Rafed English

Ignorance of One's Inadequacies

Pride and vanity often do not allow one to be aware of one's inadequacies and the limitations of one's abilities. This ignorance about one's inadequacies is the main obstacle to spiritual maturity and the development of an independent personality. As a consequence, one is kept from compensating for these inadequacies and removing his defects which can be easily amended in many cases,

Imam 'Ali, may Peace be upon him, said:

The proud and vainglorious person is unaware of his own defects. Were he to see the merits of others, he would have been upset by his defects and inadequacies [and taken steps to amend them]. 4

'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may Peace be upon him, considers pride and complacency the result of the mental inadequacy of their victims. He says:

Self-complacency is the evidence of the weakness of one's intellect. 5

Pride is destructive for one's intellectual faculty. 6

Spinoza, the well-known European philosopher, writes:

The man ... who is ignorant of himself is ignorant of the foundation of all the virtues, and consequently is ignorant of all the virtues. Again, to act in conformity with virtue is nothing but acting according to the guidance of reason, and he who acts according to the guidance of reason must necessarily know that he acts according to the guidance of reason. He, therefore, who is ignorant of himself, and consequently (as we have just shown) altogether ignorant of all the virtues, cannot in any way act in conformity with virtue, that is to say, is altogether impotent in mind. Therefore, the greatest pride or despondency indicates the greatest impotence of mind. 7

It is possible that things which appear to be real to us may turn out to have no reality. It is with the criteria of intellect and reason that realities are distinguished from illusions. Those whose eyesight is weak use spectacles, but there are no spectacles to compensate for the weakness of intellectual vision. To overcome it, one has to attend to his inner being and resort to an analytic examination of one's inner self. Carefully and vigilantly one must distinguish one's true capacities from deceptive and harmful tendencies. There are many who neglect their mental energies without using them for personal improvement or social betterment. They remain without even a superficial knowledge of their wonderful inner powers and energies, until there emerges an opportunity for the manifestation of their fruitful capacities. Therefore an enormous amount of beneficial capacities are wasted by us without any knowledge of their potent character.

If a person discovers his defects and inadequacies but does not give them any significance, or considers them negligible, that means that he considers them a necessary part of his being. Self-examination and self- scrutiny, however, require time, attention and care. It is wrong to imagine that one can discover one's spiritual characteristics in a short time and identify one's weak points and inadequacies. Knowing oneself and being able to confront certain terrible inner qualities require a clear insight and great courage. These cannot be achieved except gradually and with continuous care and perseverance. Nevertheless, man can attain brilliant success in his struggle against inner indignities by bringing about a beneficial change within himself with his faculties of thought and will. Imam 'All, may Peace be upon him, said:

One who examines his defects and inadequacies succeeds in discovering them. 8

4. Al-Amidi, Ghurar al-hikam wa durar al-kalim, p. 95.

5. Ibid., p. 424.

6. Ibid., p. 26.

7. Spinoza, op. cit., cf. Falsafeh nazari, p. 106.

8. Ghurar al-hikam. p. 614.

Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"

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