Like many other Karanga proverbs, this one is as true in its literal meaning as the allegorical meaning. It is a mere observation that certain embarrassments can be so damning as to leave the culprit wishing they were dead instead of living to face their shame. It is particularly damning in the event that what has caused the shame is an dishonorable deed. The Karanga people were always very respectful of honour and dignity and lamented the loss of these qualities as being greater than the loss of life. In this short adage our elders impressed upon us the importance of leading an honorable and dignified life.
The proverb is used to deter people from engaging in disgraceful or dishonorable endeavors. It can also be used as a comment retrospectively to someone who is under the weight of extreme shame or dishonor as an admonishment about their disgraceful conduct.