So Sonia Kruger said some pretty outrageous shit on national TV then came back with a “sorry not sorry” apology the next day and that was that. Let’s all get on with it and pretend nothing happened. Except, people got really mad.
Then Waleed Aly made a powerful video on sending forgiveness viral.
It was on point, articulate and sent a great message. He talked about ending the outrage and ceasing to increase the divide that is quickly becoming a chasm of “us v them”. And then more people got mad.
As a child of Egyptian Muslim migrants, born in Australia, these events are very personal and important to my community and me. I started to write a response to Waleed’s great video and contacted people from my community for some quotes and I was shocked to learn they didn’t agree with his message.
A very dear friend I grew up with shared this with me.
My fear is that I have to explain to my children why people hate them. They haven’t done anything to warrant that hatred but because they are Muslim, people want to put them in internment camps or kick them out of the country that they were born in. I fear that a bigot will go to my child’s Islamic school and gun my child down in retaliation to some terrorist attack overseas. As a mother, those are my biggest fears. Do my fears count?
It made me rethink my views. The portrayal of Muslims in the media is nothing short of disgraceful. And now the Muslim community has been asked to shrug it off and beat racism with love.
As I was trawling through the comments on Facebook of Waleed’s video to find well constructed opinions that oppose the views of forgiveness, it was gut wrenching to read what some people had said.
The Project has lost me as a viewer – You are one sick man Waleed Aly, I can see straight through your agenda. Well done Sonia Kruger, the real Australian is thankful for you speaking up.
This sentiment was repeated over and over.
I don’t know the answer. I don’t know how to fix this. But I do know that the difference I am capable of making (however small that may be) is to respond to all of this with an open heart and forgiveness. I am not backing down on my heritage, nor am I excusing the mindlessness of ignorant statements made. But I am done with hate and fear. I choose not to respond to anger with more anger.
I spoke to Olivia Wallis, a Positive Psychologist and Principle Consultant at Sentis to get some more information on the brain science behind forgiveness.
Olivia says, “Typically, if someone has hurt us or hurt someone we love through betrayal, violence, disrespect or injustice, our natural, default position is anger. However, anger is simply another form of fear, both are closely related to the human fight or flight response. This response blocks some of our higher level cognitive skills, making it very difficult to experience rational thoughts.”
She went on to say, “People who are able to forgive experience higher levels of positive emotion (releases of serotonin and oxytocin), the drugs that make us feel happier and more trusting.”
So they are the neurological benefits to forgiveness on an individual level. Then there are the social implications. Wouldn’t you rather offer kindness in your community rather than contribute to what Waleed refers to as the cycle of outrage?
#AsAMother, I want to teach my kids to love and embrace the differences that make us all so special. I want them to learn about people of the world, different cultures and different beliefs. I want them to respect that everyone is entitled to have their own values, whether you agree with them or not, and they will learn that from me. Just imagine if we all subscribed to that thought process instead of living in fear?
Olivia rightly points out, “Forgiveness is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of strength, you are not doing it to validate someone else’s action, you are doing it for yourself and your own mental and physical wellbeing.”