SHAFAQNA – Sins are also habits. When we inherit the sins of our ancestors and parents, we are inheriting their habits.
The fact that as Muslims we don’t accept the Western Christian doctrine of original sin does not mean that we don’t inherit the results of the sins of our ancestors even if we don’t inherit their guilt.
Much of the darkness within, such as selfishness, love of wealth and lust, lack of compassion for others, the propensity to mock others, or even our inability to cope with the troubles of life are often inherited from our parents. There is a truth to the saying that the apple does not fall far from the tree.
Many of our behaviors are shaped by the environment that we grew up in. They were shaped by the friends we had, the school we went to, and the kind of stuff we watched on TV. More so than anything else, a lot of our bad behaviors are inherited from our parents. You will find that people who gossip a lot tend to have parents that gossiped a lot. You will find that people who are overly depressed and prone to anxiety attacks had a parent who also suffered from the same disease.
So how are we to get over this? Remember that sin cannot be simply thought of as a disobedience to God. Sin is often times a habit and hence when we inherit the sins of our parents, we are really inheriting their accumulated habits which they in turn inherited from their parents.
There is thus a two step approach on how to fight this.
The first and most important step is prayer. Without the will of God, no spiritual reformation can come about. Repentance and change come about through the grace of God.
The second step is to form contrary or opposite habits. For example, if you have the habit of lying, you have to force yourself to get into the habit of speaking the truth. At first it will be very difficult and you may falter at times. However, over time, your brain will begin to rewire itself (this is called neuroplasticity) and you will find it much easier to abstain from that particular sin. If enough time passes, there will be a moral and existential change within you where once you found yourself helpless when it came to gossiping or lying, but now you find yourself hating that sin and unable to do it.
The worst thing a person can do is to feel despair. Sinful habits are the product of years of build-up, so one should not expect them to be overturned in one night. It takes patience, vigilance and most importantly, not falling into despair when we fail. By the Grace of God, there is always light in the end of the tunnel.
By Rayhan Al-Safawi – The views expressed here are the author’s own