Reflecting on the human need for appreciation, here are a few thoughts on keeping our intentions in check.
“The deepest principle in human nature is the craving to be appreciated.” — William James
I find this quote to be ever so true. The Insaan (the human) has truly been created with a strange desire, a “craving” to be appreciated and for his merits to be recognized. Yet how many times do we hear the phrase “I am not appreciated” out of the mouths of stressed mothers? How many times has a lack of appreciation been the reason for the falling apart of marriages? How many frustrated employees have complained about their work and qualifications being underappreciated?
The thing with appreciation is that although humans crave to receive it, they seldom offer it. While discussing this with my mother once, she quoted the first part of a verse 67 in Surat Az-Zumar that translates into, “And they do not esteem God as He should be esteemed…”
She then told me: If people cannot esteem Allah the Almighty as He deserves to be esteemed, how on earth do you think people can esteem mere people?!
Appreciating others, despite this introduction, is not the core idea I wanted to discuss today – so allow me to shift the waves of ideas to another shore – why is it that we seek appreciation from other humans? Does this “craving” influence the things we do? The things we don’t do?
Could it be that perhaps we sometimes forget our intentions, forget Who we should really be seeking to please and serve, for the sake of fickle human appreciation?
Could it be that this need has been the reason for leaving either required or recommended actions in Islam? Because we know, deep down inside, that doing these things will not earn us the appreciation from others our egos beg to be fueled with?
Deep down inside, is the way we dress – whether it is not putting on the hijab, or not improving our way of wearing hijab – because we will know that an altered appearance will earn us nothing more than disapproving glances and looks from some? Is what we wear each day not what it should be because we cannot let go of the need to receive “appreciative” looks?
Could many of our sins be because we forget the magnitude of Allah’s reward and the beauty of His pleasure, and therefore we fill the void of this craving in the form of “mini-appreciation” from those around us?
So here is something the world doesn’t tell you everyday: while we should always strive to be appreciative of others, not being appreciated, not receiving appreciation may actually be a hidden blessing – it can help you test your sincerity and help train you to seek Allah’s pleasure alone.
It seems to me that appreciation is a flower we are all inevitably inclined to pick – but are we picking it from the right garden?