What happens when you go through painful work experiences? Do you pause to reflect on their meaning, and message for you? Do you allow them to teach you and help you grow, or do you numb your heart and mind until they pass?

Being more concerned about work outcomes can lead us to sweep our feelings under the carpet when we face a painful work experience ignoring thereby our holistic well-being. But the truth is, you’re not a work machine, you have feelings and emotions, and more importantly, nothing happens to you without a purpose. Allah says in the Qur’an:

“No calamity befalls ˹anyone˺ except by Allah’s Will. And whoever has faith in Allah, He will ˹rightly˺ guide their hearts ˹through adversity˺. And Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things.” [Qur’an 64: 11]

When we explore organizational psychology & leadership research, we find abundant evidence for growth following stressful/painful moments [1]. Leaders report that painful moments of hardship were fundamental to their development and understanding of their values [2]. We also learn that people’s levels of cognitive awareness and reflection are among the reasons that allow them to construe benefit from adversity [3].

What we need to acknowledge is that painful work experiences WILL happen to everyone in any organization. The key here is how people can consciously turn those experiences into opportunities for peace, growth, and success.

Introspection & self-accountability is a powerful mindset that helps us grow through painful work experiences in a way that brings internal and external peace and growth.

Three benefits of introspection & self-accountability

1). When you adopt the Barakah mindset of introspection and self-accountability upon facing a painful work experience; you reflect and think about where you went wrong and what you can do to change the situation, instead of playing the victim card of why you didn’t deserve this and who’s fault it is.

So the first benefit of such a mindset is that you start taking responsibility honorably for the mistake and figuring out how to tackle it.

Yes, reflecting on one’s own mistakes and blaming the self instead of others can be painful but it’s a sign that your nafs (self/ego) is uncomfortable with making the mistake and you could have done better. And that’s a good sign – it means your heart is alive. (We all know people who make mistakes and feel no regret; if anything they try to justify their mistakes which makes the situation even worse!).

2). The second benefit of the introspection and self-accountability mindset is that it ignites life in your heart and holds you accountable to a higher standard. Allah in the Qur’an gives an oath by the self-reproaching soul.

“I do swear by the Day of Judgment! And I do swear by the self-reproaching soul!” [Qur’an 75: 1-2]

In the above verses, Allah swears by the Day of judgment when people will be held accountable for their deeds. Then He swears by people’s self-reproaching soul that innately holds them accountable and rebukes them for their mistakes BEFORE the day of Judgement. If we don’t hold ourselves accountable in this life, we’ll surely regret in the hereafter.

3). Thirdly, when we introspect and hold ourselves accountable and think of our mistakes from a hereafter-perspective, we shift the focus to the Judge, and the Judge here is The Most Merciful. In the hustle culture we live in, we let our managers be our judge, and sometimes to them, we’re never good enough and our mistakes can never be forgivable. But knowing that Allah is The One who’ll ultimately judge us for our mistakes and that He forgives everything -once asked- no matter how big or how many times mistakes have been repeated brings a sense of ease and helps release us from the pain that’s gripping our hearts.

From pain to hope

The word for ‘blamed’ in Arabic is لام ‘Lam’. Those 3 letters in ‘lam’ لام also form the word الم ‘Alm’ (Pain), i.e. Blame leads to pain. But, the same 3 letters can be rearranged to form the word امل ‘Aml’ (Hope).

The message is clear: Blaming the self can lead to pain. But pain is not a fixed, endless state. The pain must carry and turn into hope…

  • Hope because the heart is alive and not numb.
  • Hope that this is not the end (and we’ll be held accountable on the Day of Judgement with a Merciful Lord).
  • Hope for a better self that can come out of this situation and mistake
  • Hope in the mercy of Allah that encompasses everything
  • Hope in His promise that with difficulty there must be ease.

What exacerbates painful experiences for some people is their inability, lack of desire, or refusal to see any hope in their situations. But sometimes Allah places pain purposefully to guide people to Him and to a more meaningful realization about life.

“No calamity befalls ˹anyone˺ except by Allah’s Will. And whoever has faith in Allah, He will ˹rightly˺ guide their hearts ˹through adversity˺. And Allah has ˹perfect˺ knowledge of all things.” (Qur’an 64: 11)


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