Muslims don’t eat pork.
It’s a basic rule of Islam that’s so ingrained into every Muslim from birth, I learned it before learning that we don’t believe that Jesus (PBUH) is the son of God. I learned it so well, that when I went to McDonald’s as a child, before they switched to vegetable shortening, I saw them changing the grease, and we didn’t go to McDonald’s for years afterward until they switched. I eschewed Hostess Twinkies, glazed doughnuts, and other foods other kids defiantly ate in front of me, because I knew the rules, and refused to break them. I still do that today, even though I’m more Agnostic than Muslim. But of all the pork products I successfully saved from my Muslim mouth, the one that failed me was so-called it “Salisbury” Steak.
Salisbury Steak, I just learned, is a pork product, and I’ve eaten it for years. Last night I bought a TV dinner, read the ingredients after taking one bite, and learned of my mistake. I stopped eating the steak immediately, threw it out, went out and got fast food, and asked God to forgive me. I was okay with that, because I knew God absolves us for honest mistakes. Muslims learn that too – God judges you more by your intentions than your flaws. Had I continued to eat the steak, I’d be punished. Had I been starving and had no other option, He would’ve let it go. I know the rules, and I followed them, so I’m good.
Here’s the thing, though: not 24 hours before, my former life coach Nina Rubin sent me a job lead from a friend of hers. I quickly got on the computer, emailed my resume as requested, and wrote a long and rambling email that emphasized all of the things I couldn’t do rather than my good traits. I figured I should be honest, and luckily, I BCC’d Nina, who advised me that I should’ve been positive. She noted that my email sounded really negative and suggested some changes, even giving me a sample of the kind of cover letter I should send in the future.
And I have been mentally beating myself senseless about it ever since.
As I ate the dinner that replaced the sinful Salisbury, something occurred to me: I believe that God – a being I’ve never seen or heard from – would forgive me for breaking one of His commandments, but I absolutely refused to let myself off the hook for blowing that job opportunity. Did I need the job more than eternal salvation? If I truly believe, probably not. And yet nothing could convince me that I wasn’t the worst, stupidest person in the world because Mr. Award-winning writer had written an honest, but negative email, thus likely costing myself a job when I needed it most. And that’s something worth pondering, I think.
See the thing is, while it’s true that a Muslim would say my eternal soul meant more than any job, and that maybe it was all for the best, and part of God’s plan for me, at the end of the day, I have to live in the here and now. And while I did make a huge mistake from a practical standpoint, of all of the sins I committed in this little story, I have begun to realize that the biggest was likely not forgiving myself for making the mistake. While it is true that I’m assuming that it’s God letting me off the hook for the Salisbury Steak, not me, I’m the person who made the mistake, just as I’m the person who has to live my life. If God is going to let me off the hook in the hereafter, thus escaping punishment, why am I punishing myself in the here and now? Isn’t not getting the job punishment enough?
Here’s what I learned from that Salisbury Steak: when we make mistakes, it’s important to forgive ourselves and move on. Just as the steak box taught me never to eat Salisbury Steak again, Nina’s feedback on my email taught me what I did wrong there, too. Having learned the lesson, the experience is over. No more Salisbury Steak, and no more negative emails. End of discussion. Move on. The sooner I learn this, the better off I’ll be. Spiritually and mentally.
I guess eating that “steak” wasn’t so bad after all. 😉