Sharing the load, bit by bit

I have never been someone who was comfortable letting people do things for me. For whatever reason, I felt like it was not okay to rely on anybody else. I believed that I had to take care of myself by myself. And this is pretty much how I have lived my entire adult life. Not that there have not been moments when people have helped and supported me, but not very often.

To be honest this had been something that had made me proud – being very independent and self sufficient. Knowing that no matter what happens I can take care of myself. It has also sometimes made me feel lonely. If there is nobody around to help, sometimes that means there is nobody around.

Even before I became a Muslim I realised that I was not really alone or in control. I knew that there was something bigger than me in God. But upon making the decision to follow Islam, I realised the importance of submitting to Allah (swt).

But what does submission mean practically? Why are we tested and challenged? How does he support us through difficult times? I have been thinking about this a lot lately as I still often feel overwhelmed with the changes in my life.

It is not about doubting Allah (swt) or my decision to follow Islam. It is the day-to-day of ordinary life that I have been struggling with.

I’ve been reading a bit on why we are tested in this life and two things have really resonated.

First is that Allah does not give us anything we cannot handle. If we think we are doing this by ourselves and if we approach a situation with dread and reservation, then we very likely will fail. It will be painful. But if we know that Allah is always with us and is our support, then everything is doable. Perhaps the outcome will not be what we initially want, but Allah always supports us and knows what is best. He will bring ease to those who believe and submit.

Second is that in some respects the question of ‘Why?’ with Allah (swt) is irrelevant. He is not like us so does not have the same needs and motivations that push us to ask the question of ‘Why?’ Thus, our concept of a rationale behind a decision does not make sense with Allah (swt). Simple submission to the straight path is a blessing. Obligations on this path should be viewed with joy and bring us closer to Allah (swt) and to Jannah, in shaa Allah.

Now, I believe I need to be an active participant in my life. I don’t believe that submitting to Allah (swt) means being passive. And I don’t believe the straight path is always black and white. But Allah (swt) has and knows the greater plan. And if you really think about it and believe he is with you…. it is both empowering and a great relief. Finally, I don’t always have to take care of myself by myself.

And with this notion, I have even begun to let people help me. I am still wary about trusting and relying on others. However, in the past months I have been in positions where I had to rely on others for help and support. I never thought it was smart to rely on someone because — well — what happens when they disappear? What happens when they are not there for you anymore? Allah (swt) will always be there. But people? People have a way of disappointing.

But, never-the-less, I have begun to rely on certain people in the past months more than I ever have before.

And you know what? So far it has been okay.

Its funny. I thought that I could only really love someone if I could be sure I was independent of them. That somehow it would make the love more pure if I was not reliant on them.

It turns out that is not the case at all. Be it Allah or particular people in my life, giving up some of my self-reliance has actually made me love them more. Scary. Terrifying even. But amazing.

Now, I have not undergone some Hollywood-movie style change in how I relate to others. But I think I am headed in the right direction. Bit by bit.

5 responses

  1. I love how you described submission and what it means and drew the line between submission and passivity, very lovely post! I’m also glad that you are feeling more at ease in allowing others to help you 🙂

  2. I think we are tested and challenged constantly in this life so we can learn and grow in ourselves and have the opportunity to become the best we can be. There are many lessons that Allah offered to me repeatedly and I kept making the same mistakes, until I finally (I hope!) got it, after stubbornly persisting in the wrong way in the face of these selfsame lessons many times. Then it just clicks Then there are other lessons to learn. Ever notice how when you look back everything seems to just fall into a pattern (oh… so if I hadn’t gone through X, I wouldn’t understand or react to Y this way today). Of course sometimes we also learn bad habits from our experiences. Luckily Allah is As-saber…the patient :). The longer we have on this world the more opportunity we have to keep growing spiritually. As one quote I have seen a lot says, “A smooth sea never made a skilled sailor.”

    Regarding helping people… I also was raised to take care of myself and am very independent, also I have been let down by people so many times I am reluctant to rely on anyone but myself. However, in recent years, I too have learned the value of letting oneself be helped. For one thing, it is a way of forming a bond with people. Interestingly, though I would push back all help and try to do things on my own, I loved helping other people. It’s one of the things that makes me feel worthwhile, it’s one of my main drivers in life, even helping with the smallest thing is so rewarding. On the other hand though because I often resisted, I eventually realized that this contributed towards other people seeing me as aloof and even condescending (I’m sure there were other contributing factors as well). Even breaking down this one area, asking for help even with things I honestly don’t NEED help with, or accepting help graciously rather than having to prove I can do it myself, has allowed me to make better connections with people. I try to see things from their point of view and also a bigger world view. I know not everyone feels the same way I do about helping others, but some do, and allowing someone to help is allowing yourself even in a minor way to demonstrate vulnerability and trust. Even if it’s something like just giving you a hand with a large item, even a symbolic hand because you might have been able to struggle along successfully. This builds good feeling in people who allow themselves to be open to it. Another thing is, remember that helping each other is a kind of charity, and by allowing others to help you, you are also allowing them to receive that blessing from Allah. Just as when someone comes to you from help you are given and opportunity to receive a blessing from Allah by choosing to help them, and maybe even becoming Allah’s means to answer their dua. Obviously not all help is freely given but I think even secretly reluctant help (with good judgement) can have the opportunity to build goodwill, and further, establish connections that may still be in place when someone is in real, serious, need.

    Of course, this can be taken too far. Over-giving can cause other problems. This is a great quote I read a while after I helped out a friend who was in severe difficulties only to find her turn against me, which I found bewildering. “Never give anyone more than they are emotionally capable of receiving, or they will have no choice but to hate you for it.” Helping is just one facet of a relationship; if your primary connection with a person is that you help them and solve their problems… that’s not a healthy relationship. If it’s a relationship at all. Thinking back I realized that I’d often desperately tried to make friends by helping them: I’m a problem solver, I hear a problem, jump in, fix everything up, and expect people to like me for it. I like doing it and I’m good at it, and I’m not very good at a lot of other types of social interaction. Often backfires. If this sounds at all familiar check out the article 🙂 http://www.oprah.com/spirit/How-to-Avoid-Giving-Too-Much-of-Yourself-Elizabeth-Gilbert

    • Salam. It is all too familiar! 🙂

      Yes I was / am one who loves to help others but never took help myself. And often gave too much help or always seemed to find the neediest. And that is how I sought friendship – until as you say – I did too much and found myself in situations that were not good.

      And I am a total people pleaser. In the past years I have really channeled that into work as in a total work-a-holic who did everything myself, driving many of my co-workers crazy. But my bosses love me. 🙂

      And more than once I have been called distant and aloof.

      But this is really a big lesson for me. And an important one.

      And it really is amazing how just even the little bit I’ve allowed and opened up to has made a difference.

      Alhamdulilah.

      A long ways to go still though. I will read the article!

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