Verbal Judo

Often when someone tells us that we are in the wrong, we react in anger and reject the advice and insist that we are right. We offer contorted arguments and reasons to prove ourselves to be true and innocent. For an onlooker, it can be truly embarrassing to hear our attempts to justify our behaviour, but we feel no shame. We pay for this with a high cost in the trust that people hold in us, cost to our emotions and the cost to our relationships and friends. Not even an iota of this cost is worth it.

It is easier for us to put up our hands and say “I am wrong. I am sorry.” Or, if we are advised about something, we should accept and say “You are right. I am wrong in this. Help me, advise me, assist me”. This approach expends less energy and emotional cost. In fact, there is no price to pay. The opposite route of justification and refusal to accept has such a high price not only in the eyes of the creation but even with the Creator, Allah.

One of the core concepts of Judo is that you use the other person’s strength against them. Unique amongst all the other martial arts, this principle of using your opponent’s strength, aggression and momentum against them is referred to as the principle of ‘maximum efficiency’. Saying ‘Sorry’ is emotional or verbal Judo. If someone is angry because you have wronged them, they will become angry, aggressive and argumentative. All this anger and heat is being dissipated towards you. If you sincerely apologise, it disarms the other person. It leaves them without argument and evidence. If they continue to be angry and seethe with rage, then all their anger is now directed at themselves. It is human to get angry but it is devilish to refuse to accept someone’s apology. This is why Imam Shafi رحمة الله‎ used to say ‘Whoever is provoked and then he doesn’t become angry, then that person is a donkey but if someone’s forgiveness is sought and they refuse to forgive, then that person is a devil’. 

[This short excerpt is based on a lecture entitled ‘Traits of Hypocrisy Part 6’ delivered by Shaykh Riyadh ul Haq on Friday 24th January 2020].

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