By Romina Afghan
Aisha, the wife of the Prophet sallAllaahu alayhi wa sallam, reported that the Messenger of Allah, peace and blessings be upon him, said:
“Verily, Allah is gentle and He loves gentleness. He rewards for gentleness what is not granted for harshness and He does not reward anything else like it.”
Ṣaḥīḥ Muslim 2593
We might have heard that saying before. And we might be trying to apply it to the people in our lives who we believe would most benefit from our kindness- maybe our children, our parents, our neighbours. And yet the one person who would most benefit from that kindness is someone who is so often overlooked and seen as undeserving of that kindness.
Ouch. Undeserving. That’s a loaded, judgment-riddled word… and to whom might we be applying this judgment and load?
The only person in the world probably to whom we would think of being so mean to, and the only person we wouldn’t get judged for treating so harshly: ourselves.
Yes, we make mistakes. Yes, we fail. Yes, we get things wrong. How very human of us.
We are designed to grow and learn, and that process requires us and necessitates that we are not perfect. We all have a way to go on our journey to Allaah, and to being the best human we can be. We all have paths to walk that we have never walked before, and because we haven’t walked them before, we may get lost, we may trip and fall.
And that’s why we have reassurance from Allaah subhanahu wa ta’ala that He is al-Haadi, the Guide, and He will continue to guide us when we are lost; He is An-Naseer, The Helper, who will help us to navigate the path that looks steep; He is at-Tawwaab, the One Who Accepts the repentance of those who fall, He is the One who feels shy to, and in fact never turns down the hands of His slave when his slave raises them to Him to beg from Him.
If we keep condemning ourselves for not being perfect each time that we fall, we only cause or prolong the pain and suffering of the fall. And I know why we do it – it seems so logical that we should berate ourselves and “whip ourselves into shape” in order to make sure that we don’t make that mistake again; it seems so logical that in order for us to prove to ourselves and maybe even to Allaah how badly we want to be better, that we have to be harsh and raise the bar to a level of perfection and that we will not accept anything below that. We think that being better demands this of us.
Yet, if we are honest and look deeply, we can see that harshness doesn’t really produce the results we are seeking. That harshness makes us lose hope in ourselves as we find we cannot possibly live up to the bar of perfection. That harshness against ourselves makes us hate and dislike ourselves- either just a part of ourselves, or in worst-case scenarios, all of ourselves, and then we reject ourselves. When we reject ourselves, it becomes hard to work hard for a being you dislike and reject; it becomes hard to believe in their good and ‘deserving’ qualities. The path itself becomes painful and we want to run away from it and not think about it, let alone be persistent in it. And that is a high price to pay. And it’s actually the wrong price to pay, because it still doesn’t get you to your destination of being the best you can be.
What can we do instead?
Let us use the experience of suffering to soften our hearts instead. Because in the same way that you weren’t created to be perfect, you weren’t created to be harsh either.
“Allaah gives due to gentleness what He doesn’t give to other than it.”
Be gentle with yourself. Show yourself compassion. Allow your heart to soften and know that the hearts closest to Allaah are the softest ones.
If you keep beating yourself up, you will become one of two things in response to that emotional beating – hard or small – and neither of those result in you feeling empowered, or showing up as your best self.
Use your experience of suffering as a means of softening into your humanity – even if the suffering came at your own hands, and was the result of your own choice. Let your compassion stem from your recognition of your own humanity – you failed? Well, how very human of you!
You deserve your own compassion – whatever your situation.
You don’t deserve to be beaten down, no matter your mistake.
Lean into softness and compassion for yourself, and know that as you do so, you are reflecting a quality of the Divine Himself, who made you human so you could fully appreciate His Perfection and Compassion. If He, in His Perfection and Majesty does not turn you away and reject you ( and He doesn’t, unless you die rejecting Him), then who are you to turn away from and reject you?
Soften into compassion for yourself, and see how that expands the compassion you can hold for others too. Because what is inside the heart will spill out to those around you. What you build inside and practice on yourself, you can practice on others too.
So I invite you to shine the light of your kindness and compassion that you give so freely to others, on to yourself. You are also a creation of Allaah that deserves your kindness.
Take a deep breath and repeat to yourself:
“I fully deserve my own compassion. I am human and not perfect. I embrace my humanity and praise Allaah for His Perfection.”
Now go forth and be ready to shine as a new compassion-powered human in all your imperfect glory!
About the author:
Romina is a mother of four, an Islamic NLP-practitioner, transformation coach, aspiring haafithah and passionate believer in unlocking the wonderful potential of each and every soul by connecting them to Allaah and His Book. She has been blessed to be a part of Solace for some years now, and loves connecting with sisters and children everywhere! You can connect with her on Instagram at @connectedcoachingbyrom and listen to her podcast “Grounded in Guidance” at https://anchor.fm/groundedinguidance or on Spotify.