On Faith: Focus on retrospection rather than resolutions

It's that time of the year again. After the holiday decorations have been taken down, the old-time ritual of the New Year's resolutions list is posted to the refrigerator.

What's on your list this year?

For most people, it is probably a reprinted list but with an adjusted new year: (1) lose weight; (2) eat healthier; (3) exercise; (4) get out of debt; (5) stop smoking, etc.

Traditionally, people tend to make a resolution around the start of the New Year as they reflect on the old year and look forward to the new one. For many, the New Year symbolizes a chance for a fresh start and a new beginning in their life.

This year, try to dispense from the traditional pragmatic list to one filled with introspection.

Let the first few pages of your new year be filled with self-reflection. To recognize your self-worth — not in the form of vanity nor of conceit that is spoken of — but of loving yourself and finding your self-worth.

God says that "He created man in the best of molds" (Koran 95:4), which is one of goodness, thus begin to recognize the dignity of your nature by valuing your life.

Give yourself a chance. Do not defeat yourself by dwelling on your shortcomings and persist in wronging yourself.

It is only when you love yourself that you can love others. For how can we love others if we cannot begin to love our self first?

God says that he will never change the state of the people until they change themselves. (Koran, 8:53)

And by no means will you attain righteousness unless you give freely of that which you love. (Koran, 3:92)

When you begin to love yourself, only then will you begin to illuminate goodness. Love is the manifestation of everything that is good. It is when you give of the goodness of yourself that you truly give of love to others. When love is exhumed it becomes a unification that binds us to others.

Fill the pages of the New Year with notes of forgiveness.

As we ask God to forgive our faults, let us also extend forgiveness toward others who may have caused us harm. According to theologian Lewis B. Smedes, "To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover that the prisoner was you."

Prophet Muhammad once said, "Do not say that if people do good to us, we will do good to them and if people oppress us, we will oppress them but determine that if people do you good, you will do good to them and if they oppress you, you will not oppress them."

With grace and patience, endure the pages of trials and tribulations that may come.

"Verily, those who are patient in adversity will be given their reward in full, beyond all reckoning!" (Koran, 39:10)

Whether we lose a loved one, battle a disease, lose a home or job, in adversity comes strength and wisdom. Life without difficulties is a classroom without lessons.

Work hard to resolve the issues before you, but when things are out of your control, then have faith by placing your hardships before God.

Do not waste precious passages in pursuit of the "Joneses." Preoccupation with possessions and artificial aesthetics is a life without substance and content. Contentment is the capital of which never diminishes.

A prominent Muslim figure, Ali ibn Abi Talib, once 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. 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."

In every state of your affairs be content with what God has given you.

Lastly, dedicate most of your pages to living a life of purpose. You were born with a unique quality and it is this quality that gives purpose to your life. Your task is to discover that quality and share it with others; this will be your true purpose in life.

Above all, be hopeful and grateful for all the days ahead.

FATMA SALEH is a board member with the Islamic Educational Center of Orange County in Costa Mesa and the author of "A New Perspective: Women in Islam."

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