While giving halaqaat or a short talk, I’ve come across many different sisters, but I noticed these two “extremes” (and I use the word “extreme” to describe their unhealthy thought processes).
Sister # 1
On the one hand there is the sister that, no matter how much you emphasize at the beginning of the talk: “Sisters, I caution you to look at your own faults and your own shortcomings first, before anyone else’s. This talk will benefit you most, if you hear it in light of your own mistakes. The burden of your sins on your shoulder should be greater than those of anyone else’s sins, because those are the sins that you are going to meet Allah s.w.t. with.
No matter how much you emphasize that, she still spends the majority of the talk thinking about how much her cousin/friend/neighbor needs to hear this. This sister is being deluded. She overlooks her own faults and places a magnifying glass over the faults of others. It’s difficult to get through to her with these subtle warnings, because she will always be thinking of someone else who needs to hear that warning.
Sister # 2
On the other hand, you have the sister who attends the halaqah/talk, and she thinks that you somehow spent the night meticulously fashioning your talk to be completely directed at her and her shortcomings… in order to humiliate her. Because she feels like it was done out of spite, this is something I would term paranoia. Every warning of yours is an arrow pointed straight at her. Now, for a sister to listen to a talk in this manner: thinking that it is directly linked to her and her well-being, would be great. However, she takes it too far if she leaves the talk feeling like you just executed a personal attack on her. She feels too humiliated to act upon the advice that was given. She may or may not approach you to confirm her suspicions, but if she does, that’s your chance to recognize and address the sister’s problems (whatever they may be), inshaa Allah.
Sister # 3
The middle path is a sister who, and alhamdu lillah I know sisters like this, when you caution them to focus on their own flaws, they do that. Then they take in every piece of advice, asking themselves “How can I apply this knowledge in order to improve my relationship with Allah swt?” This is the sister that benefits the most from the talk, and this is the attitude that I encourage myself to aim for. When you hear advice, don’t be like the first sister whose arrogance led her to brushing it off as something that is meant for someone else. And don’t be like the second sister who let her paranoia blind her from following the advice.
And Allah SWT knows Best.
Part 2 of this post will describe Sister # 3 in greater detail, and in a different context, inshaa Allah.