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‘Nobody’s perfect’

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

Indeed, those who are in denial about their own specific imperfections are often obsessed with the imperfections of others.

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People often say: “Nobody’s perfect.” Many motivational speakers and life coaches are fond of the phrase. Even Adam, the first among us, wasn’t perfect. It’s undeniably true, and obsessing over perfection can be a harmful practice. But what sorts of things can we hide behind the phrase “nobody’s perfect?”

Imagine a child who is raised in a family where, every time he does something wrong, his parents make excuses: “He didn’t mean it,” “he’s a good boy,” “everyone makes mistakes.” Instead of the child facing the consequences of his actions, accepting responsibility, and repairing the harm, he avoids them because “he’s only human.”

This can result in a case like Brock Turner’s, where, even when he has been convicted of rape, his parents make excuses and help him evade responsibility. Here, the mantra that “I’m not perfect” becomes a way of refusing to deal with one’s crimes.

Indeed, those who are in denial about their own specific imperfections are often obsessed with the imperfections of others.

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Guilt, remorse, and getting beyond the self-help placebo

By Fedwa Wazwaz, Engage Minnesota

“O God! Grant us enough fear (of displeasing Thee) that it may serve as a barrier between us and our sins. . .and grant us enough faith that it may help us to face the misfortunes of this world easily.”
–Prayer of Prophet Muhammad, upon him peace and blessings.

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It’s important to distinguish between two very different emotional processes: guilt and remorse.

We sometimes think of the two as interchangeable, but in truth they are very different. Guilt is connected with control, obligation, and fear. When you’re feeling guilty, you’re being shamed and disempowered. At times, this shame can be personal, part of a private controlling force. But often, guilt is part of a broad societal shaming.

For instance, Muslims have been pressured, for the past sixteen years, to feel guilty for the horrific events of September 11, 2001, as well as other violent attacks. We’ve been put on the guilt-track, where we need to constantly excuse, explain, apologize, and apologize for a crime that took us by surprise as it did everybody else.

Indeed, this guilt denied American Muslims the space to grieve. We, too, needed to share with the rest of the community the process of loss. We, too, needed to work through our sorrow and fear.

Instead, we were roped by a feeling of guilt and shame, and a burden to prove that we were not guilty. But in this case, there is nothing we can do to prove we’re not guilty. Still, the president’s executive order evokes September 11 when suddenly revoking permanent residents’ access to their homes, jobs, and lives.

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