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Philip Liebenberg

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Going through the red light means living in a yellow light zone.

We easily skip a “robot”

•Upon my arrival in Singapore in ’96 my host introduced me to his country, calling it “FINE COUNTRY”. You get fined at the blink of an eye for a multitude of transgressions of the most insignificant kind. They are very sensitive to the laws of their government. Unlike them, we take chances and don’t view it as a problem when we sidestep rulings which we regard as inconveniences in our daily lives. My personal needs and whims dictate what I revere and what I overlook. Ego rules. And ego is a bit blind to signs. So is my ego blind to the red-light emotions that is designed to tell me that I should stop.

Three colours of emotion

•My analogy is a simplistic tool and is not meant to be a comprehensive thesis on human emotions. I am pursuing to help us all see that we can use our emotions as tools to gain self-knowledge and draw up a personal inventory. In our rush from scene to scene in our lives we skip one emotional sign after another without realizing that it is this very skipping of traffic lights that causes the many collisions as well as internal breakdowns that we suffer. We dent our cars and over-exhaust our engines without even realizing what we are doing.

The green light

•Green light emotions are those that I call the appropriate ones. Emotions that are sound and justified responses to situations that we encounter. If, in traffic, someone suddenly cuts in, slowing you down without even indicating or communicating a hazard-light-“thank you”, I would think that you are entitled to feeling disrespected. I’m not saying that the intention of the other motorist was to disrespect you – just that you wouldn’t be far off to feel that you’ve been treated with disrespect. That frown between your brows is quite humanly normal and does definitely not mean that you are an angry soul. Shaking your head in mere frustration and disbelief which you then quickly forget to carry on with your journey, paying attention to the road, is quite okay and no harm is done. It cannot be expected of us to love situations like that the way we love mini Italian tomatoes and rocket leaves or blue cheese and figs. If we did it would mean that we are slightly deranged in the faculties between our ears.

Yellow light emotions

•But then there are the moments where our hearts go yellow: this is the point where we start feeling rubbed-up and our hair begins to stand up more than what the rubbing has called for. In short, we feel a bit too strongly about the situation. Our emotions are slightly out of proportion. After I had my shoulder-length hair cut short a few weeks ago, a friend very diplomatically told me that the proportion of head to body is better now. The long hair made my head look too big for my slender body. This is exactly what I mean by yellow light emotions – our feelings are a bit too much when compared to what the other person said or did to us. Our hair is standing up too high. It would be somewhat like this: the person cuts in and you become seriously annoyed. You just can’t let it go and feel the urge to start hooting up an audio storm, to swear and call the person an unflattering name or two. SLOWLY NOW! This is the time to realize that you should go slow in the response department and think about why you react and feel so strongly and intense. What does this yellow light emotion tell you about your own state of being? Emotionally – what is going on in your life and are you facing relevant issues between you and significant others in your life? Physically – are you well and do you eat properly? Logistically and plan-wise – is your life in order and isn’t it maybe true of you that you don’t plan in a way that allows for mishaps to occur? Spiritually – how is your prayer life and your devotion to God? Are you living a life of surrender to the Holy Spirit or does your ego reign?

Stop! The light is red!

•How often did it happen to you that you were going way above sixty km/h when suddenly you were literally on top of the red light? “Sorry!, but I was going too fast and couldn’t stop in time.” I know that sense of embarrassment very well. I always feel that I am both guilty and innocent and do not know exactly which one to put first. How do I explain to my passenger/s that I am not a robot-skipper, but only knew that my car’s brakes wouldn’t do a good and steady job at coming to a halt? With that argument in place it follows logically that I was traveling too fast to be able to put on some neat brakes to avoid a possible collision with another car – or at least sliding in some weird direction on my own. Or maybe I get to stopping the car but land up way over the line and sit there red-faced while other motorists look at me with a grin on their faces and pedestrians have to make a detour to get past me to the other side of the road. And that is so true of our lives. When we live without doing introspection and gauging the content of our emotions, they will go too fast so that we won’t be able see the yellow lights – and if we do, it is often still too late to stop neatly before the light turns red. We stop after the collision and then have to say “I’m very sorry”, but the harm is done and the relationship will never be quite the same again. Or we stop, sliding out of our lane and landing up in some odd position on the road. Direction lost and heads bewildered. If I allow my ego to live unchained without any checks built in to gauge my whole being, my life will go through red light after red light with the emotions running wild, me unable to stop or even realize what is happening to me. I will get irritated with the frustration that red lights cause me and I will be unable to see that I have a problem and have become a run-away bus. Wild responses that are ill-proportioned to the events that stirred them up should be viewed as red lights that is telling me that I have a huge problem within myself and the machinery of my life. The story is not the red lights that are so lavishly planted all over the city – the story is me and my inner works that need to be addressed. When next time your back gets up so fiercely – see the red light and stop! The problem is not so much the other person or the event – it is you!

Where do I stop?

•Stop here, stop now – you know that God’s Spirit is speaking to you. Turn around from a journey of unchecked emotions and do an inventory of your whole life.

•-Stop when you feel the ill-proportioned emotion welling up. Hush and get into some quiet corner before you slide over the white line.

•-Stop at your personal prayer corner in your house. At the Word. At the house of your Christian friend. At the doctor, the dietician or psychologist. Whichever line seems beneficial. Stop there and face what needs to be faced in the works of your personal engine before you go up in flames and take a few others with you.


•-Go in peace and pursue the search-light of God as you see the yellow lights of your own emotions.

Groen. Geel. Rooi.

Philip Liebenberg

Die Kapel

22 Maart 2008

Pro 4:23

Bewaak jou hart meer as alles wat bewaar moet word, want daaruit is die oorspronge van die lewe.

Die lewe se prentjie is nie buitekant nie; dis in jou hart.

Ons praat graag oor die dinge wat met ons gebeur.

Wat mense aan ons doen.

Ons vertel met drif van die emosies wat dit by ons ontlok het.

Ek is mal oor dit en ek haat dat. Ek word woedend hieroor en baie bly daaroor.

En die hele tyd dink ons ons is besig om van ander mense se gedrag te praat. Ons dink dat óns reaksies op daardie gedrag ‘n subtema is. Toe nie, hoor!

Ons emosies en reaksies op ander mense sê meer van ons as wat dit van die ander mense sê. As jy my vertel hoe woedend jy vir Suid-Afrika, jou lewensmaat of jou baas geword het, vertel jy my eintlik hoe jou eie binnekant lyk. Jy dink ek hoor “SA”, Pietie, Meneer Verster”. Al die tyd hoor ek net “kedoef, kedoef, kedoef” – die geklop van jou hart.

Toets jou emosies; gebruik die kleure van die verkeerslig om hulle te interpreteer.

Jou lewe is soos ‘n reis van een gebeurtenis tot by die volgende.

Van toneel tot toneel ry ons en daar is baie kruisings. Ons pad kruis met dié van mense. En met baie omstandighede.

Jou emosies is jou unieke reaksies op daardie kruisings.

Groen emosies:

Party van jou emosies is oukei.

Hulle is proporsioneel tot dit wat gebeur.

Dis emosies wat geregverdig is.

Jy mag hulle maar voel en hulle gang laat gaan.

Gee uiting en wys dat jy ontevrede is. Vertel vir die mens wat jou vies of bly gemaak het hoe jy voel. Stel jou grense vas. Leer mense hoe om ordentlik met jou te werk. So leer ons mekaar ken en bou ons eerlike verhoudings.

Daardie emosies is ‘n groen verkeerslig. Jy mag maar ry as hy sy lig in jou kop skyn.

Geel ligte:

Dis emosies wat uit-verband-geruk tot die gebeurtenis staan.


Té kwaad. Té seergemaak. Té verlief. Té bly. Té histeries.

As jy hierdie goed voel is dit tyd om te begin inventaris doen van wat in jou lewe aan die gang is. Jou kattebak is vol goed. Jou bagasie is jou hele lewenskarretjie vol. Mens kom nooit vanuit `n vakuum na `n kruising toe aangery nie. Jy kom altyd van iewers af! Vra jouself die vrae: Vir wat is ek só verlief, die mens is nie só wonderlik nie?! Vir wat is ek só kwaad, die gebeurtenis is nie die einde van jou lewe nie?! Het ek genoeg geëet. Is my bloedsuiker laag? Slaap ek genoeg? Het ek onopgeloste issues wat my alreeds kwaad vir die lewe het en nou haal ek dit alles op hierdie een mens uit?

Daar is altyd redes waarom `n mens oor die geel lig van oorreaksie jaag. Daar is altyd binnegoed-redes waarom ons in daardie kruisings begin om mense te vloek of toe te snou!

As jy hierdie inventaris nié doen nie gaan jy nou-nou deur ‘n rooi lig jaag en jou lewe van ‘n hengse botsing voorsien.

Go with the flow! Want wanneer `n mens in hierdie lewe onnodig baie weerstand bied begin die rook altyd draai.

Die kuns is om net genoeg te push.

Die kuns is om te weet wanneer om met die flow te gaan.

Jy wil nie botsings hê nie, jy wil net hê dinge moet reg verloop en in beweging kom. Jy soek nie ‘n oorlog met die lewe nie.

Rooi lig oorsteek is:

Wanneer jou emosies so erg buite proporsie tot die kruising se gebeure is dat jy in ‘n mal vaart oor die lyne begin jaag sonder dat jy eers die geel lig kon sien. Dit beteken dat jy heeltemal uit voeling is met wie jy is en wat in jou lewe aan die gang is. Dis wanneer jy heeltyd met mense bots. Jy het reeds die verhoudingspanning te ver laat gaan en kan selfs wanneer jy wél die rusie sien aankom nie betyds gestop kry nie. As jy weer kyk trek die rook, julle albei se karre is gestamp en julle gaan in vlamme op.

Dit gebeur wanneer mens nie stadig genoeg leef om te kan ry en kyk nie!

`n Mens moet voortdurend jou hart se temperatuur nagaan om te sien of jy gesonde emosies het.

Kyk mooi na wat in jou kattebak en op die agtersitplek lê! Sorteer die geel emosies uit sodat jy nie deur `n rooi lig aangejaag kom en in `n botsing beland nie.

Kyk en leef.

Leef en kyk.

Te veel van ons leef net.

Storm net voort.

En as ons weer sien, is ons op ‘n rooi lig en kan nie betyds briek nie. Dan sit ons in die middel van al die aankomende verkeer en die hele lewe lag vir ons oor ons awkward posisie in die middel van die pad. Uit ons baan en oor die wit streep. Inapropriate emotion, inapropriate position. Embarrassed.

Mens lyk altyd simpel as jy oorreageer het! Jy sê jammer, maar mense dink steeds jy is ‘n gevaarlike bestuurder en begin uit jou pad uit bly.

Uiteindelik word onvolwasse mense alleen oud.


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