“How do we cope with people and selfishness and anger and hatred ?”
At the heart of every circumstance is that your relationship with God comes before the sweet or sour relationship that you love or hate.
You see God before you see the circumstance. You see God before you see those other people; whether they are hateful to you or loveable, God sits between you.
Once you see God before each of these circumstances, you will then know what is the vaccine.
For the one you love. The vaccination is gratitude to God and in a measured manner, thanks also to the person you love. I say measured because, as I have written before, thanks and praise to human beings can often poison us, them and our relationship. I am reminded of a hadith,
“’Ata’ ibn Abi Rabah reported that a man was praising another man in the presence of Ibn ‘Umar. Ibn ‘Umar began to throw dust towards his mouth. He said, “The Messenger of Allah, may Allah bless him and grant him peace, said, ‘When you see those who praise people, throw dust in their faces.'” – Grade Sahih, Al-Albani, Al-Adab Al-Mufrad 340.
For the one you hate. The vaccination is patience with God and also in a measured manner toward the person you hate or are angry/bitter towards. Here, ‘measured manner’ towards the person you’re irritated with means that you know when to observe silence and when to speak up for yourself. There is patience in both instances if used at the right time. Patience is not only silence but also sometimes resilience and tenacity in dialogue and communicating effectively with the person you need to resolve matters with. In this way, sometimes silence can be the wrong thing just as speaking too much can be the wrong thing. Patience is exhibited based on effective reflection on Allah, not making haste, and not reacting based on emotions.
In the case of sour relationships, it’s hard in a different way. Forgiveness and Mercy needs to play a big part when communication repeatedly breaks down or does not resolve things over a prolonged period of time. And when it comes to forgiveness, until you realise that forgiveness is not for that person but for your own peace, you will continue to become exasperated by that person and their presence / coming and going in your life. If you want to stop feeling exasperated by something out of your control, you have to look at your own reaction choices and modify what is within your own control. You cannot control someone else’s behaviour and reactions. You can only control your own.
We must remember also that Allah says,
“And We have made some of you [people] as trial for others – will you have patience?” – Qur’an 25:20
In this way, coping with people’s selfishness, our anger and hatred toward this becomes clearer.
Life is our soul on trial. This is the courtroom. The judgment has not yet come to pass. In our every interaction and reaction to people in our life and life’s experiences and struggles, we are racking up evidence of Taqwa at every turn. For peace in our hearts, we must always connect the people and experiences in our lives to Allah in order that we can find a Qur’anic purpose to everything that helps us tie our earthly experiences to an eternal future that is yet to come. It is when we fail to make this connection that we become exasperated, frustrated and ultimately choked by our experiences and the people in our lives.
Just look at the countless examples in the Holy Qur’an. Yusuf (AS) relationship with his father who he is torn away from, his brothers who betray him, his captors, his prison in-mates. Musa (AS) relationship with his mother who he is torn away from, his token father (Firaun), his relationship with Asiya (RA) who saves him from certain death. The Qur’an is replete with examples of familial relationships and relationships with the general public as well as direct and isolated personal experiences. There is something in there that speaks directly to you at every turn of your life.
Not every relationship is easy. In fact, most are not. Even those that start out with love, adoration and respect will crack over time. “Familiarity breeds contempt.” The key in these instances is Mercy. For yourself and that other person. The key is to recognise that nobody is perfect and that we all need to be more merciful and compassionate because the alternative is just bitterness. Bitterness and cutting ties only makes your heart smaller and hurts you. Anger and hatred only hurts the person who feels it for others. We have a choice in how we react even when we are justified in feeling sad and angry. We still have a choice and it is that choice that defines us and grants us peace if we choose to reflect on Allah. When we turn to Him in the time of sadness and ask Him to help purify our heart, strengthen us and help us to access Mercy when we cannot see it.
The alternative is a virus to our spiritual immune system. The alternative is focussing so hard on victimising ourselves that we disconnect the experience from the reward or punishment in the hereafter. I am not saying that some incredibly heinous things do not happen to people. They truly do. But what I am saying is that you have the choice in whether you let a bad experience define you in a defeatist, negative and self loathing manner, or whether you choose to perceive that experience in a positive manner. This doesn’t mean you perceive abuse or oppression positively. It means that you implore your spiritual immune system to produce the antidote: patience. Allah loves patience. And trust that Allah will recompense you for whatever injustices you have experienced at the hands of fellow human beings. But when we dwell on matters without being capable of moving forward, we fail to practice trust in Allah and the redundancy package that comes after our jobs (lives) in this earthly realm expire. God’s severance package is pretty good for people who rely and place their trust in Allah.
When you disconnect your every relationship/experience as if it is something you experience in isolation and place God inbetween you both, the relationship will be more peaceful and you’ll know whether it is patience you need or gratitude. In most instances, both can apply. And we are constantly tested in this way. It will never end until we complete our earthly journey. Utopia is available only in the eternal realm. The one we are here earning for now.
In the example of a husband and wife, the Prophet Muhammad (May God’s peace and blessings be upon him) counselled the believers, telling them, ‘if one of you dislikes something that the other said or did. Try to remember the thing you liked about them from another time.’
Essentially, the point is to try not to paint and perceive someone by one deed, action or speech. Don’t write off an asset on the basis of last week’s performance. Try to focus and remind yourself of the asset’s useful economic life and you’ll find that at times there has also been benefit and good. So strive always to try and counterbalance the bad that you perceive in others by struggling with your pure spirit to perceive some good.
As for the person who has always angered you and justifiably so, the best resort is to be patient and try to limit contact and dialogue with them as far as possible in order to maintain peace between you. If it’s someone that is unavoidable, then try to exhibit more patience and strive to make excuses for them.
I’ve had some selfish friendships in the past. I look at them not with any bitterness or anger but I find explanations and make excuses for them. For instance, perhaps someone is more selfish because they were spoiled by their parents. They didn’t have as good an upbringing or receive the attention they needed in their childhood, so they’re unable to see things as clearly and they put themselves before others because that’s how they survive.
When you make excuses for others, you become more grateful for not being like that yourself. And thus, armed with excuses, you can find more patient and understanding of the shortcomings and imperfections in others. The excuses are not for the other persons benefit; they are for you.
Ultimately, every coronavirus-like symptom that hurts, angers and/or drains you. It has its vaccination within you. Because just as the negative feeling develops inside you, so too do you possess the heart’s capacity to produce positive feelings to cancel and balance you out again.
This spiritual exercise requires effort on your part to introspect and exercise your spiritual muscles to perceive life and experiences in a manner that brings you peace rather than chaos.