Ubuntu is an African term that says, “I am because you are, you are because I am.” It is an age-old African philosophy of compassion and being in harmony with all of creation. This idea of harmony can be a helpful construct when learning to live at peace with yourself and others. It allows for flexibility and individuality, and a mutuality of purpose. It clears for us a vision of shared humanity.
Musically speaking, harmonizing is essential. An orchestra may all be playing the same piece but the various instruments are stressing minor and major chords and their own particular sound to enhance the piece. Without each of the players in harmony, the finished work would be different, less, or just plain awful.
This can be applied to our personal and professional lives as well. Do you harmonize with other people or do you expect them to harmonize with you? When someone says no to something, do you find yourself ready to argue? If you ever feel like you are forcing a situation with a little too much self-will, what would happen if you just said, Okay?
If we can bend a little or are willing to see something from another’s point of view, we can find resolution’s not seen when we are trying to force our hand. We find compatibility, when at first all were seeing is discord. We can remember Ubuntu, “I am because you are, you are because I am”.
Please don’t misunderstand me. If we really aren’t compatible with certain situations, it may be time to leave. In addition, there are moments when we do need to stand up for ourselves. There are also times when it’s fun to say or do things to deliberately challenge or provoke others. A good banter now and again has its pleasures.
However, we (myself included) self-reliant types would do well to practice a wee bit of nonresistance. We do NOT lose our identity when CHOOSING to harmonize. Wouldn’t our energy poured out in harmony, instead of attempting to overpower someone or to resist for resistance’s sake, be cleaner and more efficient?!
Ubuntu is not just saying live and let live. It’s living together. It involves enough self-awareness to be ourselves, and enough adaptability to fit that self into different situations. We can be ourselves and still be part of a couple, team, environment, or group. Interdependence really does provide for the healthiest and most creative solutions for our relationships and our world.
When you begin to practice Ubuntu, friends, lovers, and colleagues will most likely notice a change in your interactions with them, and ask what’s up. You can simply say, “Ubuntu.”