One of the most difficult things to do is to master one’s emotions, yet a very important feat to achieve. Inevitably they come and at times they can cripple us as we decide to lack control over them. It is as if they have no beginning or end, and like our shadows, they follow us around. But when we remember that they were also created by Allah (swt) like everything else, it puts into perspective a purpose, a tool. We’ve been given so many tools and means with which we can work towards higher goals but unfortunately I feel like I’m too quick to use the tools given to me before I’ve even had a chance to learn how to use it. Like when using a piece of equipment/software/anything without having trained myself; and I only end up messing everything up and becoming frustrated and annoyed with it. It is only when I exercise the patience required to do some training and learn the art of using the tool that I finally manage to understand the benefits of its proper use. I think that these tools are the most difficult and dangerous ones to master compared to any man-made equipment or system ever made; yet they are the ones that will help us reach our ultimate goals.
As Imam Al-Ghazali said, “Those things [man] takes most delight in are often the most injurious to him, and those things which benefit him are not to be obtained without toil and trouble.”
Example: fear. Commonly deemed an awful and restricting emotion, but in actual fact behind every fear stands the person we want to be. Fear is like a mask for our deepest desires and ambitions. Behind every person who is scared of water, is someone who wants to be a swimmer. Behind every person who is scared of not knowing anything, is someone who wants to learn. Behind every person who is scared of failure, is someone who wants to succeed. And I think this is exactly where the phrase ‘face your fears’ strikes chords. That being said, of course one must adopt a middle path and not let ‘negative’ emotions such as fear consume them to the extent where they cannot take a step forward and it becomes a hindrance to progress. Hence the requirement for mastery; achieving the correct balance. Like the instilment of fear in God, divine fear (balanced with hope) should remind us to be humble about our good deeds and drive us to do even better. So if you fear failure, recognise it, and work even harder towards success.
But I am not sure how this theory would resound with other emotions. I am just thinking aloud. Criticism is another one. It may not exactly be an emotion, I do not know that to call it exactly, but it is one of those other tools that I need to learn to use. I will not be surprised if I am amongst many in disliking criticism at the first instance. It can feel like we are being put down, disgraced, humiliated etc. But actually, again like before, once I put my mind to it I realise it can be a gift. It forces us out of our comfort zones. The reason why we hate it is because we become married to our comfort zones. It kicks us out of this box and compels us to explore other realms we would never think of doing so. It opens up doors if we allow it to. It teaches us bluntly if we are doing something wrong to correct it. Likewise, it also requires balance, shown by the example of the Prophet (pbuh).
“So by mercy from Allah, [O Muhammad], you were lenient with them. And if you had been rude [in speech] and harsh in heart, they would have disbanded from about you. So pardon them and ask forgiveness for them and consult them in the matter. And when you have decided, then rely upon Allah. Indeed, Allah loves those who rely [upon Him].”(Quran, 3:159)
I am not even sure if what I have said actually concerns (only) emotions. Perhaps just the seemingly negative circumstances which we have strange emotions about, but realising the fact that we are just being thrown into a toolbox – and with the correct knowledge and application, we can build something beautiful Insha’Allah.