Laughter and Tears – Commentary by Sally Jo Gilbert de Vargas

“That it is He who grants laughter and tears.” (Qur’an 53:43)

“God wants to see more love and playfulness in your eyes for that is your greatest witness to Him.” (Hafiz)

“Your tears are holy; they water the rose gardens in invisible realms.” (Sufi saying)

The Qur’an tells us that all feelings are sacred, and have been gifted to us by God.  Psychologists tell us that when we try to stifle or deny our feelings, they simply go underground and sap us of our energy, becoming more and more powerful and difficult to control.  They come out in ways that we cannot predict and with an intensity we never imagined.  Unfortunately, we tend to place judgments on our feelings, labelling them as “good” or “bad,” “appropriate” or “inappropriate.”  But the wise teachers of all traditions advise us otherwise.  They ask us to observe and affirm our feelings, without judgment.  We are asked to find ways to express our feelings in ways that will not harm ourselves or others. We are encouraged to bear our trials patiently and with perseverance.  But Allah also reminds us to turn to Him for guidance and solace when our feelings and circumstances become overwhelming. For “Allah is the best of Protectors.” (Qur’an 34:21) It’s no use to hide our feelings, for the Qur’an also reminds us, “Whether you hide what is in your hearts or reveal it, Allah knows it all…and Allah has power over all things.”  (Qur’an 3:29) 

The great poet and mystic Khalil Gibran helps us to understand the power of human emotions.  Like so much else in life, human emotions tend to work in pairs of opposites. Gibran says, “The more that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy it can contain.” I try to remind myself of this when I am experiencing deep sorrow or pain in my life.  I have also found this quote to be of comfort to others when they are going through difficult times.  Many years ago, I had a friend give me what I now consider one of the greatest compliments I have ever received.  She said she admired my ability to “experience life to the fullest, with the full range of emotions.”  At the time, I admit I was surprised, because I thought everyone had this capacity, and sometimes I thought my emotions were a liability rather than an asset. Somewhere I had learned that I would be better off controlling my emotions in order to let reason dominate my life. But I have since come to realize that the capacity to genuinely experience and express a wide range of emotions has helped me to live a more deeply fulfilling life.  It has also helped me to have genuine empathy for other people who are experiencing emotions I myself have felt.  I remember, for example, how devastated I was when my mother died.  I crawled into my bed and wept from the deepest regions of my heart, for hours and hours.  Eventually, of course, I recovered.  But even now, many years later, whenever someone tells my they have lost their mother – even someone I barely know – my eyes begin to water with tears and I give them a warm and genuine hug.  This sincere empathy brings us closer together on so many levels.

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