Practical ways to counter negative interpretations (DW# 918)

Continuing with our discussion on verse 12 from Sura Hujarat where the Quran cautions the believers: O you who believe! Avoid much suspicion. Indeed some suspicions are sins. [Holy Quran 49:12]. Once we begin noticing our negative interpretations, we can become more mindful instead of allowing them to dictate our attitude and behaviour towards others.

Here are some practical ways to deal with negative assumptions which are mentioned in spiritual literature.
  • Practice thinking of more helpful interpretations which would cast the other person in a kinder light. Imam Ali (as) says: do not think evil of a word that has come out of your brother [in faith] while you can find a possibility of good in it.
  • Generally, when we make a mistake, we look to our good intentions to excuse our behaviour.

    For example: I meant to call that person, I meant to be there on time, I meant to keep that promise.

    When dealing with someone else’s behaviour, we sometimes look to the deficiency in their actions rather than their good intentions.

    In order to habituate our mind to viewing others more positively, we can start making the same positive assumptions about other’s intentions as we do for ourselves.

    In other words, we can practice making an excuse for the person just as we would like others to understand and overlook our mistakes.

    When we allow ourselves to make an excuse for others, we are able to be more understanding and ready to forgive.

    The Holy Prophet (saw) has said: seek for your brother [in faith] an excuse, and if you can’t find it make one for him.

  • Spiritual literature reminds us that the state of our mind   is a measure of our connection to God and a measure of our Aql (intelligence) This is why we are taught that the more refined the intelligence, the more noble the assumptions. Imam Ali (as) says: the assumption of a human being is the scale (mizān) of his mind.

    If our minds are focused on the shortcomings of their behaviour and their intentions, maybe we can refine our intelligence by inspiring ourselves with worthy literature and learn from the minds of others.

  • There is an English proverb which says: What Peter says (or thinks) about Paul says more about Peter than Paul.

    In other words, we see others in our own light. When we are negative ourselves, and have underlying motives in what we say or do, we assume the same of others.

    Our assumptions, in other words, can be a reflection of our own state of mind.

    When we practice assuming the best of others, it may also help us align our own intentions with the best version of ourselves.

This narration from Imam Ali (as) may serve as a reminder: an evil person will never think good of anyone for he sees him only as a description of himself.

Let’s remind ourselves that adopting more helpful assumptions about others is a habit and like all habits, it takes repeated practice to change. When we intentionally and consciously practice adopting more helpful assumptions about others, it will eventually become our new habit, our default mode. Inshallah.

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