A couple of days ago I let my Nafs and emotions get the best of me in a conversation with someone that’s quite close to me. I raised my voice at them because I was annoyed by something they did. But immediately afterwards, I felt so stupid and I kept thinking to myself, “you know better!”. I was especially disappointed because I’ve been doing a purification of the heart course and my reaction to the event felt unnecessary and uncalled for.
For a long time in my life I operated in shame mode and I didn’t even realise it. It wasn’t until I read Brene Brown’s ‘Daring Greatly’ that I recognised what I had been doing to myself. The way she draws the distinction between guilt (I did a bad thing) and shame (I am a bad person) genuinely changed my life but once in a blue moon I find myself slipping into the pattern again. My outburst got me thinking about mistakes and imperfections and how they can be a means of drawing to closer to Allah SWT.
This quote I came across in a book perfectly captures the essence of what I want to say,
“We call it perfectionism or excellence, but really it’s an obsession with never failing. It’s an unwillingness to look bad or to admit mistakes.”
As a defence mechanism to the guilt that I was feeling there was a part of me that really wanted to justify my reaction to make myself feel better. The first being that “I was tired” and the second, “It wouldn’t have happened if X didn’t behave this way”. Then I thought about the difference between Shaitan and Adam AS. That Shaitan in his arrogance and pride stands before Allah SWT and rationalises his mistake whereas Adam takes the path of recognising the misstep (even though he could have blamed Shaitan for his whispers).
Think about it, part of Shaitan’s goal is to get us on his path. And that’s path of rationalising our sins and failures instead of owning up and saying “I messed up, please forgive me.” Our attitude towards our mistakes and failings in our relationship with God and his creation is important. We can’t learn from experiences that we make excuses for. And the way to absolve ourselves of guilt is not by rationalising our mistakes, it is by rectifying the situation either through seeking tawba or making things right in the best way we can.
Anas ibn Malik reported: The Prophet, peace and blessings be upon him, said, “All of the children of Adam are sinners, and the best sinners are those who repent.” Source: Sunan al-Tirmidhī 2499
Failing closer to Allah can only happen when we surrender our excuses.
I want to end on another quote that I love,
“Our struggles don’t necessarily mean we are distant from God. Sometimes when we are struggling the most, we are actually closest to him. We are more aware than ever of our desperate need for him, and he responds with grace and patience.”