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What puts up barriers to consultation, making it difficult to move forwards?  Let’s have a look at the Baha’ i Writings.

Aggression:

At a time when conquest and aggression have lost their credibility as means of solving difficult problems . . .   (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Mar 15, Women Peace Process)

Anger:

. . .  if he does not use these qualities [anger and wrath] in a right way, they are blameworthy (‘Abdul-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 250- 251).

Arguing:

The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

Backbiting:

You ask in your letter for guidance on the implications of the prohibitions on backbiting and more specifically whether, in moments of anger or depression, the believer is permitted to turn to his friends to unburden his soul and discuss his problem in human relations. Normally, it is possible to describe the situation surrounding a problem and seek help and advice in resolving it, without necessarily mentioning names. The individual believer should seek to do this, whether he is consulting a friend, Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í, or whether the friend is consulting him.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

Conflict and Contention:

Bahá’u’lláh has forbidden “conflict” and “contention”; open disputation in the public arena over matters in the Bahá’í teachings is an inappropriate means of clarifying difficult issues. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Confrontation: 

You are urged to avoid confrontation and dissension; these would tend to increase the antagonism.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 185)

Criticism:

When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community there is no remedy except to put the past behind one and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and, for the sake of God and His Faith, refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony.   (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

Cynicism:

Skepticism, cynicism, disbelief, immorality and hard-heartedness are rife, and as friends are those who stand for the antithesis of all these things they should beware lest the atmosphere of the present world affects them without their being conscious of it.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 542)

Dictatorial authority and arbitrary power:

Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 33)

Discord:

The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

Disruption:

Disruptive forces, which are but the outcome of human passion and selfishness, should be entirely crushed down and should give way to a living and constructive faith which alone can ensure the efficiency and the high quality of the work to be achieved.  (Shoghi Effendi, National Convention compilation)

It is important to note, however, that individuals who wish to present their views should do so in a way compatible with the Bahá’í spirit of consultation. It sometimes happens that a believer insists on expounding his views at Bahá’í meetings, and frequently disrupts such gatherings, and may even display such behaviour in the presence of non-Bahá’ís. If he stubbornly persists in this conduct, despite exhortations and warnings given to him by the proper Bahá’í institutions, he will somehow have to be prevented from taking the law into his own hands and jeopardizing Bahá’í interests. When differences such as these arise, it is important that frank and loving consultation between the person concerned and the Local Spiritual Assembly, and if need be the National Spiritual Assembly, should take place, or perhaps the institution of the Counsellors could help resolve the problem.  (Universal House of Justice, 7 February 1993, “Issues Concerning Community Functioning”)

 Disunity: 

Should harmony of thought and absolute unity be nonexistent, that gathering shall be dispersed and that assembly be brought to naught.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88) 

Estrangement: 

Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than … estrangement … among the loved ones of God. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 8)

Should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87)

Fear, alienation and resentment:

It is very bad for the believers to have the feeling that their Assembly will deal too harshly with them, and the net result can only be that a feeling of fear or alienation or resentment may grow up in their hearts towards the body that they should look to as being, not only their elected representatives, but their helper, – one might almost say their father – and the one to whom they can confidently take their problem, and whose wishes and decrees they will respect and obey unhesitatingly.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 168)

Harshness:

It is very bad for the believers to have the feeling that their Assembly will deal too harshly with them, and the net result can only be that a feeling of fear or alienation or resentment may grow up in their hearts towards the body that they should look to as being, not only their elected representatives, but their helper, – one might almost say their father – and the one to whom they can confidently take their problem, and whose wishes and decrees they will respect and obey unhesitatingly.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Light of Divine Guidance v I, p. 168)

Hostility:

The prospect of a believer’s displaying an attitude of hostility, when being interviewed by a Spiritual Assembly or its representatives who are seeking to determine the facts of a matter, is abhorrent.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Opposition:

In France I was present at a session of the senate, but the experience was not impressive. Parliamentary procedure should have for its object the attainment of the light of truth upon questions presented and not furnish a battleground for opposition and self-opinion. Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. In the parliamentary meeting mentioned, altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result, mostly confusion and turmoil; even in one instance a physical encounter took place between two members. It was not consultation but comedy.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Passion and Rancor:

The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancor.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, par. 590)

Personalities:

The Bahá’ís must learn to forget personalities . . . (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 50)

Quarreling:

As long as the friends quarrel amongst themselves their efforts will not be blessed for they are disobeying God. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 21)

Resentment and Grudges:

And this is clear: a power above and beyond the powers of nature must needs be brought to bear, to change this black darkness into light, and these hatreds and resentments, grudges and spites, these endless wrangles and wars, into fellowship and love amongst all the peoples of the earth. This power is none other than the breathings of the Holy Spirit and the mighty inflow of the Word of God.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 52)

Selfishness:

Of all men the most negligent is he that disputeth idly and seeketh to advance himself over his brother.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 5)

Sharpness: 

Further, it is sometimes the case that staff members at your National Center, in their eagerness to be exactly and completely obedient, carry out the instruction of your Assembly with a sharpness of manner and tone that hurts people and provokes resentment against the very body the staff are striving to serve with loyalty and devotion.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)

 Splitting Hairs:

. . . no fruitless and hair-splitting discussions indulged in, under any circumstances.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 81)

Stubbornness:

Before expressing his own views he should carefully consider the views already advanced by others. If he finds that a previously expressed opinion is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately and not willfully hold to an opinion of his own. By this excellent method he endeavors to arrive at unity and truth.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Sullenness: 

Beginning with demonstrations of sullen resistance, the situation steadily deteriorated to a point where the children and grandchildren of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá felt free to disagree with His appointed successor and to disobey his instructions.  (Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 46)

Superiority:

Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 62)

As soon as a believer feels himself the least degree superior to others, the beginning of his spiritual decline has set in, all unaware to himself.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 449-450)

The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerteth influence and educateth the souls.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 30)

Taking Sides:

The Bahá’ís must learn to . . . overcome the desire—so natural in people—to take sides and fight about it. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 50)

Threats:

According to guidance in the preceding passages, both the threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation “animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance” can take place.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

The honoured members of the Spiritual Assembly should exert their efforts so that no differences may occur, and if such differences do occur, they should not reach the point of causing conflict, hatred and antagonism, which lead to threats: When you notice that a stage has been reached when enmity and threats are about to occur, you should immediately postpone discussion of the subject, until wranglings, disputations, and loud talk vanish, and a propitious time is at hand.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 178)

Undermining the Institutions:

The Guardian believes that a great deal of the difficulties from which the believers … feel themselves to be suffering are caused by their neither correctly understanding nor putting into practice the administration. They seem – many of them – to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their Assemblies. If the Bahá’ís undermine the very bodies which are, however immaturely, seeking to co-ordinate Bahá’í activities and administer Bahá’í affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves! There is only one remedy for this: to study the administration, to obey the Assemblies, and each believer seek to perfect his own character as a Bahá’í. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, no. 1469)

Violence:

In domestic violence situations, where consultation between abuser and victim is often inherently impossible, the principle of consultation is likely to be most useful when applied between each party and the institutions, civil and/or Bahá’í, which provide protection, guidance, necessary assistance, and corrective measures.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 101)

How has this been helpful?  What other barriers can you think of?  Post your comments below!