Between Friends, September 28, 2012
This post is the third part of the series ‘Musings For The Ardent Soul’ in which I aim to radiate benevolence via these documentations.
I have always been a resilient advocate for self-love, and surrounding ourselves amongst company who uplift our spirits. When our loved ones shower us with praise and places us on a pedestal, it does wonders to our ego and self-esteem. Despite the enriching nature of these acts, it has the capability to destruct, too, depending on how the person on the receiving end chooses to regard these compliments.
It is often said that too much of anything can ruin us. Similarly, when too much of self-confidence gets instilled within us, it has the potential to wreck our ability to recognize the existence of our weaknesses. This may give us the ability to say, “I am perfect the way I am, and if you do not like me, it is your loss,” but we run the risk of concluding that we have somehow reached the level of perfection. When we are unable to confront our weaknesses, it may hasten our downfall. Hence, loving yourself is not sidestepping your common pitfalls, but mastering the art of acknowledging your demons and dancing with them till they tire themselves out.
“Truly it is an evil to be full of faults, but it is a still greater evil to be full of them and to be unwilling to recognize them.” – Blaise Pascal
We are masters in spotting the character flaws in others, but when it comes to ourselves, we are either blinded or in denial most of the time. We need to turn the looking glass upon ourselves, because an ongoing self-assessment is vital if we sincerely want to evolve our characters into being finer and less on edge.
Islam places a great deal of emphasis on self-development where an individual takes on the responsibility for shaping his/her life in the most adequate manner. Nevertheless, examining our own character flaws is tough. We resist reflecting on our undesirable traits as a matter of psychological self-preservation, but in order to identify our own shortcomings, there are certain things that we must do that no one else can do for us.
The first step towards recognizing your weaknesses is to humble yourself because trust me, you ain’t seeing no weakness as long as you have your head up your ass. Humbleness is a trait that Islam highly commends as a one of the traits of a true believer.
The Prophet ﷺ said: “Al-Kibr (arrogance and pride) is rejecting the truth and looking down upon people.”
An arrogant person busies himself in disclosing the defects of others, but if someone has the decency to remind him about his own defects, he fails to comply due to his ‘self-proclaimed’ superiority complex. Pride is indeed the mother of all flaws, responsible for dethroning men and civilizations throughout all human history.
Harnessing self-awareness of your actions will allow you to recognize the defects in them. It is your actions that often define who you are and how you are viewed in the world. Thus, you need to have an insight into your traits because usually, it is just a trivial part of your sum persona that may be holding you back.
All that you do in this world has a consequence, and every cause of action has a result. In this fashion, when you take a few steps back and examine the decisions you made, you can determine the quality and the quirks of your behaviour. Are you letting your ego govern your life? Are you too stubborn about getting your way? Are you unable to truly grasp the concept of empathy?
Bringing yourself to account is called muhasabah in Arabic, and Umar Ibn Al-Khattab (RA) said in one of his most powerful statements: “Bring yourself to account before you are taken to account (on the Day of Judgement), and weigh your deeds before your deeds are weighed.”
The act of questioning one’s self was practiced by the predecessors of our religion, and the Companions of the Prophet ﷺ would make up the account for themselves at the end of each day, repenting for the wrong they did and determining to do better the next day. Forgive yourself for all that has been done, deconstruct all your apparent defects and start taking responsibility for them. Owning up to your blunders is a fundamental part of your recovery, but mere “sorry” is not going to cut it anymore. Your apology needs to be heartfelt, followed by a sincere intention to amend the deeds that caused the wounds.
If you are unable to grasp this level of ‘self-awareness’ by yourself, then you should start listening to the tender and subtle clues people give you. This will enable you to learn a lot about yourself, and allow you to detect flaws that you might otherwise have missed. It is both bold and precarious to bring your loved ones into your quest of recognizing your flaws, however, it is an effective route. What you hear may be raw, but try to get the most out of their words without feeling like you just got kicked in the groin. Nevertheless, listening is intended to be a tool that allows you to grow as a person, but if it does the opposite, then you ought to abandon it.
Sometimes, confronting yourself can be overwhelming as your conscious oozes like a scab that was reaped open and refused to heal properly. You may start beating yourself up and layering self-hatred, but this reaction is not useful to you or anyone else. At the end of the day, you are a human striving to be the worthiest you can. You are not dented, nor unlovable. You just require some space and time to heal, that is all. When the realization of my flaws dawned upon me, I vowed to change, and I have been on this cruise ever since.
“Allah سبحانه و تعالى never changes the condition of a people unless they strive to change themselves.”