Do you know the simplest and (in my opinion) best mechanism when someone throws you bait is? First, let me define what I mean by bait. Throughout life, bait may come in many forms, some of which may include: someone who comes and tries to stir up rivalry between you and a close friend, co-workers trying to rock the boat in the relationship between you and your manager, and my all-time favorite, a man that tries to get to know a single woman ‘unofficially.’ Before I get ahead of myself, let me define ‘unofficially.’ Unofficially in my book (and you could totally feel free to disagree with me, but this is my opinion) means a guy who tries to keep the conversation going, just to get to know you, without making it clear what he wants.
We live in a time and age that there are many forms of communication and hence many forms, shapes and sizes of bait that may come. The bait may come in the form of a casual email, a Facebook message, a text message, a comment here and there, etc. Now I am not saying a man and a woman should never communicate or that all communication is haram, but what you choose to talk about, becomes the deciding factor. I actually think it is super healthy for the mental well-being of men and women to communicate so that their sense of awareness and maturity may grow and develop by communicating with those who have complete opposite ways of thinking, feeling and processing than themselves. However, how are we communicating and what are we communicating about? Is it an intellectual conversation about the needs of our community and how we should go about solving them or are we sharing our emotional pains, with neither of us having the tools to help the other? We must always keep in mind who we are trying to please. Is it our nafs (our lower self) or is it the Creator of our nafs?
When we share with another man (in the case of woman) and share with another woman (in the case of a man) our wounds, our greatest accomplishments and our daily struggles, we are confining and connecting with that individual at a deeper level than ‘casual.’ We must monitor what we share with others because what we share with others determines the depth of our relationship with that other person. Are we going from talking about the next masjid project or last week’s MSA meeting, to how stressed you are about your upcoming two exams and how your cousin is about to get married and you don’t know how to dress because this other person is going to be there? What may start off as being a casual, “Hey what’s up? How are you doing?” conversation can very easily turn into, “This is the whole of me, my wounds and my accomplishments.”
In this case, who threw the bait? Was it the guy you were talking to? Or the girl you just stopped to say hello to? Or was it shaytan? Most definitely it was shaytan. Shaytan will take every opportunity he can get, to make you mess up. Allah (swt) tells us in the Qur’an:
“And tell My servants to say that which is best. Indeed, Satan induces [dissension] among them. Indeed, Satan is ever, to mankind, a clear enemy.” (Surat Al-Israa’, verse 53)
To mess with your emotions and make you dependent on someone else (a random guy you’re going to school with, a coworker, a teacher). Someone else who doesn’t have the means to help you (isn’t a therapist or a life coach) and someone who isn’t your mahram (a male relative in your family, whom you can’t marry). Hence shaytan creates this emotional relationship between you and this guy (or this girl) in a matter of minutes of having a conversation with that person.
What should a person do when they find themselves in the middle of a conversation and they noticed the conversation going from next week’s MSA event to how I’m dealing with my family issues (aka they notice the bait)? The simples and easiest way that I have found to deal with this issue is to act stupid. Yup, act stupid. What do I mean? When you notice the bait, recognize it, acknowledge it, and totally disregard it. The person you’re talking with might not get the hint that your avoiding the bait, so you continue on your way, and ignore the bait. Let me give you an example. Last week you met with a classmate and one thing led to another and you found yourself discussing with him how hard it is for you to be a Muslim going to school here and everyday it’s a struggle. You didn’t notice the bait the first time you were having the conversation so you took it once it was thrown to you, you discussed details of your struggle’s and your hopes and dreams of when you wouldn’t have to face these issues anymore. You see your classmate again in the library, he stops by to say hello, and to see how your classes are going and then asks how things are going for you on campus (since the last time you spoke, you expressed details of things with him). This is more bait. More bait from none other than shaytan. Recognize it, acknowledge it, don’t touch upon it, don’t elaborate. When your classmate asks, say things are good and smile. He/she may ask follow-up more detailed questions (which is totally understandable and it is coming from a good place, the person may genuinely care about your wellbeing), always answer in the same way, things are good/great/wonderful and smile. Basically, end the conversation as soon as you can.
Why do I suggest you do this? For your own, internal, well-being. You deserve to share your feelings, hopes, aspirations and everyday struggles, but with certain people only. Those who have proven they genuinely care and are part of your life for the long term. All these short term emotional attachments are not healthy for your internal well-being. You deserve to share these details with people in your life, but those whom are there, your family, close friends of the same gender, and of course your spouse. The relationship between a husband and wife is so special, so deep and so intimate that Allah (swt) describes it in the Qur’an as both of them being clothes for the other! What is the closest thing to your physical body? It is your clothes, your garments, that which adorns you and hides your faults and weaknesses! Allah (swt) says in the Qur’an:
“They are clothing for you and you are clothing for them.” (Surat Al-Baqarah, verse 187)
I can go on and on about spouses, so let’s leave that discussion for another day. For now, my only suggestion is, don’t take the bait. Remember who is throwing it!