full of hopes
09-13-2010, 08:38 AM
The Art of Complaining Reply
Have you ever found yourself falling into the habit of complaining, whether the complaint was valid or not? Bint Abdelhamid shares thirteen ways to perfect the art of (not) complaining.
They say that “misery loves company,” and it’s true. I spent some time in an educational institute overseas, where the teaching lay somewhere between mediocre and bad, and the institute policies were even worse. It helped, in a manner of speaking, to sit down with other sisters in the institute and outline all our misery and woes. It made us feel like we weren’t alone.
One of the sisters with us was several years younger than most, and rarely engaged in our “miserable company” sessions. It was obvious she understood all the institute’s shortcomings, but between finding other things to say and knowing it would all be over in a few months’ time, when we could move up to a different, betterrun part of the institute, she managed to always stay positive.
We talked to this young sister once, about her life and family. She was around fifteen years old at the time, and the eldest of three siblings. Their mother was mentally ill, incapable of caring for herself, let alone her family or children; and their father spent most of his time taking care of his ill wife. So caring for the younger siblings, seeing that they were well-fed and getting along in school, among other things, all fell largely on this fifteen-year- old’s shoulders.
It was clear that this sister had a lot to deal with, but she never complained. Even when she described her life, her mother, her responsibilities, she described them matter-of-factly, as simply a part of her existence. If anyone had the right to complain about something, among our gathering, it was this sister; but she never complained.
Unfortunately, we live in a culture of complaining, where it’s easy to strike up a conversation on how ridiculously high the prices are or how bitter cold the weather is. Sometimes, we complain about petty things, and sometimes about larger ones – but whatever it is, we find it easier to pick out the faults of our everyday lives and situations, even when we have so much to be thankful for.
In an effort to train myself to complain less (and hopefully squash the habit of complaining altogether), here is list for thirteen ways to complain less:
1. Make your complaint to Allah
When Yusuf (AS) was separated from his father, and Ya’qoob (AS) lost his eyesight due to sorrow, Ya’qoob (AS) said, “I only complain of my suffering and my grief to Allah…” [12:86].
Allah is the All-Capable, and the One Who can ease your affairs, so if there is something troubling you, make your complaint to Him, (SWT).
2. Only complain to the people if complaining is beneficial
This may be to get one of your rights, or the right of someone else you know – sometimes, complaining is necessary. Be as kind and polite about it as possible, and don’t overdo it.
3. Talk about practical solutions
Rather than making your complaint a constant, endless whine, talk about practical solutions to the problem you’re facing. Is it a problem without a visible, practical solution? Then make your complaint to Allah!
4. Let the small things pass
Anas ibn Malik said, “I served the Prophet (SAW) for twenty years. He never said ‘uff’ to me, and he never said about anything I had not done, ‘Why didn’t you do it?’ or about something I had done, ‘Why did you do that?’” [Muslim]. Most things are small enough that we can just let them go.
5. Speak about Allah’s favours
Rather than picking out everything that’s wrong in your life, try picking out some of the things that are right, and speaking about them. Allah (SWT) says, “But as for the favor of your Lord, report [it].” Doing this should not only help you avoid complaining, but you’ll also be fulfilling a command from Allah!
6. Remember those less fortunate
One way to jolt yourself back to reality and appreciate Allah’s blessings over you is to remember those less fortunate than you. Read about others suffering in Asia, Africa, and all over the world. Read about orphans in Palestine. Read about the homeless in your own country, your own city – interact with them if possible. Don’t drown yourself in despair, but use these stories as a means to be grateful and to thank Allah for what you have.
7. Reduce the stress in your life
You may be complaining because you have a sizeable amount of stress in your life. You need an outlet, and that’s understandable. Stop multitasking for a bit; take some quiet time out to relax: sit in a darkened room, breathing deeply for a few minutes; go for a walk outdoors; listen to some soothing anasheed, or read some Qur’an.
8. Read stories from the seerah
Take note from the words and ways of the Messenger (SAW), the sahabah, and the righteous generations after them. Learn from their manners and etiquettes in speech.
9. Talk about other useful matters
You don’t have to talk about the mundane things in your life that drive you crazy. Instead, talk about larger things that excite you: new knowledge you’ve learned; projects you’d like to work on; a wonderful nature trip that made you contemplate the beauty of Allah’s creation.
10. Tell funny stories (without lying)
There will still be time for chit-chat with friends and family. Instead of worrying them with complaints they can’t help with, tell them funny stories from work and life, cute things your kids said. Humour is a wonderful way to make everyone feel better!
11. Recognise complaining as a habit
Monitor your speech from time to time. Do you find that complaining is more of a habit than a useful endeavor? Recognising it as a habit is an important first step in learning to squash it.
12. Find better company
Do you find yourself complaining more when you’re around certain people? Maybe it’s because you have little in common with these people, or because they’re uninterested in being positive and thankful. If that’s the case, then it’s time to find better company, company which is a lot less “miserable.”
13. Talk less
In general. If you’ve tried everything you can think of, and still find yourself complaining too much, maybe it’s because you’re talking long after you’ve run out of things to say. Don’t let the shaytaan lead you into useless or harmful talk. Instead, keep your tongue moist with the remembrance of Allah. Repent to Him often. Thank Him often. Praise Him often. Send salutations upon the Messenger (SAW) often.
When I think back to my time at that institute, I realise it’s too late to “undo” the complaining I once did. What I can do now is use that experience as a stepping stone towards complaining less and being more thankful. And instead of concentrating on all the faults of this institute (enumerating them won’t help anyone here), I can tell, instead, about that wonderful fifteen year old sister I met there, about how her more-difficult- life but complaint-free- tongue put me to shame, and about how her patience inspired me to seek the art of not complaining.
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