Nelson Mandela once said that “Resentment is like drinking poison and then hoping it will kill your enemies.”
We all have experienced being hurt by others. We were treated badly, maybe even betrayed and left wondering if we can ever trust that person again. While the pain is normal, sometimes we find ourselves unnecessarily replaying the agonizing scenes in our heads over and over again. We senselessly subject ourselves time and time again to re-experiencing the pain. We wallow in our own mud pool of self-afflicted misery. We vehemently vow not to let the person close to our hearts again, so as to not get hurt.
However, the same defense mechanisms we employ to protect ourselves only hurts us more. Because when we shut the curtains from gray clouds, we also end up blocking the sunlight. Instead of closing our hearts, what we really need to do is to open it to let in forgiveness.
Yes, it sounds all too easy to “turn a new leaf,” and to forgive and forget. But when it comes down to it, it’s really not. Sometimes the wounds are so deep that it’s hard to heal. Sometimes it feels like it’s infected. Sometimes it feels like the only solution is to amputate a limb (or two).
But as trying as it may be, it’s something we need to do if we want to move on with our lives in a healthy way. Alhamdullilah, as Muslims we can always count on our deen to help us through it.
1. Turn to Allah: When you reach to a point where you are holding onto pain, or have shut down a part of yourself, it’s time to turn to Allah, because he is after all the Turner of hearts, the one who guides people from darkness into light. I find reading certain surahs particularly helpful such as Surah Yusuf (A.S.) during times of sadness.
“A Book We have sent down to you so that you may bring forth mankind from the darkness into the light……”. (14:1)
2. Find inspiration through the Prophets (A.S.) : When we read about the lives of the Prophets (A.S.), and what tests they have been put through, we start to realize how small our problems are in comparison. From loss of children, health, and wealth to betrayal of family members (sometimes all almost simultaneously), Allah has tested the Prophets (A.S.) with all kinds of afflictions and often over long periods of time (much more than we can ever bear), yet they remained patient and steadfast. What’s noteworthy is that they all learned to forgive those who have wronged them, even for the gravest of offenses.
3. Be like a Kid! If you have children, you may have noticed how quickly they bounce back from being hurt. No matter how many times we may lose our temper on them, our kids don’t fester in resentment. Sometimes, in a matter of moments, they have even forgot about the incident and are toddling on happily with their lives. They understand that they can’t control what others do but they have a choice to just move on. MashaAllah, their hearts are so pure, innocent and forgiving, that we can definitely learn from them a lesson or two.
Sometimes, it’s possible to patch things up with people, and sometimes, we have to just move on with our lives without them. But in either case, for own sanity and for Allah’s sake, we need to be able to forgive them. We can’t possibly fully enjoy our lives with the toxicity of resentment flowing through our veins, we need first to detox!
Other Steps to forgiveness
The more we forgive, the bigger our hearts grow. Opray Winfrey once said that, “True forgiveness is when you can say, ‘Thank you for that experience.’” Sometimes, things happen in our lives as a way of helping us to reach our full potential. Sometimes, only when we are at our lowest, are we able to reach into the depths of ourselves and find courage and strength. Even our saddest experiences can turn into our most transformational ones. Remember that Allah (s.w.t.) may not always give us what we want but he always gives us what we need.
“And it may be that you dislike a thing which is good for you and that you like a thing which is bad for you. Allah knows but you do not know.” (AI-Baqarah, 2:216)
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