What is self-compassion from an Islamic point of view?

Details of the Question

Should one treat one's self with compassion? What are the harms of the cruel voice inside us?

The Answer

Dear Brother / Sister,

Self-Compassion is a new concept used in psychotherapy in the West. It is used in the sense that a person accepts himself, his body, spirit, character and past as they are, that is, without humiliating or judging. It also means that if the person makes mistakes and has flaws, he will think that they are human and will make an effort to correct them, but he will not punish himself for his mistake.

In short, self-compassion is a concept that wants a person to treat himself with compassion and affection, just as he treats a friend.

At the heart of the acceptance of this concept in Western culture is the new understanding of man, developed by the distorted Christian faith against the belief that man is inherently sinful and evil because the ideology of modernism and capitalism, together with the Enlightenment in the West, has produced a new superior human type in response to this human understanding of Christianity. This human type is a very hard working, very intelligent, very successful, constantly competing for success, high self-confidence, superior person; he will survive and be happy. The economic and social system has also been organized accordingly.

However, the Supreme Creator created everyone with different abilities and nature. The key to the happiness of the person in this world and the hereafter is that he recognizes his creator in the first place, obeys Him, carries out His orders, and acts within the circle He has drawn. In addition, it is possible for man to live peacefully in the world, with the consciousness of being sent to the world as a vicegerent of the world created in the most beautiful mold and showing the thousand names of Allah, and to consider himself valuable within this framework.

Because Western culture has shown happiness to be in success, financial opportunities, in mind, and in crushing other people, today's man who has not been able to reach them began to see himself as worthless, useless, incompetent and diffident.

We see the most concrete example of it in the work “Metamorphosis” by the German writer Franz Kafka. In the story, Gregor Samsa, who is only valued by those around him with a material eye, wakes up one morning and sees himself to have transformed into an insect. Interestingly, his family does not find this situation odd and sweeps him away so that the insect does not bother them any more.

The West swept, not man but, humanity's high values and threw them away. Now they are looking for solutions.

Today’s man who grew up with Western values, sees being valuable in success, wealth, high self-confidence even if he does not live in the West because he does not know the value of the divine art he has on himself. And without them, one sees himself as worthless, which makes him cruel to himself.

Sometimes, because man’s kith and kin make suggestions causing him to feel bad, that person can become overly critical of himself over time. For example, if a child’s father, mother or teacher told him in the face of a mistake, "You're an idiot; you've accomplished nothing; you're clumsy, you don't understand again, you're useless, you won’t be able to do it again", that person will make cruel criticisms of himself in the future, and he will regard himself as incompetent and worthless.

In that case, the person judges himself unfairly in an exaggerated way because of the negative memories and experiences he remembers from his past. For example, he says, "I am stupid, incompetent, unsuccessful, bad, deserve all kinds of insults, etc." He compares himself to others and even punishes himself.

Such a person is cruel to himself, while tolerant of the mistakes that someone else has made. For example, he consoles a friend who makes a mistake or fails an exam, or does not achieve the level he wants in business life, or even does not find peace in married life. However, when he is in the same situation, he criticizes himself mercilessly. He acts as if he is an enemy of himself, constantly making negative judgments about himself.

Some of the incidents he encounters in everyday life trigger such negative emotions and push the person back into incompatible behavior and disrupt his mood. Because he denies or does not see his own abilities given by Allah, he ultimately begins to act like a bad person, or really like an idiot. Or, these negative feelings will make him act negatively against his surroundings. This person becomes angry, aggressive, quick to react and too sensitive. He truly believes he cannot do anything, and he gets results as he believes.

There is a big gap between the reaction of such a person and what causes the reaction. For example, in the face of the smallest problem in traffic, he argues, fights and rages. Or he does not think he is worthy of being loved; he thinks he will not be loved by anybody. That is why he does not want to get in touch with people.

This is where the concept of self-compassion arises. Western psychologists clung to the concept of Compassion in Eastern culture and Islamic belief in order to save people from this impasse. In the past, people said that the superior person was a successful person but they now began to suggest that people should love and value themselves regardless of their ability, job, physics and economy.

As people of culture who say "We love the created because of the creator", we should never humiliate ourselves because of the socio-economic situation, the background of the family, personal talents, education, body structure, race, etc. We must not listen to our inner voice, which gives us negative emotions. We must act with the awareness that they are delusions from the devil because none of them make you worthless. A person gets his value primarily from his belief in Allah.  For, “Belief makes man into man, indeed, it makes him into a king.” (Nursi, Sözler, 23. Söz: The Words, 23th Word)

If a person has belief, that person is the vicegerent of the earth and the king of the universe.

Here, a person should not consider his body as his property. It is something entrusted to him by of Allah. He should show the same compassion to himself as he shows compassion to all living things created by Allah.

Islam encourages self-compassion in this context more than other religions and teachings. It commands us to be good to ourselves.

In this regard, the Islamic scholar Shams Tabrizi states the following:

“If you expect respect, attention, or love from others, you owe them to yourself first. It is impossible for someone who does not love himself to be loved. When the world sends you thorns even though you love yourself, be happy. It means it will be sending roses soon.”

Since man is the most honorable creature, he must act dignifiedly and worthy of it, remembering that he is the vicegerent of Allah on earth in every step he takes, every breath he takes and every work he does. Even if a person is impoverished, slandered, imprisoned, or even taken prisoner, he must never stop acting like a high-headed, courageous and confident vicegerent.

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