The Power of “Sawubona”…”Unjani”

This is a John Hain picture sourced from

In my language you greet someone by saying “Sawubona” which means “hi” and the person responds “Yebo” loosely translated “yes or you have my attention” you continue to ask  “Unjani” loosely translated “how are you” and the response most of the time is “Siyaphila/Ngiyaphila” translated “I am well.” From here the person takes the liberty to stretch the conversation by deliberately exploring and sharing how they feeling . In short greetings in my language are not mechanical or robotic, but they lead by default to a conversation. I have always found this amazing because I love conversations, I can converse with a stranger without even considering that it’s the first time I meet the person. This is just who I am. If I take the opportunity to greet I want to converse.

I have noticed over time the power behind this greeting. See, the moment one responds to a “Sawubona” it’s like they are giving you permission to enter into this sacred place in them, it can either be a dark or a happy place. You get permission to find out how one is doing, and how they are feeling, others call it a window into the person’s space. Hear me well here, I know people have adopted this attitude of minding their own business,  but look at where this has gotten us as a people. Our children live in lonely places that have led some of them to a point of deep depression. Some have become suicidal. What are we missing? We no longer use the power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” Our salutations and greetings are no longer done in an effort to find out how one is doing, they have become something we do because it’s we were told its the right thing to do. Our “Sawubona” has no feeling neither is it concerned with the well-being of the person we are greeting, the pace of life has made us so inhumane.

A couple of years ago I wrote an article titled “Communication the “Elephant in the Room.” I wrote it in the context of marriage. I still believe that the monstrosity we are afraid to face is communication. The exploratory nature of the Swazi greeting made me think. At some point, I was feeling that it’s invasive in its approach, but this afternoon I concluded that there are some things we can identify early in relating with others if we took the time to use the power of the greeting. Think about it, you live with your children, your spouse, parents etc. you greet them every morning with a typical “Sawubona” and figure it’s enough that you greeted them. Later in the day, you hear they have committed suicide, in that confusion you say “why didn’t they say anything to me.” You become guilty, thinking if I had seen it earlier maybe I could have prevented it. I agree with you, you could have, but you missed the opportunity by avoiding being invasive.

We’ve seen in the news when someone takes a gun and goes on the rampage killing people, we hear those interviewed saying “he was such a quiet person, whatever happened to trigger such hate?” But when you think about it, as communities we are now perpetuating an individualistic mentality where people are taught to mind their own business. An individualistic culture is a society which is characterized by individualism, which is the prioritization, or emphasis, of the individual over the entire group. Individualistic cultures are oriented around the self, being independent instead of identifying with a group mentality. I am sure you know that this culture is also found in marriages. Where couples push an individualistic modus operandi to the extent that none knows how the other is doing or what they are thinking. I have seen individuals who when asked how their loved one is doing, will only rely on the yebo from their loved one without knowing how one is really doing. See we leave everything to chance, “he was doing fine the last I asked.” 

In my line of work, people come to us when it’s too late, but they live with people. If I may ask you, what are the tell-tell signs that your child is not well? If s/he is normally a lively child when you see them being lethargic and lacking in energy you know there’s something wrong. You don’t ask a child, you just know and you act on it. The same approach really must suffice to our loved ones. You can see when someone is not well, and sometimes you don’t only need to rely on what you see but you can use the power of inquiry, the power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” Your being inquisitive could just save a life. And you could save yourself from speculating and living in suspicion that something is wrong.

I am a fan of collectivist societies, especially in the family setting. Collectivism is the moral stance, political philosophy, ideology, or social outlook that emphasizes the group and its interests. Collectivism is the opposite of individualism. Collectivists focus on communal, societal, or national interests in various types of political, economic, and educational systems. In as much as these definitions focus on national level thinking but I think in a family setting we can’t afford to be individualistic, we need a good dose of collectivist thinking. I understand that we want our children to be independent, make informed decisions where life is concerned. I am of the view though that a child brought up in a collectivist family is more likely to revert back to family for support when times are tough. This is just my thinking. I believe a member of a collectivist society is most likely to meet a brother, sister, spouse, cousin etc. and say “Sawubona” and take it a step further to ask “Unjani.” And when they utilize the power of the greeting it is done sincerely and from a safe place in attempt to find out how the other person is doing.

It’s sad that we have had friends and family die a silent and painful deaths without getting a chance to tell someone how they are feeling. Exploring the “Sawubona” … “Unjani”  greeting will make us explore, invade and to be in the faces of people’s lives more especially the ones we love. We might just prevent some of these depressions that have led many to suicide, these isolations that have led our brothers and sisters into mental health facilities. Just maybe your spouse wouldn’t find solace in people outside of the family unit if you explored this power. Help me spread the power of these words, let’s use the power of the greeting “Sawubona” …”Unjani.” 

We can change the world around us. We can be our brother’s keeper. Someone might just be in need of someone to listen and hear them out. Someone might just find a friend in you. The power of “Sawubona” … “Unjani.” A better world is possible. I am guilty too, I sometime fail to reach out right when I am needed. I have waited to be asked “Unjani” instead of being the first to ask. I am putting it out here, the struggles of self-indulgence and pride have deprived us the opportunity to change the lives of those we love the most and most of all of those who need it the most.

Refer to the link below to read the article: Communication the “Elephant in the Room”


Reject Rejection

The phenomenon of rejection usually leads to behavioral difficulties to both the rejecter and the rejected. I found the following synonyms of the word rejection; refusal, non-acceptance, declining, turning down, no, dismissal, spurning, and rebuff. Many of us have gone through some of the above experience if not all. Rejection has this lingering effect that sometimes those rejected even believe it leaves an odour on them because when you are rejected once it seems it then becomes a trend to the extent that you either believe they can smell you coming into the room, and some Swazis will claim you have been bewitched and you need a cleansing for good luck.

The one thing I have discovered is that no matter how good you are in something, the moment you are rejected you become reluctant to keep trying because you fear being rejected again. Others fear to attempt doing things, the moment they garner the strength to do and they get rejected, then it dents their lives and that turn down creates a wound that leads to them concluding never to attempt.

An example, of a couple I spoke to recently, the wife had never made the first move in bed even when she wanted intimacy. The one day she attempted to, the husband rejected her with such hostility that she never did it again. Thank God they are sorted now. 

In my line of work, I meet boys and girls that were rejected by their fathers and mothers and listening to their stories one cannot help but get upset at those who rejected them especially with regards to how it affects their esteem. Their self-concept and confidence are not there, simply because they are always inundated with feelings of worthlessness and rejection. Affirmation that comes from a parent, whether a father or a mother has such an effect on children. The same effect comes from being affirmed by the person that you love, it rejuvenates your spirit and makes one excel and become the best that one can be.

As people, we never know the impact that comes with turning down, refusals, and non-acceptance. It’s not only the words we say, but it is the actions. Actions do speak louder than words, some times it’s what you didn’t do that exhibits rejection. It can also be the lack of feedback and or communication.  In scripture, we find that Jesus was also rejected and how he arose above the rejected makes me wonder. My encouragement is you can beat all odds and defy the confinement that comes with rejection. You can beat the depression that comes from feelings of worthlessness.

You are wondering, how was Jesus rejected? How can God be rejected you are asking? Remember that we see in the scriptures that Jesus was 100% God and 100% man as he walked the earth. Here are following references.

Jesus Rejected

Scripture says that Jesus is not a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weakness (Hebrews 4:15), but does it really say anything about this kind of weakness, the pain of rejection? Sympathizing is one thing, but does Jesus know this kind of hurt?

The answer is yes. The gospel does cover rejection. Jesus did experience it…quite a bit of it, actually. That’s the beauty of the dual nature of our Savior. Being fully God, he chose to be brought low into the humanness of suffering. So every facet of Christ’s life on earth was touched by rejection.

Let’s look at a few of these facets and how they point us to the gospel.

Jesus faced rejection from family members.

Scripture tells us that “not even his brothers believed in him” (John 7:5). Jesus’ own family rejected him as the Messiah. In his life among us, Jesus was a son, a brother, maybe even an uncle. He had human relationships that tore him up when love wasn’t returned, wasn’t wanted, wasn’t accepted.

Jesus faced rejection from his community.

When Jesus returned to his hometown of Nazareth, neighbors that he grew up with and family friends “took offense at him” (Matthew 13:57). He said he was “without honor” in his hometown. Scripture even says that Jesus “did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief” (v. 58). He knows what it’s like to lose the love and support of a community, to feel unwelcome in a place that was once home.

Jesus faced rejection from people who once claimed to love him.

Christ, in his God-ness, predicted both Judas’ betrayal and Peter’s denial. He saw it coming. But his humanness still experienced the hurt. Jesus was “troubled in his spirit” as he foretold of Judas (John 13:21). Think about it. He had just washed the guy’s feet a few verses earlier, symbolizing the laying down of his very life for him. Peter, who professed his love and commitment to Jesus more ardently than any other, would reject even an association with him in a matter of hours. Sudden, total, heartbreaking rejection…yes, Jesus felt that.

Found this on the blog Unlocking the Bible:  I totally agree with Pastor Colin Smith

I am convinced that we can beat it by rejecting rejection. We need to teach our children even in the church to reject rejection, there is more to life than being trapped in the jail of rejection. I pray daily that rejection doesn’t make me a slave, I fight to be an individual that learns from experiences of rejection.