Last week, amid the theatrics of the teachers’ strike and Obama’s visit to Africa, we failed to notice that there was a disquiet in the world of women. The person who did notice and called my attention to it was CIC’s Kamotho Waiganjo. His article in last week’s Sunday Standard didn’t even begin to scratch the surface of this very important conversation on what he calls the Sin Of Spite – a term I totally embrace and understand. His conversation started with reference to Julia Gillard’s loss of the Australian premiership and made his way to Kenya. Kamotho has a smaller word count than I do, so allow me to pick up where he left off.
Kamotho said “for the few capable and courageous women that manage to beat the overwhelming odds and reach the top, a Julia-like battering awaits. However competent the woman is, Kenyans, including, surprisingly, fellow women, share tantalising titbits on which bedroom she transversed to get to the top, and which one she is patronising to remain there. We should seek collective cleansing of this sin of spite.” I need to add, however, that the sin of spite cuts across for both men and women.
This sin of spite has two outcomes and none of them is good for anyone. Men and women of great aptitude and skills begin to shy away from doing bigger and better because they can’t seem to fathom how they will deal with the nonsense. Young people – male and female – buy into the lie that hard work, prayer and the ability to seize the moment will never amount to anything. Then we decry the lack of ambition and patience in young people – really? When have persistently sent out the message that no-one makes it without some under-handed mechanics, so why are we surprised that the sin of spite has spawned the sin of slouth?
Kamotho says as a father of two daughters he is unashamedly biased towards women. As a woman and a mother to a young daughter, I’m on his team. But before you decide that this is yet another piece on women - though there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that - allow me to stick to the Sin of Spite and the absurdity it brings with it. Before I even turn my attention to the shallow mob that spend their time on small issues, allow me to focus squarely on the people at the receiving end of the madness.
For heaven’s sake, chin up and get on with what you know you are good at. Get over the nonsense on social media and aimless bar and salon talk. Did you really think everyone was going to be happy for you? Did you really think your good fortune would have your peers, detractors, former boyfriends, husbands, former girlfriends, wives and groupies and other people who believe they are “just like you or better” popping champagne to celebrate you? Did you? Grow up!
Your growth, good fortune, luck, opportunity and even glow is going to have many fidgeting. Please note, the problem isn’t you – it’s them. I’m a woman so I know how spite works. Like most women, I spent a good amount of time in my late 20s sipping wine and tea talking about someone else’s life, good fortune and even amazing blessings with a tinge of awe and alot of jealousy. What cured me was meeting that same person and realising that while we were talking (read gossiping) they were growing, flourishing, rising, prospering and they didn’t miss a beat.
I was also cured by a good dose of changing the people who I spent time with and finally bothering to ask those who we talked about enviously how they did it. You are the average of the five people you hang out with. Check yourself. Spite is a dreamkiller – it kills your dreams and your ambitions. It gives you an excuse as to why you haven’t gotten to where that other person has. It let’s you sleep better and stay in your comfort zone believing that if you had committed all the “sins” your nemesis did, you’d be there too. It’s easier to believe the worst than look inwards and question your personal lack of ambition, foresight and fortitude.
Needless to say, once I moved on and left the circle of spite, I too became the subject of those wine, tea sipping sessions. However because I have been there, I can smile, hold my head up and yes, sometimes even provide fodder for those sessions because I know that while they are focused on me, they can’t possibly be doing anything to better themselves.
I have read with sheer hilarious delight the comments being made on my colleague Daniel Ndambuki and the so-called poor pay and other garbage that can only be created by spiteful, lazy minds. As one person so eloquently put it to the poor misguided soul, “start your own, call it complain industry.” No-one performs on Churchill at gunpoint. I have very little time or patience for whiners. The problem with that lot though is that they infect the more simple-minded amongst us with a new excuse for why they aren’t doing better. Excuses, excuses...
Last week, I had the chance to encounter a few other people, both men and women, who feel drained and also puzzled by the sin of spite. My message to all of them and to you is the same – chin up! Charting your own path, capitalising on opportunity and getting to the top of your game your way was never going to receive resounding accolades from everyone. A young enterprising man asked me, as it emerged that a few people had planted the notion that he just might be dealing drugs, connected etc. Oh, men get their fair share of the madness too.
Why? Because spite is this little nasty thing we exercise to make ourselves feel better about our own shortcomings. It’s how we sleep better at night. When we look at you and how far you’ve come against the odds, there’s a moment there when we feel insufficient, inadequate, outraged, challenged and honestly insecure. The question at the back of our minds is: “if she/he can do it, why can’t I. What’s holding me back? What’s my excuse?” Rather than look inwards for the answer, we choose to crash you instead. The list of excuses we make to ourselves about your apparent success are endless.
However, as Kamotho Waiganjo says, we must seek collective cleansing of this sin of spite. The end result of this assault on men and women alike who are reaching for the sky is that we frighten away some of the very best from rising, inspiring and also creating the groundswell we need to progress as a people, as a nation. We rob young people of the chance to see and learn from the unique skills and perspectives that trailblazers bring to the table.
Yes, the sin of spite is fatiguing, but let me leave you with this as you sit there and shrink, worried about what the gossip mongers may say when your light shines through - “Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won't feel insecure around you. And as you let your own light shine, you unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” â Marianne Williamson. Yes, it’s tough, but that’s why, out of all the people in your universe, it’s you and not them. Because you are made of and for tougher stuff. Get on with it. The God who created you demands it of you.