|Photo by Rashed Al Naamani|
As I gaze upon my Ramadan goals that I've loosely set for myself this year, I can't help but becoming overwhelmed by them.
"Am I being realistic? Can I do them all?"
But I really want to improve myself become a better person.
I think zeal for self-improvement is a feeling that every Muslim should have, but he/she should also be weary of it. Zeal should be managed properly.
When you are so high-spirited in your aspirations, you want to achieve them all. That could lead you to end up with too much on your plate (an imagery that I believe we can all relate to especially during this month).
A Bird's Nest
When I came up with the idea to write this post, the image of a bird building a nest came to my mind.
If you observe how a bird makes its nest, you'll see that it is a tiresome process. The bird flies out to find materials, e.g. sticks, and flies back to construct the nest. Since it can't carry a lot of sticks in its beak, it has to fly out and fly back to the nest time and time again - carrying one stick at a time.
With patience and hard work, the nest is properly built and it is beautiful.
The key to it all is, one stick at a time.
A lot of people might be overwhelmed in their quest for self-improvement. They want to be everything they want to be, all at once. While this is indeed a noble intention, it is not something that one should do. Like the bird, you have to build your nest one stick at a time.
If not, your nest might not be finished at all. Or worse, you won't have a proper, good quality nest.
When Ramadan comes, our zeal for self-improvement is heightened. This is a good sign. But we have to regulate it and not let it overflow into a state of burnout.
From wanting to achieve everything, you might end up with little or nothing at all.
Remember, Rome was not built in a day.
"I want to be a good Muslim..."
I don't know how many times I've received an email that starts off with "I want to be a good Muslim, but I have a lot of sins" or "I want to be a good Muslim, but I keep repeating the same mistakes" or "I want to be a good Muslim, but I am still the same."
To those who have sent me those emails, realize that the person whom you sent those emails to has a lot of sins too, make mistakes too (sometimes the same mistakes), and wants to better himself too. I am not perfect and I accepted that fact.
I have baggage of sins that I carry with me and I'm not proud of it. In fact, I am ashamed of it. If people know what's in my baggage, I might not have the courage to step out of my house anymore.
But I see that as a good thing. It's a good thing that I am so ashamed of my sins. It's a good thing that I feel guilty. Those feelings are my motivation to keep on trying to become better and better. I am always in the process of self-improvement. I will always be a work in progress.
Many think that being a good Muslim is a destination, but it's not. Nobody can say, "Okay, I'm a good Muslim now. I've reached my destination. I'm done!" Being a good Muslim is not a destination, it is a journey. The journey ends when you take your last breath.
You will always be in the process of self-improvement.
So if you feel bad about having a lot of sins, good! You should feel bad. It's better to feel bad about your sins than to not feel anything at all. Or worse, you feel proud of your sins (Astaghfirullah). Feeling bad is a good sign, but don't stop there. Don't dwell in guilt. Go to the next step.
"Okay, I feel bad. Now, what am I going to do about it?"
One of the many things that I love about Allah is the fact that He appreciates my effort. He will not make my sincere effort go to wasted. Nothing is wasted! He will reward me for trying; for trying to be better.
Allah loves you for trying.
In this journey of ours of being good Muslims, lets not stop trying. Lets not give up. The journey is long and tiring, but keep on moving forward.
Along the journey, you can rest if you need to. That's okay. But always remember to move forward.
Along the journey, you might move slowly. That's okay. We all move at different paces. But always remember to move forward.
Along the journey, we might fall down. That's okay. Your self-worth shouldn't be measured by how many times you fall down, but how many times you get back up. Even if you fall down at the same spot, always get back up and move forward.
Along the journey, you might need help. That's okay. Don't travel alone. Travel with your friends. It'll make the journey easier and more enjoyable. You help them and they help you. Together, you move forward.
"Remember, the journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step." ~ Rafiki, Lion King 1 1/2
Take each step, one by one.