With tears in his eyes, he asked me: “Uncle Dan, what do I do?” Big brother was angry with younger sister for an act of hers he considered rude.
For a long time, he had refused to talk to her even after she had apologised to him. Then suddenly she was murdered in broad daylight.
It was at her funeral that the miserable young man asked me this question.
His ego was so hurt by his sister that he failed to mend fences with her! Now she was dead.
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I recalled this incident following a recent chat with a friend.
When I asked of her sister whom I had not heard of for a long time, she simply said: “I don’t know where she is.”
She explained that when their father died, their mother was left alone in the house.
The siblings outside decided that their youngest sister at home should move into the outhouse to keep their ageing mother company!
She moved in and after a while invited her boyfriend to join her without any consultation with their mother.
Even though the old lady was not pleased with this development, she did not comment on it.
Strangely, the young man started walking around the house semi-naked with only a towel around his waist on a regular basis.
The old lady drew her daughter’s attention to this impropriety! It fell on deaf ears.
She, therefore, informed the siblings who called their younger sister to order to advise her boyfriend to avoid such exposure and be more decent.
The young woman got offended and left her parents’ house unceremoniously, leaving her mother to her fate.
To this day, nobody knows where she is as she has cut off all links with the family! Indeed, when their mother died, she did not attend the funeral.
As the conversation continued, we recounted such incidents in many families. My friend then quoted the famous Ghanaian (Twi) saying, “efie biara, Mensah wo mu.”
The idiom means “every home has a bad lot!” In effect, despite the superficial veneer of unity among families, many homes may not be as peaceful as they appear! The question is: why?
Many years ago, I took part in a United Nations (UN) programme in Singapore.
Part of what we discussed was ego! We observed that, almost invariably, any time a group of people are put together to bring peace by solving problems, they generate their own internal conflict.
As the writer T.S. Elliot said: “Of all the virtues, humility is the most difficult, because nothing dies harder than the desire to think well of oneself…..”(ego!).
We observed that irrespective of status, human beings have egos in varying degrees. Indeed, many human problems in families and organisations, and indeed countries, are the result of over-bloated and very brittle egos!
So one of the recommendations we made in Singapore about 20 years ago for Senior Mission Leaders Training for United Nations Operations was a course in ego management!
We need to constantly remind ourselves of the Biblical three score and 10 years we may feel entitled to. The reality is that many people in our part of the world do not get there.
So why the pea cocky attitude as if we shall live forever?
Here in Ghana, while the average life expectancy for females may be slightly above 60 years, that for males is just about 60.
I ask myself why we waste so much time promoting bad blood over very flimsy reasons, with no space in our hearts for forgiveness.
Apart from the perverse and selfish satisfaction to our egos, what do we gain by inflicting emotional pain on family, friends, organisations, etc.?
Let us focus on leaving behind a positive legacy which our families, organisations and Ghana can be proud of, and not negatives people get upset over, and want to forget fast.
After years of conflict, Ethiopia and Eritrea have recently mended fences, thanks to the initiative of the new Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Mohammed, in 2018.
The simple statement “I am sorry” does not only mend fences, it goes further to build bridges of peace.
Indeed, in some cases, saying “I am sorry” is not an acceptance of guilt.
Rather, mature people use it wisely and positively to massage brittle egos, because they place relationships over egos.
Many are those who started 2018, but did not finish it.
May 2019 bring us more self-introspection, downplaying of egos, and greater peace!
Let us mend fences, build bridges and make peace, for life is short!
The writer is a former CEO, African Peace Support Trainers Association (APSTA),