Life is action and effort through and through. At times one is successful and triumphant in the course of this struggle; at other times one has to face defeat. Those who succeed on the stage of life may fall prey to pride and conceit as a result of some limited success in their work or profession. Pride overshadows their entire being. On occasions those who are unsuccessful in some matters may ascribe their defeat to bad luck or to the envy of malicious enemies and the obstacles created by them. As a result they surrender themselves totally to despair. Although failure and defeat are bitter and unpleasant and success and triumph are pleasant and sweet, in success one should not become proud of one's expertise and wisdom, nor should one fall prey to endless despair and regret in failure.
If one were to remain realistic and composed in success as well as in defeat and observe the golden mean between the two extremes, that would be the sign of a healthy spirit. However, the attainment of this degree of moderation requires a tough and serious struggle against one's ego.
The makeup of man's psychic life has been designed in such a way that it has its own limits like everything else in this world. The tensions caused by failure and deprivation may be evaded, but they would reappear in disguise to take a destructive and rebellious form.
The difficulty of attaining to self-knowledge in regard to one's spiritual needs is an undeniable reality. But short-sighted people think that they know themselves better than anyone else, that they are aware of the causes that lie behind their thoughts, motives and behaviour, and they know their inner being thoroughly.
The real causes that lie behind wrong and unfair judgements and misunderstandings are errors arising from self-knowledge. The main factor in these difficulties should be considered to lie in the ignorance of the limits of one's innate capacities, the role of heredity, of education and environment, in one's psychological makeup, and in the ignorance of one's inadequacies and the hold of desires and lusts. In the same way that ancient philosophy stressed the principle of knowing oneself, knowledge of the elements of self- knowledge is considered the most important principle of mental health by contemporary psychology, which has made interesting and valuable discoveries in its study of human nature.
The development of good human qualities in the soul requires that one should be aware of one's spiritual needs, the way the human psyche works, and the implications of one's undesirable feelings, each of which is a result of inner actions and reactions. Moreover, one should be aware to some extent of the emotions that derive from complex sources so as to be able to distinguish between misleading desires and genuine aspirations and capacities. One should be capable of defending oneself against dangers that constantly threaten one's personality and spiritual well-being, being extremely vigilant not to surrender one's life to illusive imaginings and vain dreams for the sake of some imaginary form of happiness.
All those who suffer from psychological complexes and ailments are either those who are constantly possessed by nightmarish despair and despondency or are individuals who are ignorant of their latent capacities and energies so as to be able to compensate for their inadequacies with the help of their own powers and to replace deficiencies with merits. Accordingly, it is necessary that they take upon themselves the arduous task of self-discovery by making an all-round effort.
As a matter of principle, man, by virtue of his passion for acquisitiveness, is greatly troubled by every obstacle and hurdle that frustrates the fulfilment of his desires and hinders his monopolistic and unshared control over events. It is these obstacles that give rise to aggression, malice, and anguish. Transitory desires and incendiary lusts can easily cause failure in making correct judgements. The Noble Messenger, may God bless him and his Household, warned people against following desires:
Beware of (misleading) desires, for desires make one blind and deaf. 3
3. Nahj al-fasahah, p. 201.
Adapted from: "Ethics and Spiritual Growth" by: "Sayyid Mujtaba Musawi Lari"
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