I have a thing for psychology. I find it extremely intriguing how our minds work and sometimes how counterintuitive they can be. But most of all what interests me is how our mental behavior affects our everyday life.
For instance, our thoughts alone don’t affect our actions. It’s the other way around as well!
Take the Benjamin Franklin effect. It says you can force someone into liking you by asking them to do a favor for you. When the very likable Benjamin Franklin wanted to get a political acquaintance, who hated him, to like him, he simply asked to borrow a book from the person’s library.
And after doing the favor, Franklin thanked him and the person in question was forced to align his actions to his beliefs, “if I did this guy a favor it means I must like him or at least I don’t hate him as much.”
Like the Qur’an says:
And not equal are the good deed and the bad. Repel [evil] by that [deed] which is better; and thereupon the one whom between you and him is enmity [will become] as though he was a devoted friend. [41:34]
I always thought this verse meant how we react. But it could also mean adding a positive equation to our encounters and to do away with anything that is wrongful.
The Franklin effect perfectly sums up why the good and the evil are not equal and never will be. The next time you find it hard to deal with someone, try getting them to help you, then sit back and watch the tables turn 😉
Words & the subconscious
Another thing I noticed is how our words can affect us.
As a now Muslim, when I meet up with old friends and I need to make some halal eating choices or schedule our meetings around salah times, it’s like my friends have come to believe that I am not *allowed* certain things. Instead of the fact that I am choosing to do something.
I don’t blame them. My language reflected passiveness.
And yes for a long time I kept up with it until I noticed the way Muslims are perceived. Instead of just Muslims, Islam is blamed for what happens around us. You would think Islam is imposing some things on us and a lightning bolt is waiting to strike us the moment we slip. And we are oh so obedient.
Sure we care about our accountability but the point is we do all of this out of our own choice and yet we fail sometimes. We do it out of awareness of the truth.
The moment I started replacing “I can’t eat this/ I am not allowed to do this” with “I won’t eat this/ I won’t do this” I was sending a message that I take full responsibility for what I do and I am *choosing* to practice my faith. The message was for both the people around me as well as my own mind (as I realized later).
I felt a certain empowerment and responsibility towards my faith. No one is forcing me! I choose it and if I have chosen it, it’s because I have sworn allegiance to it.
When you focus on this part, you can see your relationship with Allah clearly. You can see you are actively involved in your faith instead of having a passive mindset. And inshaAllah, it does wonders for your taqwa because you are aware you are constantly making some choices, choices that come from looking up and knowing Allah sees you, even if you don’t.
The angels are putting pen to paper every time I *do* something. It only makes sense to be aware of my free will and the responsibility of having one.
Also, it turns striving to become a better Muslim into such an experience. Give it a try.
Whatever of good reaches you, is from Allah, but whatever of evil befalls you, is from yourself. And We have sent you (O Muhammad SAW) as a Messenger to mankind, and Allah is Sufficient as a Witness. [4:79]