That is the question!

We heard at one point about a tribe in Africa whose worst punishment is not imprisonment or fines, nor death penalty.

No, the worst punishment they have for serious crimes is that the person who committed the crime is to live in the village, but nobody in the village will look at the person.

Nobody will make eye contact with the accused person or in any way pretend that the person exists at all. The persons who are convicted this way often become very sick after a while, some even die in the absence of human acknowledgement and connection.

A need for confirmation

The need for acknowledgement is a human necessity and can make an infinite difference in a child's upbringing, an employee's performance and a loved ones desire to share a passionate life. The author Hjalmar Soderberg writes the following in his book, "Dr. Glass" from 1905:

"We want to be loved; failing that, admired; failing that, feared, failing that, hated and despised. At all costs we want to stir up some sort of feeling in others. Our soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs it longs for contact."

An unusually stupid escape attempt

On another occasion we saw a notice in a newspaper which described an apparently unusually stupid escape attempt. There were three runaways, two that had the original idea, both of which had long sentences left.

The third who jumped on the idea had already served three years' imprisonment and had only a few months left until he was to be released to freedom. The three managed to get over the first wall but were captured by the guards before they managed to get over the second and outer wall.

The explanation

Once in front of the judge who would apply the penalty, the judge asked the third man why he smiled so wide and why he had agreed to this seemingly very stupid idea to take the risk to run away with so little time left on his sentence. The man replied:

"Dear Mr. Judge, when the guard grabbed me there on our way to the second wall it was the first time in nearly three years that anyone had acknowledge that I existed and that feeling is worth all this."

It is tragic how often in our workplaces and even at times in our homes, we forget to acknowledge each other as human beings in the midst of stress and other things that occupy our minds.

Markus: I think it is easy, especially when we live in an intimate couple relationship (or at least that we believe is intimate), that over time we forget to acknowledge the other person.

There are often many chores and other things to think about, perhaps there are elements of stress. Then all sorts of weird things start to happen in relationships, unexplained quarrels or irritations, which often stem from an experience of not being acknowledged in the depth of our being.

Two men laughing and hugging

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