It is said that the main reason people lost in the jungle die is of shame!
Once lost, instead of strategising on how to get out of the woods safely, their thinking gets consumed by guilt and endless self-blame. Rather than finding a way out, they obsess about why they got themselves in that situation in the first place!
This piece is for those who have made life-altering mistakes or somehow feel they are ‘behind’. Those who haven’t committed such life slips, salute to them!
But for the rest of us, putting things right requires a few main ingredients. Acknowledgement, vowing not to repeat the mistakes, having a clear exit strategy and understanding the new path ahead.
Acknowledgement is not a guilt trip; it is simply accepting reality as it is. While guilt is emotionally-charged, acknowledgement is a dry emotion-free awareness of where the errors occurred. It is impossible to solve problems or change situations before we see them as they are. Acceptance is a precondition to climb the ladder of maturity but guilt is a major hurdle. Fact of the matter is that life is lived forward and understood backwards. Mistakes are part of the deal and more often than not, only after making them, do we realise they were blunders. Just as ignorance causes us to cross paths with opportunities without noticing them, mistakes can hit us just as unawares.
Whether we got there by our own recklessness, ignorance or simply bad luck, it is up to you to keep spirits up, maintain clear vision and live the past where it belongs.
As long as good memories are just that (recollections) and can’t be summoned to elevate our moods during bad times, it is only fair to ourselves that we also don’t allow bad experiences of the past to interfere with our present. Dream if you must but there is no point in reliving a nightmare.
The mere realisation and acceptance that we have strayed is a clear sign that the better part of ourselves has awakened. This superior part shouldn’t be preoccupied with thoughts of how we got there; instead, it must focus on an exit strategy and on which direction to take.
Didn’t get the grades you wished for, got demoted, lost a job, you’ve hurt people along the way, marriage ended up in a divorce, wasted money, made parenting mistakes, your business was a failure! Things aren’t where you think they should be!
Cry a little and move on. An Arab proverb rightly urges that when a part of us dies, only cry some because the some and the part are too close to each other. The crushed portion should not be permitted to hijack the rest of you. Just as it is important to acknowledge what we owe people, it is just to ourselves also to remember the debts that we did manage to clear. Likewise, we mustn’t only remember the pain we caused others but also the pain we alleviated along the way.
There will be negative chatters from the people who never cared to start with; this is the ‘I told you so’ bunch. In fact, even if remotely you are still bothered about what others says or think, you might have missed crucial lessons from the tribulations you faced. You are in effect still in the jungle.
But the most destructive or productive chatter is in one’s own heads; talk encouragingly to your inner being. You are the Shepherd; the outcome is by God's will just sheep.
The path is more important than the destination. It is more valuable to focus on lost distance rather than lost time; one can be recovered the other, impossible! Compass, not a watch, is the tool needed most at this point because direction is what must be sought.
Embarking on the direction of self-improvement is a great achievement in its own right; it ought to be the unceasing endeavour of all mortals because perfection is ultimately reserved for God.
It is no wonder that all major religions are based on repentance. In fact, repenting in itself is one of the best acts of worship. ‘Opportunity doesn’t come twice’ is utter nonsense because opportunities to do and be good are limitless.
Life is not a competition either, life simply is. Life is doing the best one can do given the tools he has in his disposal today. If somebody is keeping a score, let them have fun with the score-cards but you aren’t competing with anyone.
Half of the world’s tragedies are born when we start gauging ourselves by what others have accomplished or by comparing where we are versus where the world thinks we should be. Just look at the eagerness with which people share their ‘happiness’ on the likes of Instagram and you will understand what I mean. What is the motivation behind sharing life moments faster than living them!
If you must figure out where you ought to be, try consulting God. You will find him much more understanding, forgiving and flexible than any being you will ever encounter. You made mistakes, so what? He would tell you. His chief demand is that we make sincere efforts to walk the straight path today.
In fact, those who have ‘sinned’ or made mistakes and feel the need for purification already have a clearer purpose than most. Clarity of purpose is in itself a great blessing.
Movements of our better version of the present must not be subjected to the shortcomings of our lesser former self. Forgiving others who wronged us is noble but charity must begin at home by forgiving our own selves.
“Tell them, (O Prophet): “My servants who have committed excesses against themselves, do not despair of Allah’s Mercy. Surely Allah forgives all sins (Quran 39:53)