One of my grade six teachers always used to say that every time you point a finger at someone, there are always three fingers pointing back at you.
Ever since that day, I have never forgotten her words, but I have never really understood them either. I did live by their literal meaning and up to now I hardly point with one finger. Only in my youth did I learn that what she meant was something along the lines of, before you try to find fault with someone, look at and examine yourself first as you’re not perfect either. Something I wish everyone would take to heart, especially the older members of society.
The older members of society seem to have a know-it-all mentality and don’t question my authority type of attitude. At times it’s difficult to have a conversation with them, because they would never hear the youth’s voices when they talk, maybe it’s their pride, maybe it’s their insecurities, only they know. Either way when they are in the wrong, nobody is allowed to call them out on it, but when a young person missteps, they are the loudest critics and the first to call them out on it. Yet they forget about the three fingers that point back to them.
The youth have a hard time recognising when they are wrong because they are young and naive, they have an even harder time learning from their mistakes, because the elders in society wouldn’t let them to. It’s one thing to be called out when you are wrong, but it’s a whole other thing to be constantly hammered about that same mistake over and over. As custodians of the youth they hardly give sufficient time for the youth to reflect, and even less of an ear to hear their opinion on it.
In the midst of them playing god, they seem to forget that they are human too and that they to make mistakes like everybody else. Instead of focusing on their mistakes and correcting them they would rather point that one finger and ignore the other three pointing back at them. Maybe if they led by example of how a model citizen should behave, the youth would better reflect what they saw around them.
People should recognise their errors first and work towards correcting them, before they go point out other people’s errors and try to fix them. Like Socrates once said, “If all misfortunes were laid in one common heap whence everyone must take an equal portion, most people would be content to take their own and depart.”
*Olavi Popyeinawa has a diploma in Alternative Dispute Resolution and is currently studying law, LLB at the University of Namibia (Unam). He contributes this column on youth matters weekly.
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