Answered by Ustadh Sharif Rosen
Question: Assalam alaykum
How can I help or advise someone who has had a lot of hardship but has become mean?
He seems to have lost his sense of what should and shouldn’t be said to others and has become judgmental and presumptuous.
Answer: as-Salamu ‘alaykum wa rahmatulLah.
Thank you for raising this question in which your care for the person undergoing these issues is clear. That could be your greatest source of influence in this situation. Through the very closeness of your relationship to this individual, it perhaps allows you to have an honest, delicate conversation with them about what you are noticing in them, and why it is of such concern. Often, those most needing to hear ways they can improve their sense of well-being are unwilling to heed advice except from those they have come to trust. You appear to be beyond such a point with this person so are in a position to raise these issues with the needed sensitivity that may help them to listen and consider a change.
It would be easy, yet perhaps unwise to simply tell them “be more grateful”, “focus on your blessings”, and so forth. Indeed, we want them (and us) to ascend to a place to receive the nourishment that comes with an active spiritual life fueled by gratitude, hope, and balance. Yet, know that many of those who are most angry and frustrated reached this place because they feel insufficiently heard and understood. By taking time to first listen to their concerns without judgement or impatience, to later share your own, you should find them more receptive to considering ways to leave the cycles of blame and argumentation that you are alluding to.
I hope this is helpful in your ability to offer them emotional and spiritual care. May Allah reward your compassion and concern.
[Ustadh] Sharif Rosen
Checked and Approved by Shaykh Faraz Rabbani
Ustadh Sharif Rosen is the Muslim Chaplain at Williams College (in the Northeastern United States) where he works to enhance campus life through spiritual and pastoral care; advocacy and coalition building; and deepening mutual understanding within and between communities. His formative Islamic studies, past and ongoing, have been at the hands of scholars connected via unbroken transmission to the Prophet Muhammad, upon him be peace and blessings. Most of Sharif’s training occurred in Amman, Jordan from 2008 – 2013, with a focus on creed, ritual law, spirituality, Quranic recitation and exegesis and through which he has received permission to transmit his Islamic learning. Sharif has a B.A. in History from Loyola Marymount University in Los Angeles, and is now completing his graduate studies. He completed the Classical Arabic program at the Qasid Arabic Institute in Amman, where he was also the Director of Student Life. He currently serves as the Vice President for Educational Chaplaincy with the U.S.-based Association of Muslim Chaplains.