Thursday 8 October 2009

Things I Have Learned The Hard Way

No matter how many self-help books you read, how many times you are told and how much common-sense wisdom is apparent, there are some things that you just have to learnt the hard way. For me, some of these have included:

Shut Up
If in doubt, keep quiet. If the situation looks like it could deteriorate, keep quiet. Silence is always the best policy. I read somewhere that you can always regret something you say, but you will never regret holding your tongue.

Sometimes you feel the need to say your part, or retaliate, or stick up for yourself, but I have found most often when I hold my silence, I am vindicated in some other way, either because the person who is in the wrong will show themselves up in some other way or because events will conspire to bring forward the truth eventually anyway. On the other hand you might be the one in the wrong, and trying to defend yourself just makes the matter worse.

As an offshoot of this, I have also learned that silence can be power. If like for me, silence is a void that makes you uncomfortable and needs to be filled with chatter, try holding back for once. It’s not your job to keep everyone entertained. The world won’t suddenly end because there were a few moments when no-one said anything. Better still if you are annoyed then play nice but stay very quiet and watch everyone else squirm and try to fill the void.

Stop Digging
There is also a knack to knowing when to shut up. This is usually as soon as you realise you have said something inappropriate. Usually I go into damage limitation mode and start yammering away. I should know by now this only makes the situation worse. Shut up, walk away and come back later to apologise if you have to Umm Salihah. Of my learned-the-hard-way lessons, this is one of the hardest for me to act on, perhaps because it is such an automatic reaction to start blabbing.

Listen with Patience
Youth by its very nature is impatient. When you are 18 or 21, you think everything has to happen now because time is running out and soon it will be too late (for what I never thought through). The think that used to annoy me the most was people who not only speak very slowly, but refuse to get to the point – just say what needs to be said right? Wrong. I once attended a course where one of the participants spoke very slowly and took ages to get his point across. Every time he opened his mouth I started feeling impatient. Eventually he made a point that blew my mind (so much so, that I can’t remember what he said). I realised that the roundabout path he had taken to get to this answer was necessary for us to understand the full importance of what he was saying. I promised myself after that, to taken the time to listen carefully to what people are saying and this has benefited me immensely – you connect to people properly, you understand things more fully and people feel more that you are taking them seriously and treating them with respect.

This is the hardest for me, my life-long jihad. I am not patient by nature and this has led to many occasions where I have put my foot in it or made a bad situation worse.

But I have noticed that on the few occasions when I have held back just a little and tried to show sabr (patience) it has reaped rewards for me. Want something, but agree to do without it? It might just show up itself without you striving for it. Someone rude or offensive and you just let it go? You might find they are sorry afterwards or find themselves experiencing the same. Feel mistreated or misrepresented? Hold on with defending yourself a little and you might find the truth becomes apparent without you even lifting a finger

With this one, the thing that helps me is the thought that everything that happens does so by the Qadr (decree) of Allah (SWT) and so becoming anxious or impatient or angry is of no benefit to anyone.

image source

"Seek Allah's help with patient perseverance and prayer. It is indeed hard except for those who are humble." Al-Quran 2:45

"Patiently, then, persevere - for the Promise of Allah is true, and ask forgiveness for your faults, and celebrate the praises of your Lord in the evening and in the morning." – Al-Quran 40:55

Abu Yahya Suhaib b. Sinan said that Rasulullah saw said : “Wondrous are the believer’s affairs. For him there is good in all his affairs, and this is so only for the believer. When something pleasing happens to him, he is grateful, and that is good for him; and when something displeasing happens to him, he is enduring (sabr), and that is good for him” (Muslim)

“To the mind that is still, the whole universe surrenders” - Lao Tzu


  1. I think you are inside my head. I have had these same struggles all my life, only I have not dominated them yet. I am trying. It is so nice to know I am not the only person with these struggles, or who sees them as important.

  2. Masha Allah nice post and very true ...