In a recent tweet, Paulo Coelho wrote, “never let anyone tell you that you need to be positive all the time; you are not a robot”.
To me, and I assume from the number of the retweets to many others, it was uplifting and refreshing to read such a sobering statement amidst the strong flow of positivity talk and advice. Finally, someone declared that we should not feel bad for feeling angry, sad or frustrated during hard times simply because we are humans!
Keeping a positive attitude could definitely help us face life’s challenges and become more appreciative, loving, forgiving and better people in general. However, most of us are not born with this gift and cannot reach this point until we have practiced and struggled through a long spiritual journey.
We should not expect, nor be expected, to snap our fingers out of misery into blissfulness when life’s burdens and sorrows challenge us to the extreme of our capacity because it cannot be done, at least for most people. The important thing nonetheless is not to surrender to this misery and to keep working toward being positive with whatever tools we can use.
In addition to asking for professional psychological help if needed, patience and thankfulness can be great tools on our road toward positivity. As Muslims, we are commanded to be patient and thankful in better and in worse. The interesting thing about patience is that it is a mental state that ironically cannot be achieved without being patient with ourselves first in order to accomplish it.
Our sadness, frustration and even anger during that time if used properly and given the time to heal could be the fuel that pushes us up the spiritual ladderNawar Fakry Ezzi
Higher spiritual state
Prophet Muhammad (peace be upon him) said: “Whoever persists in being patient, God will make him patient. Nobody can be given a blessing better and greater than patience.” (Bukhari) This means that the outward behavior of being patient is just an attempt toward a higher spiritual state that cannot be reached without practice, hard work, and cutting ourselves some slack when we cannot do it properly.
When this is combined with a sense of appreciation toward God and everybody around us for the smallest good things in our lives, rays of light could brighten our darkest times keeping us whole when we could have shattered into pieces.
Accordingly, suffering could be the time when we sow the seeds of spiritual growth, so that we can reap its fruits and be stronger during the next storm that life throws at us. Our sadness, frustration and even anger during that time if used properly and given the time to heal could be the fuel that pushes us up the spiritual ladder filling us with more love and appreciation rather than bitterness and hatred.
Douglas Abrams documented the Dalai Lama’s and Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s discussion about joy in his book, “The Book of Joy”. Throughout the book, they talked about the necessity of suffering in our spiritual growth and the Archbishop thoughtfully kept stressing the fact that finding joy and forgiveness does not mean that everyone can feel it every single minute in their lives, but rather it could be achieved by accepting our imperfect human nature while working toward the goal of becoming better and happier human beings.
Efforts over the years
A business professor told us in the university once that we need to keep reading financial newspapers even if we cannot understand the bigger picture because one day that moment will come and we will appreciate all the efforts we made over the years and everything would make sense. It seems that this is the same with any development we seek including our spiritual development.
As Muslims, we have numerous Qur’anic verses and short prayers that we are advised to read frequently, sometimes as much as we can throughout the day. One cannot truly appreciate the significance of these recitations until we experience a moment of epiphany where even if everything does not seem to make sense, we can feel like our heart has been washed from all the suffering it went through after a long journey of perseverance and hard work.
Positivity discussions should not be ignored because they contain valuable advice that can definitely help us, but it is good to remember that sometimes the world cannot be seen through rainbows and sunshine and that the only thing these tips may be good for is to help us get by in one piece.
We need also to remember that “Allah does not burden any human being with more than he can bear. Everyone will enjoy the credit of his deeds and suffer the debits of his evil-doings. ‘Our Lord! Do not punish us if we forget or make a mistake. Our Lord! Do not place on us a burden as You placed on those before us. Our Lord! Lay not on us the kind of burden that we have no strength to bear. Pardon us, forgive us, have mercy on us.” (Qur’an 2:286) Amen.
This article was first published in the Saudi Gazette on July 13, 2017.
Nawar Fakhry Ezzi is a Jeddah-based contributor to Saudi Gazette newspaper. She is interested in human rrights, Islam, interfaith relations and the environment. The writer can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and tweets @nawarezzi.