...

villagegatheringplaceIf a member of the tribe acts irresponsibly or criminally, he or she is placed at the center of the village. Work stops, and every person in the village, every adult and every child gathers around the accused in a large circle. Then, one at a time, each person, including children, call out all the good things the person in the center of the ring has done in the past. All the positive attributes and the kind acts are recited carefully and at length. No one is allowed to exaggerate or be sarcastic. It's a serious business!

This ceremony can often last for days until everyone is drained of every positive comment he or she can muster about the transgressor. Not one word of criticism is allowed. At the end, the tribal circle breaks up...a joyous celebration begins and he or she is welcomed back into the community!

Apparently, this overwhelming, positive bombardment strengthens the self-esteem of the accused and causes that person to resolve to live up to the expectations of the tribe. Proof of the success of this creative response to wrongdoing seems evident in the fact that these ceremonies are very rare.


This makes us wonder if, perhaps, borrowing this technique might be a great idea, especially in dealing with some family situations is which someone has gone astray!

"By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (John 13:35).