Bassa ( liberia ) Proverb
Background, Explanation, Meaning and Everyday Use
This proverb means “Do not ruin your life by malicious gossip.”The Bassa people in Liberia in West Africa describe honey as “food cooked in God’s town.” As such, it is delicious and needs nothing added to it. Men eagerly hunt for honeycombs stored in holes in old trees. To gather the honey from these hives, one has to first smoke the bees out of the hives or they will sting him. While smoking the bees out by burning some old clothes or raw leaves at the holes, the honey-gatherers also suffer from the smoke.
From this experience the Bassa elders developed this proverb to warn all troublemakers. Like those who smoke the bees, talebearers go around to cause a lot of trouble and misunderstanding among relatives and friends. What they do not realize is that they are also causing trouble for themselves. When they are caught for spreading lies or gossiping, they are beaten and jailed for creating misunderstanding and disrupting the life of the community.
These are biblical parallels warning of gossip and malice:
Contemporary Use and Religious Application
Although the Bassa tradition frowns on gossiping, gossipmongers are still found in many ethnic group communities using undercover methods and hiding behind some leaders and important persons in the community. But since the evil of gossip is roughly equivalent to the evil of witchcraft and the sentence of one guilty of witchcraft was usually death, in most cases no important person would be willing to defend a gossip once he was exposed. Thus the proverb was made to teach against the evil practice of gossip and prevent it if possible. Those who plan evil for others will suffer the same evil. A troublemaker makes trouble for him or herself.
People who intend to disrupt the relationships in a community through gossip are setting themselves against the community and against God. Nothing good can come of this. They cause damage and they receive damage. They are walking on the road of fools, heading toward their own ruin.
Dr. Abba Karnga (from Buchanan, Liberia)
c/o Mary Dehn
2720 Linden St., Unit 12,
Bethlehem, PA 18017 U.S.A.
Telephone: (610) 433-9332