Ho`oponopono, pronounced , in the Hawaiian language means "setting to right".
Ho`oponopono is a traditional Hawaiian problem-solving process for maintaining harmonious relationships and resolving conflict within the extended family.
The physical, emotional, and spiritual well-being of an individual in relationship to family, community, and environment is a major focus of the Hawaiian culture.
The practice of ho`oponopono is best understood by first appreciating the Hawaiian historic and cultural context in which it is embedded (wound within). Cultural dynamics include the traditional hierarchical social organization, mythology, music, dancing, and singing at social gatherings, folk medicine, land-use patterns, environmental knowledge, and the material culture of pre-contact Hawaii (now mostly in museums). The practice of "talk story" as an art consists of recalled personal events, parts of legends, joking, verbal play and ordinary conversation. People often talk story as a means of searching for and recognizing shared feelings.
The feature of cultural identity is the preference of Hawaiians for employing a social order interaction style that emphasizes interpersonal harmony and avoidance of overt conflict. The extended family or "`ohana" has a sense of unity, shared involvement and shared responsibility with mutual interdependence and mutual help.
Children are taken care of "community style" with great attention given to infants. As an infant becomes a toddler, a shift in attention occurs. The child is no longer indulged and is expected to begin assuming family responsibilities. Older siblings are involved in caring for the younger children. Thus the child-rearing process fosters interdependence and increased opportunity to exercise adult-type roles by working and contributing to the family's economic and social welfare.
The family's structure is characterized by what might be called a benevolent authoritarianism. Elders, the kupuna, are respected for their wisdom and experience and are often the teachers of the children. "Oi ka `aka `a na maka" (while the eyes are still open) encourages young people to learn from the old people while they are still alive ("eyes still open"). "Maka no ke kalo a ola i ka" means that the taro may die but it lives in its young offshoots.
Children learn household tasks through observation and experience. They learn to be unobtrusive since to do otherwise is to risk rebuff and punishment. they may seek help and approval from adults, but in a sutle manner that is not intrusive. Rewards and punishments in the family are often meted out to a group rather than to an individual. This fosters 2 primary strategies used by children to get along in the family, one, sibling cooperation and, two, conflict avoidance with adults.
All these socialization practices underscore a predominant value pattern of affiliation. This value is expressed often in the Hawaiian language with words such as "laulima" (cooperation) and "kokua" (help), words that reinforce the idea of cooperation and interdependence. Generosity, hospitality, sharing, and reciprocity are also valued. These values have application to many areas of endeavor, including work. For example, "ukupau" is still used by some businesses in Hawaii referring to the practice of people helping one another with their work tasks so that they can finish early and commence with fun and relaxation. This contrasts with the predominant American work pattern of adhering to a strict time clock system and requiring workers to be on the job for a specified period of time regardless of task completion. Another example of Hawaiian values is the work involved in a party, or "lu`au", where the preparation of many varieties and large quantities of food for a lu`au requires that many people contribute time, money, and skill. With the spirit of "laulima, however, this cooperative work has its own reward in the pleasant social interaction and accomplishment of what might otherwise be a formidable task.
The successful maturation of a person in the Hawaiian culture thus requires that an individual cultivate an accurate ability to perceive and attend to other people's needs, often without being asked. These are the attitudes and behaviors that help cement the relationship of the `ohana and the community.