Discomfort and Growth – An Unlikely Partnership


By Lobna Youssef Mulla
Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

“Are you guys uncomfortable?!” yelled the gym cycling instructor. Taking our group silence as an affirmative response, she continued, “Good! You grow from discomfort.” “Hmm, a Tarbiya concept, I thought to myself. ” The connection made me struggle through the class with more motivation. Fast forward a few days later, my family and I were hiking along a hill-top desert trail, when we reached a point where the trail disappeared and descended sharply into a slippery narrow pile of rocks. My husband continued ahead with ease, as the rest of us watched and urged him not to go on, to no avail. Either side of the rocky descent was a cliff, and to get back on the trail you had to do a bit of rock climbing.

It felt like a scene out of a movie: My husband on one side of the deep divide urging us from afar to follow suit, and the five of us (me and my children) on the other side, telling him to come back or go ahead on his own. While my and children and husband debated back and forth, the words of my gym instructor rang in my head, “You grow from discomfort.” The brave voice in my head told me I could do it. The whiny voice in my head urged me not to go since I am afraid of heights and I sometimes suffer from vertigo. That would not be fun up there on the rocky trail. While I had my own internal debate, I eyed the situation and challenged my fears. I started to think of the positive viewpoints: 1) the descent was steep, but if someone were to slip they would get hurt, but they wouldn’t die (you know, worst case scenario analysis.) 2) I sometimes suffer from vertigo, but it’s not common, so there is a good chance that I would be fine. 3) the descent is slippery, but if I sit and slide with my shoes tucked beneath me, I would have more confidence and control. After a good 15 minutes of the kids trying to convince their father that it was too dangerous to cross, I came to a conclusion.

If I turn around and go back, the kids will follow me and we would never know whether or not we could have traversed the divide. By the same token, if I tell the kids we could do it, they would try to hike down the steep decline since they know that I am the most hesitant in these situations. I made up my mind. “We can do it guys, it’s not that bad,” I said.  All I had to do was take the first few steps, say bismillah (In the Name of God), and not look anywhere but where my feet needed to land. Masha’Allah, my kids went ahead of me, while I scrambled along with my sit and slide technique. After some time, we all made it across the divide. The sense of accomplishment was immense. One more experience was deposited into our account of positive achievements.

Pushing ourselves and trusting in Allah yields a myriad of benefits, one of the greatest is being able to push ourselves even further in future situations (since we already tasted success before). Just like Ramadan prepares us in so many ways spiritually, mentally, and physically, situations out of our comfort zone prepare us for future challenges as well.

And finally, when we take on a challenge instead of avoiding it, we follow in the footsteps of Prophet Moses (blessings be upon him) when Allah tasked him with facing Pharaoh. Prophet Moses didn’t wish that somehow he wouldn’t have to speak with Pharoah. Instead, he asked for support and help when he supplicated to Allah, “Ease my affairs.” (Surah Taha, 20:26) So next time you think about avoiding a situation just because there might be discomfort, think about the possible opportunity for growth.

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