by Aqeela Naqvi

our lives were made to be dynamic, not static. whether we realize it or not, every minute is constantly changing who we are. we are never the same people in the next moment as we were in the last. and this is perhaps one of the greatest graces of living: that we are not obligated to be the people we were five minutes ago. while there is breath in our lungs and strength in our bones, the door for growth and change is always open.

that being said: why are so many of us bent on binding others to versions of themselves that they were – whether through explicit statements or implicit behavior – discouraging or preventing them from growing, from rising, from striving to become better versions of themselves?

if God, having seen our public and most private moments, does not hold us back from forgiveness, who are we to pull back His curtains? if God, despite our many mistakes, still embraces us and reminds us of our potential, who are we to rob others of theirs by self-righteously pushing them away? if God in His Infinite Knowledge of who we were and who we are, does not hold us back from who we could be – then who are we to deny others this grace?

who are we to stand in the way?

“People say to you, ‘you’ve changed’, or something like that, well, I hope, for the sake of God that you have changed, because I don’t want to be the same person all my life. I want to be growing, I want to be expanding. I want to be changing. Because animate things change, inanimate things don’t change. Dead things don’t change. And the heart should be alive, it should be changing, it should be moving, it should be growing, its knowledge should be expanding.”

-Sheikh Hamza Yusuf

Some periods of our growth are so confusing that we don’t even recognize that growth is happening. We may feel hostile or angry or weepy and hysterical, or we may feel depressed. It would never occur to us, unless we stumbled on a book or a person who explained to us, that we were in fact in the process of change, of actually becoming larger, spiritually, than we were before. Whenever we grow, we tend to feel it, as a young seed must feel the weight and inertia of the earth as it seeks to break out of its shell on its way to becoming a plant. Often the feeling is anything but pleasant. But what is most unpleasant is the not knowing what is happening. Those long periods when something inside ourselves seems to be waiting, holding its breath, unsure about what the next step should be, eventually become the periods we wait for, for it is in those periods that we realize that we are being prepared for the next phase of our life and that, in all probability, a new level of the personality is about to be revealed.

―Alice Walker, “Living by the Word”

There is a time in every man’s education when he arrives at the conviction that envy is ignorance; that imitation is suicide; that he must take himself for better, for worse, as his portion; that though the wide universe is full of good, no kernel of nourishing corn can come to him but through his toil bestowed on that plot of ground which is given to him to till.

The power which resides in him is new in nature, and none but he knows what that is which he can do, nor does he know until he has tried…We but half express ourselves, and are ashamed of that divine idea which each of us represents…God will not have his work made manifest by cowards…Trust thyself.

 …What I must do is all that concerns me, not what the people think. This rule, equally arduous in actual and in intellectual life, may serve for the whole distinction between greatness and meanness. It is the harder, because you will always find those who think they know what is your duty better than you know it. It is easy in the world to live after the world’s opinion; it is easy in solitude to live after our own; but the great man is he who in the midst of the crowd keeps with perfect sweetness the independence of solitude.

 …Live no longer to the expectation of these deceived and deceiving people with whom we converse. Say to them…I have lived with you after appearances hitherto. Henceforward I am the truth’s…I appeal from your customs. I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should.

 …If you are noble, I will love you; if you are not, I will not hurt you and myself by hypocritical attentions. If you are true, but not in the same truth with me, cleave to your companions; I will seek my own. I do this not selfishly, but humbly and truly…

— But so you may give these friends pain. Yes, but I cannot sell my liberty and my power, to save their sensibility…Nothing can bring you peace but yourself. Nothing can bring you peace but the triumph of principles.”

—Excerpts, “Self-Reliance,” Ralph Waldo Emerson