Jamaica Patois Wisdom – Influence

by Jefferson David Tant

The Jamaican Patois dialect is colorful, unique, and humorous. It is my desire to share some of the philosophy shown in this mix of colorful phrases that are witty as well as thought-provoking. I hope the readers both profit and enjoy. In my quarter-century plus of teaching there, I have come to appreciate some things about their culture.

Patois: If yu lie wid dog, yu wake wid flea
 If you lie down with a dog you will wake with fleas
Meaning: One who keeps bad company will reap unfavorable results

Patois wisdom and the Bible are in agreement. Paul warned, "Do not be deceived: 'Bad company corrupts good morals'" (I Corinthians 15:33). Paul had warned earlier about the danger of the church tolerating the behavior of a man who was in an incestuous relationship with his step-mother. "Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough?" (I Corinthians 5:6). We know that it doesn't take much leaven or yeast to have a significant effect on a lump of dough.

But it is so easy for people to think they are strong. When parents warn their children about some of their friends, the response may be: "Well, I know they do some things that are wrong, but I'm strong enough to resist getting into trouble. They're my friends, and I enjoy hanging out with them, but I don't do everything they do."

The Psalmist put it this way: "How blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked, Nor stand in the path of sinners, Nor sit in the seat of scoffers!" (Psalms 1:1). Here we see the picture of one who walks by where bad behavior is taking place, then perhaps returns to stand and watch, and the first thing you know, he's sitting right in the middle of it. So the writer pronounces a blessing on those wise enough to stay away.

In picking friends, there are basically two types.

  1. There are those who influence us, and
  2. there are those that we influence.

We must use wisdom in choosing our friends. Yes, we need to have contacts out in the world if we are to be effective in leading others to Christ, but the danger comes when they are our best friends, the ones we spent the most time with. James warns that "… whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God" (James 4:4).

There are Biblical examples of those who allowed others to have a bad influence on them. There was Amnon, who raped his sister Tamar at the urging of his friend Jonadab (II Samuel 13). Absalom took bad advice from Ahithophel in rebelling against his father David (II Samuel 16:20ff). Even Peter denied his Lord as he was influenced by those standing around him (Luke 22:55-60).

The book of Proverbs is filled with advice about the type of companions we should choose. "Do not associate with a man given to anger; Or go with a hot-tempered man, Or you will learn his ways And find a snare for yourself" (Proverbs 22:24-25). Solomon's advice to his son on the matter of choosing companions begins in Proverbs 1:10, and then shows the consequences of bad choices in the following verses. "My son, if sinners entice you, Do not consent" (Proverbs 1:10).

Choices have consequences, and these choices are sometimes eternal. It may be that we are in circumstances where good friends are hard to find, but we do have one who always wants to be our friend. "You are My friends if you do what I command you" (John 14:15). Make sure He is your friend, and then you won't have to worry about waking up with fleas.

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