I recently experienced another lovely session of Samoan hatred. A Samoan guy threatened to stab his fork in my face if I didn’t shut up while he was eating his lunch. Not nice, especially as he’d just previously asked if he could sit at the table my friend and I were using. The cause of this hatred, aka racism, or prejudice, is pride. In this Sermon from Samoa I explain the root cause of the hatred and share a little wisdom on how to hate the hatred, and not the hater.
In Christian circles we talk about the wisdom in ‘hating the sin but loving the sinner’. The guts of this phrase is that we differentiate the person from the action (anger) and more specifically the person from the cause of the action (pride).
I did this pretty well with this angry dude when I responded in humility and diffused the volatile situation.
In a nutshell, the Christian world view is that there is a God; that He created good and that mankind ‘stuffed-up’! There’s a little bit more to it than this of course (such as the solution to our woes can be found in Christ) but this is the essence of the way that we look at reality; in other words it is our world view.
The cause of sin (described more literally as the ‘state of being’ of separation from God) is widely accepted within Christian circles as being pride. I too believe that pride was the driving force that caused mankind to stuff-up, and for three and a half decades I’ve seen this world-view validated time and time again, and so far without exception.
My recent aggressor had an issue with me – not because of what I was saying but because of who I was. He clearly hated the white man. I know this because after my friend had left, I apologised to this dude and asked him to help me understand where he was coming from. I genuinely wanted to know what Samoan cultural sensitivity I had offended. He neither accepted my apology, nor would answer the question of why I couldn’t talk about whatever I was talking about with my [Samoan] friend in front of him. He wouldn’t answer this because he couldn’t, without incriminating himself!
Of course there was no problem with what I was doing or saying. The guy to my mind was just an arrogant ‘dick’ who was ‘up himself” and had an issues with Palagi.
I’m no different to anyone else when someone is up themselves and aggressive towards you. I felt like punching the guy, but I learned a good lesson in my early 20s, that if you start a physical confrontation, you better be VERY sure that you take the other guy out for good, because a wounded enemy is usually more dangerous than he would have been if you leave him alone!
I know that may not sound very “Christian” to most people and that Christians are widely expected to be nice to people and so on, but I am a pragmatist in this sense – based on real life experience! I will only use force when totally necessary, and if it’s really necessary I would have no issue in making it lethal.
As an aside, I was never on this page. It is actually my experiences in Samoa that have opened my eyes in this regard and ‘toughened’ me up. Samoa can be quite a brutal country in many ways but they really respect authority. Dogs, their Matai, the church leaders and guns are widely respected. It’s very honest in this regard.
So, here I was in a cafe, with a guy who hated me because of (probably) my skin colour who was aggressive to me, and I was working through the issues so that I survived yet another encounter with hatred. Fortunately I did that OK. The guy finished his lunch, departed, so did my friend and then so did I.
The secret for my survival, and dealing with the hatred was, as they say here in Samoa, to ‘come down’ – to humble myself. When he failed to accept my apology and refused to adjust his stance in the face of reason, I came to understood the root cause of his hatred. Understanding then gave me the upper hand in the confrontation. The power he exercised through his anger enabled him to feel good, and powerful for the moment, but it was fleeting and will bring him continued problems, certainly shame and ultimately a sad life. He is captive to that pride.
I can choose to do the same, or to the Gandhi thing and turn the other way. I can do this because I understand the choices I have to make. I understand that in Samoa, I’m a foreigner. I understand that this guy clearly has some personal issues, so it’s a hundred times easier to back-off and get on with life, than to cause a scene. If I had fought, I could have been arrested. He would probably have gotten a slap over the wrists with a wet bus ticket and I could easily be in hospital, again!
But as can be seen from previous blog posts on other goons who have ripped me off or acted like fools, backing off does not necessarily mean giving up. My recent publication of the true nature of Savea Sanoa Malifa, for example where he also demonstrated his pride for the world to see, is an example of just letting the truth be known, and the consequences can be problematical for crooks trying to hold up a façade of righteousness. Peter Vandever, Mike Hart and Brendan Battles have all too, regretted trying to do wrong with a guy who simply never gives up.
The flipside of this of course is that I must be ‘clean’ myself. Of course that takes a lot, but I do my best.
Pride always comes before a fall. I’m not out to hurt people like Savea, Peter or any others, but if speaking the truth entraps them in the glare of the headlights of truth like a ‘possum, well then so be it.
One of the things that seems very hard for Samoans to grasp is the differentiation between people and things, or people and values, or people and events. This is because Samoa is a relational culture. It’s not money that drives people, it is relationships. Their identity is formed and reinforced through relationships – with family, extended family and to some extent their country – so that when trouble arises, a person is targeted, not so much the issue, or the event. This relationship building is a wonderful attribute to have, as I mentioned on my last post before leaving New Zealand. It is a strength of the Samoan culture, but when it overrides common-sense, or biblical values such as speaking in truth or exercising love (especially to the outsider), it becomes detrimental to the health of the Samoan people.
My aggressive ‘friend’ used the thinking that I was a Palagi, an outsider, a foreigner on his turf to justify his anger. If I tar him with a brush of ‘lost-cause’, just another ‘stupid Samoan loser’ or similar, in effect I do the same thing that he did to me. It may just be possible that the guy could grow up, see the error of his ways and become a friend. Sure, maybe it’s a VERY long shot, but it would be an even longer shot that this would happen if I had argued back!
Differentiating the sin from the sinner; the cause from the event allows me to exercise biblical wisdom, not only in the case of one angry Samoan at a cafe table, but also with all other conflict situations I see here in Samoa.
People gossip about other people here constantly, and always pull the person down, rather than focussing on and dealing with the issue at hand. This is totally destructive and as well as being unbiblical behaviour, prevents the country from lifting itself out of the mire of mediocrity, corruption and poverty that it is clearly in. Learning to hate the hatred, not the hater is the first step out of the mess.
But there’s more to this story, a witness watched the guy’s aggression towards me and stopped me on the way out the door. Asking more about what happened, she shared her discomfort at the guy’s conduct.
It was nice that someone was prepared to talk about it, but yet again her response was essentially the same – to deal with the hater, not the hatred, nor the root cause of the hatred. The essence of her comments were the exact same as every Samoan I’ve ever discussed any of my adversity with and were along the lines of, “He’s not a true Samoan” or “He brings shame upon Samoa”.
This thinking is natural for the Samoan because honour is supreme, but yet it too does the same thing as gossip or conflict. It bundles the person with the action, and the person with the cause. While it is a cultural norm it actually totally depowers us and prevents us growing.
Interestingly she pushed through with asking the reason why he acted like that. My first response that it was just because I was a Palagi was not sufficient for her. She wanted to know more, which is a little unusual here. So I replied that it was spiritual; it was just his pride. Most of the time people here are not interested in digging deeper.
How about exercising some real biblical wisdom next time you are tempted to knock a guy’s teeth out or flatten his nose or write a guy off? The direct by-product of doing this is that the world immediately looks a totally different beast. Instead of perceiving a world full of angry losers, it becomes a world suffering in pain, ignorance, deception and bondage that desperately needs a little TLC.
Exercising biblical wisdom enables us to not only deal with idiots, losers and adversity, it also gives us the solutions to the problems we face. Inverting a problem (in this case pride) always gives us the solution (which is humility). When anyone who has wronged me humbles themselves and apologises, I will do everything I can to help them.
When I choose to ‘come down’, I benefit – and the same for any others that do the same – they too will also benefit. Those that stay high will fall, and lose!
It’s been good chatting.