Rafed English

Unlimited Expectations

The great extent of one's expectations leads one to become a constant victim of sorrow and distress. Those who are realistic in their outlook consider an immoderate amount of wealth to be an obstacle to happiness and mental peace. Happiness and wretchedness, peace and anxiety have their own particular criterion in which wealth, position and prestige do not play any role. There are narrow-minded rich persons in this world who go hungry despite all their riches and who do not know any comfort, and there are many poor people who lament on account of their poverty. As a subtle poet says:

Alas, that the golden cup of self-contentment, Was turned into a beggars bowl by our acquisitiveness!

'Ali, the Commander of the Faithful, may peace be upon him, said:

No treasure is as plentiful as contentment and no wealth can overcome the feeling of being wretched and destitute to the extent of contentment (rida). The one who is not greedy and is content with the income that meets the needs of his life has procured the means of his well-being and mental peace. 16

Also in the opinion of researchers in the field of man's psychic life, a high level of expectations is a source of anxiety and dissatisfaction, whereas the observance of moderation and contentment gives mental peace and security. In the field of mental health there is a principle called 'the principle of contentment' according to which:

The lesser one's expectations are, the greater is one's peace of mind, and the greater they are, the lesser it is. To the extent that we minimise our expectations, we will also reduce the probability of defeat and failure. As a result, fear and hope, anxiety and agitation, and the oppressive feeling of expectation that besiege us prior to the achievement of success are automatically reduced. In fact, the principle of happiness is no other than the principle of contentment. However, one should remember that the meaning of the principle of happiness and contentment is not that one should sit idle and refrain from every kind of activity and effort. What is meant by the principle of happiness is getting to know of one's own limits, abilities and means and becoming reconciled with one's capacities and powers. It means that one should not extend one's expectations beyond the ken of one's capacities and make unrealistic and extravagant demands upon them. 17


16. Nahj al-balaghah, ed. Fayd al-Islam, p. 1250.

17. Muhammad Hasan Nasir al-Din Sahib zamani, Ansu-ye Chehrakh (Tehran: 'Ata' i, 1343 H. Sh.) vol. 3 of Ruh-e bashar, p. 213.

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

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