What to do when you’re treated badly

In my sermons, I often talk about forgiveness, not to take revenge from someone who has hurt you, and how we need to forget and move on. However, considering two recent campaigns against me, it appears that the practice of forgiveness and moving on is not an easy one. It takes great self-control and patience. Yes, forgiveness is the rule, but this doesn’t mean we shouldn’t stand firm when spiritual warfare is raging; plant your feet solidly on what you believe is the truth, don’t be intimidated or scared. The Quran says, “Beware, the friends of Allah don’t fear nor grieve.” But still, forgive!

When you’ve been treated badly, always ask yourself, what can I learn from this experience? How do I respond in the Prophetic manner? Am I willing to acknowledge my mistakes? How can I grow wiser and handle similar experiences better in the future? When all is said and done, the answer to misdemeanours is forgiveness. Now, forgiveness doesn’t mean you necessarily agree with or want a close relationship with the person who mistreated you. But it does mean that you let go. ‘To be greater is to forgive the one who has treated you badly.’ By adopting this attitude, you are empowering yourself and refusing to let the perpetrator influence your feelings, outlook and behaviour. You remain safe and sane.

Learn to Forgive

What is forgiveness? How to forgive? What are the health benefits of forgiveness? Human beings are social creatures, we live together as families in neighbourhoods, communities and towns. The infrastructure of cities, roads, transport, institutions and facilities for leisure, recreation and the long torturous history are a testimony of the hard work. This economic prosperity is a result of many compromises, where individuals and groups have willingly and unwillingly given and taken. People have been victims as well as perpetrators of injustice. However, people have learnt to forgive and move on. It is this quality of being tolerant of others and the spirit of compassion that has been the forced detour of human civilisation and prosperity. The progress of human civilisation is deeply rooted in forgiveness.

Islamic teachings make it obligatory for Muslims to develop the virtue of forgiveness, as the Quran repeatedly teaches. It doesn’t just command forgiveness but teaches that Allah is the Forgiving (Ghafir), the absolutely Forgiving (Ghaffar) and the most oft-Forgiving (Ghafoor). Thus, The Majestic Quran provides an excellent example of forgiveness: “Forgiveness allows us to let go of the pain in the memory and if we let go of the pain in the memory, we can have the memory but it does not control us. When memory controls us we are the puppets of the past” (The Garden of Forgiveness in Beirut by A. Asseily).

Forgiveness is a powerful virtue for displacing hard feelings, it empowers the victim to overcome resentment, hatred, malice and thoughts of revenge. Helping him or her to dissociate from the negative feelings that keep fresh the memory of the offence. By overcoming negative feelings, they get a sense of control, hence free of the burden of victimhood. That’s the secret to a happier life. Research shows that forgiveness has health benefits too. Bitterness, hatred, grudges and desire for revenge increases blood pressure and symptoms of stress. On the other hand, forgiveness leads to less hostility, less anxiety and depression improvement in health; this is a result of lower blood pressure. Forgiveness is a positive feeling, attitude and behaviour that it naturally helps one better manage anger, build better relationships and win more friends. On the whole, forgiveness is a complete remedy for personal, social and well-being.

The trip to Taif

When the Prophet’s (peace be upon him) wife Khadija (may Allah be pleased with her) and uncle Abu Talib (may Allah be pleased with him) died one after the other, he (peace be upon him) was naturally distraught, sad and vulnerable. The Quraysh sensed his vulnerability and intensified their vicious campaign of hatred. He decided to go to Taif, a nearby city, hoping that the ruling tribe of Thaqif might listen. However, not only did they declined to listen but mocked and mercilessly expelled him from the city.

In the face of such fierce opposition, the beloved Prophet (peace be upon him) had no choice but to retreat hastily. They ran after him, pelting him with stones, which caused him severe injuries. In excruciating mental, physical and emotional pain, bleeding and exhausted, he (peace be upon him) took refuge in a vineyard. Feeling disappointed, lonely and humiliated he (peace be upon him) raised his blessed hands and prayed, a prayer which has become an iconic symbol of utter submission to the will of Allah in the face of despair. The intensity and moving humility of this supplication is impressive.

Oh Allah! Please consider my weakness, the shortage of means, and the little respect people have of me. Oh, most Merciful Allah, You are the Lord of the oppressed and you are my Lord. To whom would you leave my fate? To a stranger who insults me? Or to an enemy who dominates me? Would I that you have no wrath against me! Your pleasure alone is my objective.”

Like me, you will have played and re-played your personal tragedy and betrayal and hurt movie so often. Here are four powerful reasons why you should let go of the grudge, the complaint, the bitterness, the resentment and hatred that you have held against someone:

  1. Letting go of past hurt gives you the freedom to secure the present and prepare for the future, the offender can no longer hurt you.
  2. When you’re not spending time and energy feeding a grudge, you can nourish new and healthy ideas. On the other hand, a grudge takes time and energy. How can you afford to waste time and energy on futile and hurtful activity?
  3. Unfortunately holding a grudge feels like a form of control, because you falsely think that by harbouring resentment you can stop him from hurting you again. Since he can’t get close to you but you’re the one who is being controlled.
  4. We are often reminded that the offender has done nothing to deserve forgiveness, but Allah orders us to forgive. Since he is the all forgiving. You’ve held onto it long enough, it’s time to let it go and enjoy the freedom that comes from forgiveness.

Once you lower your defences, you can start to heal, love and be loved. Feeling angry feels good temporarily but being healed feels so much better. Letting go of your bitterness or hurt means you have cleansed yourself of all toxic relationships and people. Now, before you leave this article, ask yourself: “Who do I hold a grudge against? Will I forgive them? When?