Repairing Our Brokenness

Andrew Boyd once wrote that compassion hurts.

“When you feel connected to everything, you also feel responsible for everything. You cannot turn away. Your destiny is bound to the destinies of others. You must either learn to carry the Universe or be crushed by it. You must grow strong enough to love the world, yet empty enough to sit down at the same table with its worst horrors.” ~ Andrew Boyd

This is exactly how Tony Meloto has taught me to love humanity as a whole. And it does take a courageous heart to embrace every single person as your fellow brother or sister. Otherwise, there will be no meaningful human connection.

I can honestly say if I had not met Tony Meloto and undergone the Gawad Kalinga journey, I would not be the person I am today.

Yet since my blog post, “How the Philippines Taught Me to Love Malaysia”, came out; I have been accused of loving the Philippines more than Malaysia. I have even been criticised for not helping my own homeland as much as I am helping the Philippines. It baffles me how these critics even know that I don’t help my birth country.

Well, I am not going to defend myself. Those of you who have been following me through my writing at the blog, Huffington Post, or Facebook Fan page would know what I do and what I do not do. Hence, I have no interest in engaging in any debate with “keyboard warriors” who do not even take the time to read my articles and yet condemn me. As they say, there is a time to be silent and there is a time to speak out. I am choosing now to speak about life-affirming stories that will heal and help others in an uplifting way.

In the past, I was neither strong nor fearless. I could not feel or relate to anyone and anything, because the disconnection was too real and deep. I lived within my own bubble. If I were still that person, I would have been condemning and cursing at the recent Red Shirts Rally on 16th September 2015. I would have been shaking my head, and thinking how there was really no cure to stupidity. However, I realised that it’s easy to judge others when one lives a sheltered life. And I will be the first to admit that for the longest time, I was the biggest culprit.

Now, I know better. I had to start by cultivating fearless love for myself, and then gradually extend it to those around me. And I could never have done it without first being completely and totally honest with myself. I had to face my own prejudices, insecurities and misconceptions – be it about another race, culture or belief. Frankly, we all hold certain biases about others. I realised that until I learned how to develop an honest relationship with myself, I would not know how to do it with others. So, owning up was a crucial step.

Until I see every single person as a family member, the disconnection will persist. Until I embrace every individual as a friend, the divide will widen. I get it now. I understand this with all my heart.

“It is when we surrender to kindness that we feel most powerful.‎ To be truly fearless is to confront our weakness so that we can be strong, and help others who are similarly powerless to find their reservoir of inner strength.” ~ Tony Meloto

In all fairness, I cannot keep blaming the “Red Shirts” for being ignorant or easily bought over with money. These are mostly rural folks with low or zero education. Many were either cowed or misled into their actions, used by those with wealth, power or influence. They had no good mentors, teachers or leaders to guide them, let alone inspire them. They are no different from the poorest of the poor in the Philippines. The only difference is that they are clothed better and given fairly comfortable amenities to disguise the fact that they are indeed deprived. So, how could I ever blame them? They need my compassion and help even more. Most of all, they need my empathy.

I have not lived their lives, walked in their shoes or had to face the consequences they face day-to-day, so it makes it easy for me to judge. Truthfully, our brokenness as a nation is not solely their fault, or the fault of any one group. Our brokenness is the failure of ALL Malaysians – those of us who do not care enough to go to the ground or rural areas, to engage with others beyond our comfort zones, or to work with those who truly need our help. Those who would rather stay within the confines of their “overseas education” and urban lifestyles than to bother with the rest. Those who would only complain via the keyboard but will never get their hands dirty, or who do a little and feel that it is more than enough. The list is long.

It takes a whole a village to bring up a family. And until we start treating one another as family, there will be no real human connection in Malaysia or the Philippines. There will be no urgency to heal our individual, and collective, brokenness.

Because it really takes much more than coming together and wearing such-and-such coloured shirts to rally. The question remains – and then what? We return to our cosy little lives and things go back to what they were?

The truth is that all of us have been hurt, broken and damaged in one way or another. I have never met anyone who has been spared from pain or suffering. Hence, there is really no need to add more injury to a gaping wound. It really does not benefit anyone. Most of all, it does not HEAL anyone or anything.

In Japanese pottery culture, there is an art of repairing pottery with gold or silver lacquer and the understanding that the piece is more beautiful for having been broken. It is called Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi.

They honour the cracks and repair the brokenness with gold or silver in order to remind us all that we are much stronger and more beautiful because of our cracks. They do not disguise the cracks or damage at all. They recognise that the brokenness and cracks are part of the pottery’s history.

Imagine if we also applied this art of Kintsukuroi or Kintsugi to ourselves and our lives.
Imagine how much more beautiful our world would be, inside and outside.

How else do we heal the biggest wounds but with beauty, care and love? 

We cannot heal by ignoring the ugliness in our history, or by wishing to disguise the causes of our brokenness.
We can never heal by adding more hurt, negativity or cracks.
We can only heal and move forward in the most beneficial way by forgiveness, understanding and compassion.

When we understand our own history and process of becoming, we would not only understand ourselves but also others. When we know how to appreciate our very own process of becoming with beauty, care and love; we would know how to do the same for everyone else.

All of us have come a long way in order to arrive at who we are today. And we have a long way more to go before we get to where we need to be.

So, the next time we see someone’s scar or wounds; let us acknowledge them with respect and care.
The next time we encounter acts of racism or ignorance, let us show even more compassion and understanding.

Let us add beauty to the cracks, and repair the brokenness with love.

More than becoming a better Malaysian, let us also be Malaysians of value. 

We are our lives’ prayer of becoming, and its answer. We are the solution to the problem. Let us be the inspiring mirror that reflects the goodness and beauty in each other. Let us become fearless heroes of peace, harmony and unity. Then, our road home will be rewarding, healing and joyful.

May we all wear our scars and wounds like crowns, and repair our brokenness with loving kindness.

May we heal as ONE, because ONE NATION FITS ALL and ALL LIVES MATTER.

May we become United Malaysians for a Better Malaysia, and above all, a United People for a Better World.

Tanahair Ku – Time Lapse Throughout Malaysia from fwukai quah on Vimeo.

All my hopes and love,


Being Afraid Is Human, But Staying Afraid Is A Choice.

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