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Perfection or Perfectionism – How to Tell the Difference

Workaholics reading “Strain every nerve” in the following quote, will see evidence in the Writings to push through and work harder:

Strain every nerve to acquire both inner and outer perfections, for the fruit of the human tree hath ever been and will ever be perfections both within and without. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 247)

But is this what God wants from us?

I see a difference between acquiring perfections and being perfectionistic.  In one, we strive for excellence to please God, in the other, we strive to please others.  Here are some other examples of how they might be different:

Perfection Perfectionism
excellence fastidiousness
faultlessness fussiness
exactness nitpicking
precision hairsplitting
flawlessness meticulousness
accomplishment conscientiousness
achievement thoroughness
diligent punctiliousness

 

In the Secret of Divine Civilization (p. 40), ‘Abdu’l-Baha gives us the attributes of perfection, which include:

  • to fear God
  • to love God by loving His servants
  • to exercise mildness and forbearance and calm
  • to be sincere, amenable, clement and compassionate
  • to have resolution and courage, trustworthiness and energy
  • to strive and struggle
  • to be generous, loyal, without malice
  • to have zeal and a sense of honour
  • to be high-minded and magnanimous
  • to have regard for the rights of others

To this list, Shoghi Effendi adds:

. . . to be free of one’s ego is a hallmark of perfection. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)

We know we’ll never reach a state of perfection in this world:

We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)

So we can (and should) use this list to strive towards, without judging ourselves or others for not meeting up to this standard.

While perfection of work as a result of incessant labour and application makes us happy and is man’s greatest reward:

Perfection of work is man’s greatest reward. When a man sees his work perfected and this perfection is the result of incessant labour and application he is the happiest man in the world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)

It only brings joy to our body, but it does not glorify our souls:

Perfection in worldly things is a joy to the body of a man but in no wise does it glorify his soul.  It may be that a man who has every material benefit, and who lives surrounded by all the greatest comfort modern civilization can give him, is denied the all important gift of the Holy Spirit.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

Nor does it elevate our spirits:

If a man is successful in his business, art, or profession he is thereby enabled to increase his physical wellbeing and to give his body the amount of ease and comfort in which it delights. All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

We need to perfect ourselves spiritually as well as materially:

Only by improving spiritually as well as materially can we make any real progress, and become perfect beings.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)

The key to moderation is striving “little by little, day by day.”

Later in the month, Mrs. Tatum was talking with Abdul-Bahá and said, “I feel so dejected today.  I am unhappy with myself.”  The Master replied: this is a sign of progress.  The person who is satisfied with himself is the manifestation of Satan and the one who is not satisfied is the manifestation of the merciful one.  An egotist does not progress but the one who thinks himself imperfect will seek perfection for himself and will progress . . . The attainment of absolute perfection for a human being is impossible; thus, however much he may progress he is still imperfect and has above him a point higher than himself.  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 160)

What’s been your experience with this issue?  How has this helped you to understand it differently?  Post your comments below.

Twelve Step Prayers with Baha’i Prayers

This book, by Justice St. Rain of Baha’i Resources, is now available on Amazon.  Click the book title for more information!

By Anonymous

The Twelve Step Prayers were created using the text of the Big Book of Alcoholics Anonymous.  The text used to develop the prayers are shown at the end of the prayer in parenthesis.  In my attempt to show how the principles of the Baha’i Faith integrate so well into the 12 Steps, and to provide resources to those in both communities, I have integrated Baha’i prayers that can be used to complement each of them.  I hope you find it helpful.

The Set Aside Prayer:

Dear God please help me to set aside everything I think I know about [people. place or thing] so I may have an open mind and a new experience.  Please help me to see the truth about [people. place or thing]. AMEN. (This prayer comes from the Chapter to the Agnostic, primarily pages 47 and 48).

O my God, my Lord and my Master! I have detached myself from my kindred and have sought through Thee to become independent of all that dwell on earth and ever ready to receive that which is praiseworthy in Thy sight. Bestow on me such good as will make me independent of aught else but Thee, and grant me an ampler share of Thy boundless favors. Verily, Thou art the Lord of grace abounding.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 21)

Step One:  We admitted we were powerless over [our addiction] – that our lives had become unmanageable.

First Step Prayer

Dear Lord, Help me to see and admit that I am powerless over my alcoholism. Help me to understand how my alcoholism has led to unmanageability in my life. Help me this day to understand the true meaning of powerlessness. Remove from me all denial of my alcoholism. (This prayer is developed from the chapter, More About Alcoholism)

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 3)

Inspire them, O my Lord, with a sense of their own powerlessness before Him Who is the Manifestation of Thy Self, and teach them to recognize the poverty of their own nature in the face of the manifold tokens of Thy self-sufficiency and riches, that they may gather together round Thy Cause, and cling to the hem of Thy mercy, and cleave to the cord of the good-pleasure of Thy will.  Thou art the Lord of the worlds, and of all those who show mercy, art the Most Merciful.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations, XXXVI)

Step Two:  Came to believe that a power greater than ourselves could restore us to sanity.

Second Step Prayer

Heavenly Father, I am having trouble with personal relationships. I can’t control my emotional nature. I am prey to misery and depression. I can’t make a living. I feel useless. I am full of fear. I am unhappy. I can’t seem to be of real help to others. I know in my heart that only you can restore me to sanity if I am just willing to stop doubting your power. I humbly ask that you help me to understand that it is more powerful to believe than not to believe and that you are either everything or nothing. (p. 52:2, 52:3, 53:1, 53:2)

Is there any Remover of difficulties save God? Say: Praised be God! He is God! All are His servants, and all abide by His bidding!  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 27)

O God, my God! Be Thou not far from me, for tribulation upon tribulation hath gathered about me. O God, my God! Leave me not to myself, for the extreme of adversity hath come upon me. Out of the pure milk, drawn from the breasts of Thy loving-kindness, give me to drink, for my thirst hath utterly consumed me. Beneath the shadow of the wings of Thy mercy shelter me, for all mine adversaries with one consent have fallen upon me. Keep me near to the throne of Thy majesty, face to face with the revelation of the signs of Thy glory, for wretchedness hath grievously touched me. With the fruits of the Tree of Thine Eternity nourish me, for uttermost weakness hath overtaken me. From the cups of joy, proffered by the hands of Thy tender mercies, feed me, for manifold sorrows have laid mighty hold upon me. With the broidered robe of Thine omnipotent sovereignty attire me, for poverty hath altogether despoiled me. Lulled by the cooing of the Dove of Thine Eternity, suffer me to sleep, for woes at their blackest have befallen me. Before the throne of Thy oneness, amid the blaze of the beauty of Thy countenance, cause me to abide, for fear and trembling have violently crushed me. Beneath the ocean of Thy forgiveness, faced with the restlessness of the leviathan of glory, immerse me, for my sins have utterly doomed me.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 233)

Step Three:  Made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.

3rd Step Prayer:

God, I offer myself to thee – to build with me and do with me as Thou wilt. Relieve me of the bondage of self, that I may better do Thy will. Take away my difficulties, that victory over them may bear witness to those I would help, of Thy Power, Thy Love and Thy Way of life. May I do Thy will always! (63:2 original manuscript)

3rd Step Prayer of Dr. Bob

Dear God, I’m sorry about the mess I’ve made of my life. I want to turn away from all the wrong things I’ve ever done and all the wrong things I’ve ever been. Please forgive me for it all. I know You have the power to change my life and can turn me into a winner. Thank You, God for getting my attention long enough to interest me in trying it Your way. God, please take over the management of my life and everything about me. I am making this conscious decision to turn my will and my life over to Your care and am asking You to please take over all parts of my life. Please, God, move into my heart. However You do it is Your business, but make Yourself real inside me and fill my awful emptiness. Fill me with your love and Holy Spirit and make me know Your will for me. And now, God, help Yourself to me and keep on doing it. I’m not sure I want You to, but do it anyhow. I rejoice that I am now a part of Your people, that my uncertainty is gone forever, and that You now have control of my will and my life. Thank You and I praise Your name. Amen.

I adjure Thee by Thy might, O my God! Let no harm beset me in times of tests, and in moments of heedlessness guide my steps aright through Thine inspiration. Thou art God, potent art Thou to do what Thou desirest. No one can withstand Thy Will or thwart Thy Purpose.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 27)

O Lord, my God and my Haven in my distress! My Shield and my Shelter in my woes! My Asylum and Refuge in time of need and in my loneliness my Companion! In my anguish my Solace, and in my solitude a loving Friend! The Remover of the pangs of my sorrows and the Pardoner of my sins!  Wholly unto Thee do I turn, fervently imploring Thee with all my heart, my mind and my tongue, to shield me from all that runs counter to Thy will in this, the cycle of Thy divine unity, and to cleanse me of all defilement that will hinder me from seeking, stainless and unsullied, the shade of the tree of Thy grace.  Have mercy, O Lord, on the feeble, make whole the sick, and quench the burning thirst.  Gladden the bosom wherein the fire of Thy love doth smolder, and set it aglow with the flame of Thy celestial love and spirit.  Robe the tabernacles of divine unity with the vesture of holiness, and set upon my head the crown of Thy favor.  Illumine my face with the radiance of the orb of Thy bounty, and graciously aid me in ministering at Thy holy threshold.  Make my heart overflow with love for Thy creatures and grant that I may become the sign of Thy mercy, the token of Thy grace, the promoter of concord amongst Thy loved ones, devoted unto Thee, uttering Thy commemoration and forgetful of self but ever mindful of what is Thine.

O God, my God! Stay not from me the gentle gales of Thy pardon and grace, and deprive me not of the wellsprings of Thine aid and favor.  ‘Neath the shade of Thy protecting wings let me nestle, and cast upon me the glance of Thine all-protecting eye.  Loose my tongue to laud Thy name amidst Thy people, that my voice may be raised in great assemblies and from my lips may stream the flood of Thy praise.  Thou art, in all truth, the Gracious, the Glorified, the Mighty, the Omnipotent.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 29)

Step Four:  Made a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.

A Pre-Inventory Prayer:

God, please help me to honestly take stock. Help me to search out the flaws in my make-up which caused my failure. Help me to see where resentment has plagued me and resulted in spiritual malady, but more importantly help me to understand my part in these resentments. Help me to resolutely look for my own mistakes and to understand where I had been selfish, dishonest, self-seeking and frightened. Please help me to be searching and fearless in my endeavor to write my inventory.” (p. 64:2, 64:3, 67:2)

O God, my God! My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me. Whenever I ponder my evil doings and Thy benevolence, my heart melteth within me, and my blood boileth in my veins. By Thy Beauty, O Thou the Desire of the world! I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty. Thou seest, O my God, how my tears prevent me from remembering Thee and from extolling Thy virtues, O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen!  (Bahá’u’lláh, Long Obligatory Prayer, Baha’i Prayers, p. 13-14)

A 4th Step Resentment Prayer:

God, Please help me to be free of anger and to see that the world and its people have dominated me. Show me that the wrong-doing of others, fancied or real, has the power to actually kill me. Help me to master my resentments by understanding that the people who wrong me were perhaps spiritually sick. Please help me show those I resent the same Tolerance, Pity and Patience that I would cheerfully grant a sick friend.** Help me to see that this is a sick man. Father, please show me how I can be helpful to him and save me from being angry. Lord, help me to avoid retaliation or argument. I know I can’t be helpful to all people, but at least show me how to take a kindly and tolerant view of each and every one. Thy will be done.  (66:2, 66:3, 66:4, 67:0, 67:1)

These instructions are for the following prayer (Big Book, Freedom from Bondage, p. 552):

‘If you have a resentment you want to be free of, if you will pray for the person or the thing that you resent, you will be free. If you will ask in prayer for everything you want for yourself to be given to them, you will be free…Even when you don’t really want it for them, and your prayers are only words and you don’t mean it, go ahead and do it anyway. Do it every day for two weeks and you will find you have come to mean it and to want it for them, and you will realize that where you used to feel bitterness and resentment and hatred, you now feel compassionate understanding and love.’

Dear God, I have a resentment towards a person that I want to be free of. So, I am asking you to give this person everything I want for myself. Help me to feel compassionate understanding and love for this person. I pray that they will receive everything they need. Thank you God for your help and strength with this resentment.  (BB, Freedom from Bondage:  552)

You can, also, include the Freedom from Bondage Prayer in the 4th Step Resentment Prayer.

O MY GOD! my Beloved, my heart’s Desire! Thou knowest, Thou seest that which hath befallen this servant of Thine, that hath humbled himself at Thy Door, and Thou knowest the sins committed against him by the people of malice, they that have broken Thy Covenant and turned their backs on Thy Testament. In the day-time they afflicted me with the arrows of hate and in the night-season they privily conspired to hurt me. At dawn they committed that which the Celestial Concourse did lament and at eventide they unsheathed against me the sword of tyranny and hurled in the presence of the ungodly their darts of calumny upon me. Notwithstanding their misdeeds, this lowly servant of Thine was patient and did endure every affliction and trial at their hands, though by Thy power and might he could have destroyed their words, quenched their fire and stayed the flame of their rebelliousness.

Thou seest, O my God! how my long-suffering, my forbearance and silence have increased their cruelty, their arrogance and their pride. By Thy Glory, O Beloved One! They have misbelieved in Thee and rebelled against Thee in such wise that they left me not a moment of rest and quiet, that I might arise as it is meet and seemly, to exalt Thy Word amidst mankind, and might serve at Thy Threshold of Holiness with a heart that overfloweth with the joy of the dwellers of the Abhá Kingdom.

O Lord! My cup of woe runneth over, and from all sides blows are fiercely raging upon me. The darts of affliction have compassed me round and the arrows of distress have rained upon me. Thus tribulation overwhelmed me and my strength, because of the onslaught of the foemen, became weakness within me, while I stood alone and forsaken in the midst of my woes. Lord! Have mercy upon me, lift me up unto Thyself and make me to drink from the Chalice of Martyrdom, for the wide world with all its vastness can no longer contain me. Thou art, verily, the Merciful, the Compassionate, the Gracious, the All-Bountiful!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Will and Testament, p. 23)

An Example of Fear Prayer:

God, thank you for helping me be honest enough to see this truth about myself and now that you have shown me the truth about my fears, please remove these fears from me. Lord, please help me outgrow my fears and direct my attention to what you would have me be. Father, demonstrate through me and help me become that which you would have me be. Help me do thy will always, Amen.  (68:3)

O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life. O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 151)

An Example of Pre-Sex Inventory Prayer:

God, please help me to be free of fear as I attempt to shine the spotlight of truth across my past sex relations. Lord, please show me where my behavior has harmed others and help me to see the truth these relationships hold for me. Help me see where I have been at fault and what I should have done differently. (From the thoughts on pg. 69)

God, help me review my own conduct over the years past. Show me where I have been selfish, dishonest, or inconsiderate. Show me whom I have hurt and where I have unjustifiably aroused jealousy, suspicion or bitterness. Help me to see where I was at fault and what I should have done instead. Help me to be fearless and searching in my endeavor to write my sexual inventory. (69:1)

O my Glorious Lord! Help me to refrain from every irregular inclination; to subdue every rebelious passion; to purify the motives of my conduct; to conform myself to that meekness which no provocation can ruffle; to that patience which no affliction can overwhelm; to that integrity which no self-interest can shake; that I may be qualified to serve Thee and to teach Thy Word.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, English Sources and Authenticity of Fifteen Prayers in the Dutch Prayer Book, Bahá’í Gebeden by Universal House of Justice 2001-10-22)

A Sex Prayer:

Father, please help me mold my sex ideals and help me to live up to them. Help me be willing to grow toward my ideals and help me be willing to make amends where I have done harm. Lord, please show me what to do in each specific matter, and be the final judge in each situation. Help me avoid hysterical thinking or advice. (69:2, 69:3)

Father, please Grace me with guidance in each questionable situation, sanity, and strength to do the right thing. If sex becomes very troublesome, quiet my imperious urge, help me not to yield and keep me from heartache as I throw myself the harder into helping others. Help me think of their needs and help me work for them. Amen. (69:2, 69:3, 70:2)

O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Bahá. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. Deliver them from intoxicating drinks and tobacco, save them, rescue them, from this opium that bringeth on madness, suffer them to enjoy the sweet savours of holiness, that they may drink deep of the mystic cup of heavenly love and know the rapture of being drawn ever closer unto the Realm of the All-Glorious. For it is even as Thou hast said: ‘All that thou hast in thy cellar will not appease the thirst of my love—bring me, O cup-bearer, of the wine of the spirit a cup full as the sea!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 149-150)

Create in me a pure heart, O my God, and renew a tranquil conscience within me, O my Hope! Through the spirit of power confirm Thou me in Thy Cause, O my Best-Beloved, and by the light of Thy glory reveal unto me Thy path, O Thou the Goal of my desire! Through the power of Thy transcendent might lift me up unto the heaven of Thy holiness, O Source of my being,  and by the breezes of Thine eternity gladden me, O Thou Who art my God! Let Thine everlasting melodies breathe tranquillity on me, O my Companion, and let the riches of Thine ancient countenance deliver me from all except Thee, O my Master, and let the tidings of the revelation of Thine incorruptible Essence bring me joy, O Thou Who art the most manifest of the manifest and the most hidden of the hidden!  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 141)

Step Five:   Admitted to God, to ourselves, and to another human being the exact nature of our wrongs.

A Pre-Fifth Step Prayer:

God, please help me to complete my housecleaning by admitting to another human being the exact nature of my wrongs. Please remove any fears I have about this step and show me how completion of it will remove my egotism and fear. Help me to see how this step builds my character through humility, fearlessness and honesty. Direct me to the right person who will keep my confidence and fully understand and approve what I am driving at. Then help me to pocket my pride and go to it, illuminating every twist of character, every dark cranny of the past so I may complete this step and begin to feel near to you.” (72:1, 72:2, 73:0, 74:2, 75:2)

O Thou kind Lord! These are Thy servants who have gathered in this meeting, have turned unto Thy kingdom and are in need of Thy bestowal and blessing. O Thou God! Manifest and make evident the signs of Thy oneness which have been deposited in all the realities of life. Reveal and unfold the virtues which Thou hast made latent and concealed in these human realities.  O God! We are as plants, and Thy bounty is as the rain; refresh and cause these plants to grow through Thy bestowal. We are Thy servants; free us from the fetters of material existence. We are ignorant; make us wise. We are dead; make us alive. We are material; endow us with spirit. We  111  are deprived; make us the intimates of Thy mysteries. We are needy; enrich and bless us from Thy boundless treasury. O God! Resuscitate us; give us sight; give us hearing; familiarize us with the mysteries of life, so that the secrets of Thy kingdom may become revealed to us in this world of existence and we may confess Thy oneness. Every bestowal emanates from Thee; every benediction is Thine.  Thou art mighty. Thou art powerful. Thou art the Giver, and Thou art the Ever-Bounteous.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 110)

O Thou forgiving Lord! Thou art the shelter of all these Thy servants. Thou knowest the secrets and art aware of all things. We are all helpless, and Thou art the Mighty, the Omnipotent. We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate. O Lord! Look not at our shortcomings. Deal with us according to Thy grace and bounty. Our shortcomings are many, but the ocean of Thy forgiveness is boundless. Our weakness is grievous, but the evidences of Thine aid and assistance are clear.  82  Therefore, confirm and strengthen us. Enable us to do that which is worthy of Thy holy Threshold. Illumine our hearts, grant us discerning eyes and attentive ears. Resuscitate the dead and heal the sick. Bestow wealth upon the poor and give peace and security to the fearful. Accept us in Thy kingdom and illumine us with the light of guidance. Thou are the Powerful and the Omnipotent. Thou art the Generous. Thou art the Clement. Thou art the Kind.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 81)

Fifth Step Prayer

Higher Power, Thank you for helping me complete my housecleaning. I can now look the world in the eye. I can be alone at perfect peace and ease. My fears have fallen from me. I have begun to feel your nearness. I have begun to have a spiritual experience. I feel I am on the Broad Highway, walking hand in hand with the Spirit of the Universe. (75:2)

O Lord of all being and Possessor of all things visible and invisible! Thou dost perceive my tears and the sighs I utter, and hearest my groaning, and my wailing, and the lamentation of my heart. By Thy might! My trespasses have kept me back from drawing nigh unto Thee; and my sins have held me far from the court of Thy holiness. Thy love, O my Lord, hath enriched me, and separation from Thee hath destroyed me, and remoteness from Thee hath consumed me. I entreat Thee by Thy footsteps in this wilderness, and by the words “Here am I. Here am I” which Thy chosen Ones have uttered in this immensity, and by the breaths of Thy Revelation, and the gentle winds of the Dawn of Thy Manifestation, to ordain that I may gaze on Thy beauty and observe whatsoever is in Thy Book.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 12)

A Quiet Hour Prayer:

God, Thank You for giving me the strength, faith and courage I needed to get through my 5th Step. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me to know you better, by showing me what has been blocking me from you. Father, please show me if I have omitted anything and help me to honestly see if my stones are properly in place or if I have skimped in any area of this work. (75:3)

O my God, O my God, have pity on my impotence, my abasement, my indigence, my shame, and my humility. Give me the cup of Thy forgiveness and Thy gift, move me by the breath of Thy love, dilate my breast by the light of Thy knowledge, purify my person by the mysteries of Thy Singleness, and quicken me through the breezes of the garden of Thy mercy so that I may sever myself from all beside Thee, lay hold of the hem of the mantle of Thy majesty, forget aught else save Thee, be associated with the fragrance of Thy days, be enabled to continue faithful in the threshold of Thy sanctity and stand up in the service of Thy Cause, be submissive and lowly before Thy beloved ones and to account myself as nothing in the presence of Thy chosen ones. Verily, Thou art the Helper, the Assister, the Exalted, the Generous!  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 366)

Step Six:   Were entirely ready to have God remove all these defects of character.

A 6th Step prayer:

God, Thank you for removing my fear and for showing me the truth about myself. Father, I need your help to become willing to let go of the things in me which continue to block me off from you. Please grant me your Grace Lord and make me willing to have these objectionable characteristics, defects and shortcomings removed.  (76:1)

Dear God, I am ready for Your help in removing from me the defects of character which I now realize are an obstacle to my recovery. Help me to continue being honest with myself & guide me toward spiritual & mental health. (76:1)

O Lord! Thou art the Remover of every anguish and the Dispeller of every affliction. Thou art He Who banisheth every sorrow and setteth free every slave, the Redeemer of every soul. O Lord! Grant deliverance through Thy mercy, and reckon me among such servants of Thine as have gained salvation.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 28)

Step Seven:  Humbly asked Him to remove our shortcomings.

Seventh Step Prayer

My Creator, I am now willing that you should have all of me, good & bad. I pray that you now remove from me every single defect of character which stands in the way of my usefulness to you & my fellows. Grant me strength, as I go out from here to do Your bidding. (76:2)

I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)

My God, Whom I worship and adore! I bear witness unto Thy unity and Thy oneness, and acknowledge Thy gifts, both in the past and in the present. Thou art the All-Bountiful, the overflowing showers of Whose mercy have rained down upon high and low alike, and the splendors of Whose grace have been shed over both the obedient and the rebellious. O God of mercy, before Whose door the quintessence of mercy hath bowed down, and round the sanctuary of Whose Cause loving-kindness, in its inmost spirit, hath circled, we beseech Thee, entreating Thine ancient grace, and seeking Thy present favor, that Thou mayest have mercy upon all who are the manifestations of the world of being, and deny them not the outpourings of Thy grace in Thy days.  All are but poor and needy, and Thou, verily, art the All-Possessing, the All-Subduing, the All-Powerful.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 99)

O Lord! Thou seest this essence of sinfulness turning unto the ocean of Thy favour and this feeble one seeking the kingdom of Thy divine power and this poor creature inclining himself towards the day-star of Thy wealth. By Thy mercy and Thy grace, disappoint him not, O Lord, nor debar him from the revelations of Thy bounty in Thy days, nor cast him away from Thy door which Thou hast opened wide to all that dwell in Thy heaven and on Thine earth.  Alas! Alas! My sins have prevented me from approaching the Court of Thy holiness and my trespasses have caused me to stray far from the Tabernacle of Thy majesty. I have committed that which Thou didst forbid me to do and have put away what Thou didst order me to observe.  I pray Thee by Him Who is the sovereign Lord of Names to write down for me with the Pen of Thy bounty that which will enable me to draw nigh unto Thee and will purge me from my trespasses which have intervened between me and Thy forgiveness and Thy pardon.  Verily, Thou art the Potent, the Bountiful. No God is there but Thee, the Mighty, the Gracious.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 25)

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! Grant us Thy grace and loving-kindness, Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and sustain us, that we may attain our goal. Thou art the Powerful, the Able, the Knower, the Seer; and verily Thou art the Generous, and verily Thou art the All-Merciful, and verily Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, He to Whom repentance is due, He Who forgiveth even the most grievous of sins. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 233)

Step Eight:  Made a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.

An Eighth Step Prayer:

God, Please remove my Fears and show me your truth. Show me all the harms I have caused with my behavior and help me be willing to make amends to one and all. Help me to be willing to go to any lengths for victory over alcohol. (76:3)

I confess, O my God, that whatever proceedeth from me is wholly unworthy of Thy sovereignty and falleth short of Thy majesty. And yet I beseech Thee by Thy Name through which Thou hast revealed Thy Self, in the glory of Thy most excellent titles, unto all created things, in this Revelation whereby Thou hast, through Thy  254  most resplendent Name, manifested Thy beauty, to give me to drink of the wine of Thy mercy and of the pure beverage of Thy favor, which have streamed forth from the right hand of Thy will, that I may so fix my gaze upon Thee and be so detacted from all else but Thee, that the world and all that hath been created therein may appear before me as a fleeting day which Thou hast not deigned to create.  I moreover entreat Thee, O my God, to rain down, from the heaven of Thy will and the clouds of Thy mercy, that which will cleanse us from the noisome savors of our transgressions, O Thou Who hast called Thyself the God of Mercy! Thou art, verily, the Most Powerful, the All-Glorious, the Beneficent.  (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 252)

Step Nine:  Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.

A 9th Step Prayer :

God, with regard to this amend, give me the strength, courage and direction to do the right thing, no matter what the personal consequences may be. Help me not to shrink from anything. Help me not to delay if it can be avoided. Help me to be sensible, tactful, considerate and humble without being servile or scraping.  (79:1, 83:3)

O Thou Provider, O Thou Forgiver! Grant us Thy grace and loving-kindness, Thy gifts and Thy bestowals, and sustain us, that we may attain our goal. Thou art the Powerful, the Able, the Knower, the Seer; and, verily, Thou art the Generous, and, verily, Thou art the All-Merciful, and, verily, Thou art the Ever-Forgiving, He to Whom repentance is due, He Who forgiveth even the most grievous of sins.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 21)

A 9th Step prayer for the Spouse:

God, please show me how to make amends to my Spouse. Father , Help me to keep my Spouse’s happiness Uppermost in my mind as I try, with your Grace, to make this relationship right. Amen (82:1)

O God, my God! This Thy handmaid is calling upon Thee, trusting in Thee, turning her face unto Thee, imploring Thee to shed Thy heavenly bounties upon her, and to disclose unto her Thy spiritual mysteries, and to cast upon her the lights of Thy Godhead.  O my Lord! Make the eyes of my husband to see. Rejoice Thou his heart with the light of the knowledge of Thee, draw Thou his mind unto Thy luminous beauty, cheer Thou his spirit by revealing unto him Thy manifest splendours.  O my Lord! Lift Thou the veil from before his sight. Rain down Thy plenteous bounties upon him, intoxicate him with the wine of love for Thee, make him one of Thy angels whose feet walk upon this earth even as their souls are soaring through the high heavens. Cause him to become a brilliant lamp, shining out with the light of Thy wisdom in the midst of Thy people.  Verily Thou art the Precious, the Ever-Bestowing, the Open of Hand.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 121)

A 9th Step Prayer for the Family:

God, please show me how to find the way of Patience, Tolerance, Kindness and Love in my heart, my Mind and my Soul. Lord, show me how to demonstrate these principles to my family and all those about me. Amen. (83:1)

O my God, my Lord and my Master! I have detached myself from my kindred and have sought through Thee to become independent of all that dwell on earth and ever ready to receive that which is praiseworthy in Thy sight. Bestow on me such good as will make me independent of aught else but Thee, and grant me an ampler share of Thy boundless favors. Verily, Thou art the Lord of grace abounding.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 21)

Step Ten:  Continued to take personal inventory and when we were wrong promptly admitted it.

A 10th Step prayer for Growth and Effectiveness:

God, please help me Watch for Selfishness, Dishonesty, Resentment and Fear. When these crop up in me, help me to immediately ask you to remove them from me and help me discuss these feelings with someone. Father, help me to quickly make amends if I have harmed anyone and help me to resolutely turn my thoughts to someone I can Help. Help me to be Loving and Tolerant of everyone today. Amen  (84:2)

Make me ready, in all circumstances, O my Lord, to serve Thee and to set myself towards the adored sanctuary of Thy Revelation and of Thy Beauty. If it be Thy pleasure, make me to grow as a tender herb in the meadows of Thy grace, that the gentle winds of Thy will may stir me up and bend me into conformity with Thy pleasure, in such wise that my movement and my stillness may be wholly directed by Thee.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 240)

Do Thou accept all that we have done for love of Thee, and for the sake of Thy pleasure, and all that we have left undone as a result of our subjection to ur evil and corrupt desires. Enable us, then, to cleave steadfastly to Thy love and Thy good pleasure, and preserve us from the mischief of such as have denied Thee and repudiated Thy most resplendent signs. Thou art, in truth, the Lord of this world and of the next. No God is there beside Thee, the Exalted, the Most High.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 257)

Tenth Step Prayer

My Higher Power, My daily prayer is to best serve you, I pray I may continue to grow in understanding & effectiveness; Help me to watch for selfishness, dishonesty, resentment and fear; Help me to be willing to have You remove them at once; I must be willing to discuss them with someone immediately; I will make amends quickly if I have harmed anyone; And then I will turn my thoughts toward helping someone else; Please help me to remember to practice love and tolerance of others. (84:2)

I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)

Tenth Step Amends Prayer

God, please forgive me for my failings today. I know that because of my failings, I was not able to be as effective as I could have been for you. Please forgive me and help me live thy will better today.  I ask you now to show me how to correct the errors I have just outlined. Guide me and direct me. Please remove my arrogance and my fear. Show me how to make my relationships right and grant me the humility and strength to do thy will.  (86:1)

O God! Refresh and gladden my spirit. Purify my heart. Illumine my powers. I lay all my affairs in Thy hand. Thou art my Guide and my Refuge. I will no longer be sorrowful and grieved; I will be a happy and joyful being. O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.  O God! Thou art more friend to me than I am to myself. I dedicate myself to Thee, O Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 150)

Step Eleven:  Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with God, as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.

The 11th Step Prayers:

A Prayer On Awakening:

God please direct my thinking and keep my thoughts divorced from self – pity, dishonest or self-seeking motives.  Please keep my thought life clear from wrong motives and help me employ my mental faculties, that my thought-life might be placed on a higher plane, the plane of inspiration. (86:2)

O Thou the Desire of the world and the Beloved of the nations! Thou seest me turning toward Thee, and rid of all attachment to anyone save Thyself, and clinging to Thy cord, through whose movement the whole creation hath been stirred up. I am Thy servant, O my Lord, and the son of Thy servant. Behold me standing ready to do Thy will and Thy desire, and wishing naught else except Thy good pleasure. I implore Thee by the Ocean of Thy mercy and the Daystar of Thy grace to do with Thy servant as Thou willest and pleasest. By Thy might which is far above all mention and praise! Whatsoever is revealed by Thee is the desire of my heart and the beloved of my soul. O God, my God! Look not upon my hopes and my doings, nay rather look upon Thy will that hath encompassed the heavens and the earth. By Thy Most Great Name, O Thou Lord of all nations! I have desired only what Thou didst desire, and love only what Thou dost love.  (Baha’u’llah, Long Obligatory Prayer, Baha’i Prayers, p. 7)

A Morning Prayer:

God, should I find myself agitated, doubtful or indecisive today, please give me inspiration, help me to have an intuitive thought or a decision about this problem I face. Help me not to struggle, instead, help me to relax and take it easy. Help me know what I should do and keep me mindful, that you are running the show.  Free me from my bondage of self. Thy will be done always. (86:3)

I have wakened in Thy shelter, O my God, and it becometh him that seeketh that shelter to abide within the Sanctuary of Thy protection and the Stronghold of Thy defense. Illumine my inner being, O my Lord, with the splendors of the Dayspring of Thy Revelation, even as Thou didst illumine my outer being with the morning light of Thy favor.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 116)

A Morning Prayer:

God, please show me all through this day, what my next step is to be and please grace me with whatever I need to take care of the problems in my life today. I ask especially that you free me from the bondage of self-will.  (87:1)

O Lord! Unto Thee I repair for refuge, and toward all Thy signs I set my heart.  O Lord! Whether traveling or at home, and in my occupation or in my work, I place my whole trust in Thee.  Grant me then Thy sufficing help so as to make me independent of all things, O Thou Who art unsurpassed in Thy mercy!  Bestow upon me my portion, O Lord, as Thou pleasest, and cause me to be satisfied with whatsoever thou hast ordained for me.  Thine is the absolute authority to command.  (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 55)

 An 11th Step Nightly Review Prayer:

God, help me to constructively review my day. Where was I resentful, selfish, dishonest or afraid? Do I owe an apology? Have I kept something to myself which should be discussed with another person at once? Was I kind and loving toward all? What could I have done better? Was I thinking of myself most of the time? Or was I thinking of what I could do for others, of what I could pack into the stream of life? Please forgive me for my harms and wrongs today and let me know corrective measures I should be take.  (86:2)

O seeker of Truth! If thou desirest that God my open thine eye, thou must supplicate unto God, pray to and commune with Him at midnight, saying:

O Lord, I have turned my face unto Thy kingdom of oneness and am immersed in the sea of Thy mercy. O Lord, enlighten my sight by beholding Thy lights in this dark night, and make me happy by the wine of Thy love in this wonderful age. O Lord, make me hear Thy call, and open before my face the doors of Thy heaven, so that I may see the light of Thy glory and become attracted to Thy beauty. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Generous, the Merciful, the Forgiving.  (‘Abdul-Baha, Baha’i Prayers, p. 60)

 Step Twelve:  Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these Steps, we tried to carry this message to [those who share our addiction], and to practice these principles in all our affairs.

Twelfth Step Prayer

Dear God, Having had a spiritual experience, I must now remember that “faith without works is dead.” And practical experience shows that nothing will so much insure immunity from drinking as intensive work with others [who share my addiction]. So, God, please help me to carry this message to others! Provide me with the guidance and wisdom to talk with [those who are suffering] because I can help when no one else can. Help me secure his confidence and remember he is ill. (89:1)

O Lord! O Lord! Make me severed from the world and void of its conditions, attracted by the fragrances of Thy holiness among Thy maid-servants, free in heart, happy in soul, cheerful in mind, longing for the Kingdom of Thy Beauty, and glowing with the fire of Thy love in the world. Thus may I enkindle the light of guidance in the hearts of Thy servants.  Verily, Thou are the Powerful, the Bestower, the Precious, the Mighty!  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 111)

He is the All-Glorious!  O God, my God! Lowly and tearful, I raise my suppliant hands to Thee and cover my face in the dust of that Threshold of Thine, exalted above the knowledge of the learned, and the praise of all that glorify Thee. Graciously look upon Thy servant, humble and lowly at Thy door, with the glances of the eye of Thy mercy, and immerse him in the Ocean of Thine eternal grace.

Lord! He is a poor and lowly servant of Thine, enthralled and imploring Thee, captive in Thy hand, praying fervently to Thee, trusting in Thee, in tears before Thy face, calling to Thee and beseeching Thee, saying:

O Lord, my God! Give me Thy grace to serve Thy loved ones, strengthen me in my servitude to Thee, illumine my brow with the light of adoration in Thy court of holiness, and of prayer to Thy kingdom of grandeur. Help me to be selfless at the heavenly entrance of Thy gate, and aid me to be detached from all things within Thy holy precincts. Lord! Give me to drink from the chalice of selflessness; with its robe clothe me, and in its ocean immerse me. Make me as dust in the pathway of Thy loved ones, and grant that I may offer up my soul for the earth ennobled by the footsteps of Thy chosen ones in Thy path, O Lord of Glory in the Highest. With this prayer doth Thy servant call Thee, at dawntide and in the night-season. Fulfill his heart’s desire, O Lord! Illumine his heart, gladden his bosom, kindle his light, that he may serve Thy Cause and Thy-servants.  Thou art the Bestower, the Pitiful, the Most Bountiful, the Gracious, the Merciful, the Compassionate.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 233)

How will this help you in your recovery?  Post your comments below.

 

Why I Don’t Want to Fall Prey to the Kingdom of Names

I noticed that in many of His Tablets Bahá’u’lláh exhorts His followers not to become the bond-slaves of the “Kingdom of Names”. I found this phrase puzzling and didn’t know what it meant or how it might apply to me.  In the following quote, Baha’u’llah seems to use this term to refer to those who have busied themselves in the things of this world and forgotten to turn to God in all their affairs:

The Pen of the Most High is unceasingly calling; and yet, how few are those that have inclined their ear to its voice! The dwellers of the kingdom of names have busied themselves with the gay livery of the world, forgetful that every man that hath eyes to perceive and ears to hear cannot but readily recognize how evanescent are its colors.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 195)

In my quest to understand the roots of my workaholism, and find ways to overcome it, this made sense.  When I seek fame and popularity; when I make my “to do” lists and systematically attempt to cross each item off as more keep popping up, I exert my focus and willpower to get it all done, forgetting to ask God to guide me in all my affairs.  I forget to ask Him what His priorities are for my day, and in doing so, I fail to achieve my purpose in life, which is to know and worship Him.

So what exactly is the “kingdom of names” and how do I sever myself from it?  Adib Taherzadeh seems to have the best insights.  Although his writings are not authoritative, they are based on a greater understanding of the Writings than I have, so I pass them along, in case you find them helpful too.

He uses a very clear example here:

In this world every one of God’s attributes is clad with a name, and every such name reveals the characteristics of that attribute. For instance, generosity is an attribute of God, and it manifests itself in human beings. However, a person who has this attribute often becomes proud of it and loves to be referred to as generous. When his generosity is acknowledged by other people, he becomes happy, and when it is ignored, he is unhappy. This is one form of attachment to the Kingdom of Names. Although this example concerns the name ‘generosity’, the same is true of all the names and attributes of God manifested within the individual. Usually man ascribes these attributes to his own person rather than to God and employs them to boost his own ego. For instance, a learned man uses the attribute of knowledge to become famous and feels gratified and uplifted when his name is publicized far and wide. Or there is the individual whose heart leaps with feelings of pride and satisfaction when he hears his name mentioned and finds himself admired. These are examples of attachment to the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 25)

So all of the things I’m praised for (being organized, respectful, courteous, diligent, hard-working etc) I claim for myself:

  • I am organized.
  • I am respectful.
  • I am hard-working. Etc

And every time I do that, I’ve fallen into the trap of attaching myself to the “kingdom of names”, and at risk of building up my ego.  In order to sever myself and become humble, I need to see these things as the signs of God in me, rather than something I’ve achieved for myself.

I need to change these thoughts into something like “God has given me the ability to organize; to be hard working, to be respectful, etc.”

To the extent I’m able to do this, I’ll be able to bestow divine perfections on the world and fulfill my part in the Covenant:

Such a man will bestow divine perfections upon the world of humanity. This is the loftiest station that God has destined for man. To the extent that a believer succeeds in severing himself from these three forms of attachment, will he be fulfilling his part in the Covenant of God.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

That makes sense, because I will be continually praising God and giving Him the credit for all the work and service I do, which will stand out as “different” from those around me, and will be a way to teach the Faith and help others draw closer to God.

The key to severing myself seems to be to realize that my virtues aren’t my own, but are manifestations of the attributes of God:

If a man can only realize that his virtues are not intrinsically his own, but rather are manifestations of the attributes of God, then he is freed from the Kingdom of Names and becomes truly humble. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

Apparently it’s not as easy to do as we might think, however.  Adib tells us this might be our most difficult task and to do so might last a lifetime:

To sever oneself from the Kingdom of Names may prove to be the most difficult task for a Bahá’í, and the struggle may indeed last a lifetime. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

When I am driven to achieve more, to please more people, to make a name for myself in the world, Baha’u’llah reminds me that this won’t profit me in the slightest.

Would it profit you in the least if, as ye fondly imagine, your names were to endure? Nay, by the Lord of all worlds! … Should your names fade from every mortal mind, and yet God be well pleased with you, ye will indeed be numbered among the treasures of His name, the Most Hidden.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 47)

Adib reminds us:

There are many people who have rendered notable services to the Faith and their names are recorded in its annals, yet when the winds of tests blew they were unable to subdue their self and ego. These individuals not only lost their faith, but also their goodness and virtues. They fell from the heights of glory into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Baha’u’llah v 2, p. 264)

I’ve been striving towards the wrong things, and I certainly don’t want to be counted among those who’ve fallen into the abyss of degradation and ignominy.  Please God, protect me from that test!

Instead, I need to make sure that God is pleased with me.  We’ve all grown up being taught first to please our parents, then our teachers, then our bosses.  But how many of us have been taught how to please God before all else?  This may be why it will take a lifetime to undo this conditioning.

Fortunately we don’t have to do it all ourselves.  We have the transformative effect of the Revelation of Baha’ullah to help reverse this process:

The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 22)

How has this helped your understanding?  Post your comments below.

Help Wanted – A Higher Power Who Can Restore Me To Sanity

By Anonymous

The following was written as part of my Step 1 Homework, getting clear about my relationship to God.  At the request of several people, I share it here, in hopes that others might find it helpful.

Help Wanted – A Higher Power Who Can Restore Me To Sanity

Desperately powerless workaholic, child of an alcoholic, survivor of incest, debtor and under-earner is seeking a Higher Power who will restore her to sanity.

Qualifications:

Must be all-knowing, ever-forgiving (even when she forgets to ask), patient (with the changes that take time) and give unconditional love (even at times she doesn’t deserve it).

Must be able to help her:

  • feel safe in the knowledge that she’s loved, protected and forgiven no matter what she does or fails to do
  • let go of a past filled with self-hatred and self-doubt so she can move confidently into whatever comes next
  • be patient with a life that’s not obviously productive
  • free herself from all guilt and shame so she can develop more compassion and love towards her own poor self and become her own best friend
  • accept what is, so she can enjoy every minute of her life and get excited about the time that’s left on this earth
  • find the courage to be honest and vulnerable as she learns how to let go of fear of abandonment so she can develop healthy relationships with others and find like-minded friends to go on adventures with
  • transform hopeless, helpless despair into a zest for life
  • let go of all disappointment and defeatism and wanting to die, so she can be a happy and joyful being
  • fill her bucket with love and joy so she can bring hope to a troubled world
  • get back in stride with a pace that’s manageable as she moves towards health and healing in body, mind and spirit
  • find a creative way to earn money that pays well, uses her skills, talents and abilities without compulsive caretaking and adrenalizing, people pleasing or approval seeking, while allowing for plenty of time for rest, relaxation, relationships and play, so that she can take care of her physical, mental and financial health.

In exchange, she is willing to:

  • spend time daily in prayer and meditation
  • abide by the will of God at all times and under all conditions
  • strive for radiant acquiescence with whatever He ordains
  • work the 12 Steps of Workaholics Anonymous

Working Hours:  Position requires long working hours and on-call availability 24/7.

Salary:  Willing to barter for a life of healthy service.

 

How to Stop Being Driven

I’m Susan and I’m a workaholic.  My life has become unmanageable and exceeds the bounds of moderation.

I don’t think I’m alone, especially in the Baha’i community.

I’m driven to complete my goals.  I’m driven to please others.  I’m driven to being the best Baha’i I can be.  I’m driven to participate in the community building process.

The thesaurus lists the following synonyms related to being driven:

  • Ambitious
  • Determined
  • Single-minded
  • Obsessed
  • Motivated
  • Focused
  • Compelled
  • Pushed
  • Forced
  • Obliged
  • Manoeuvred

The problem with this addiction is that it’s praised in our materialistic society, and with employers more interested in the bottom line and maximizing profits at the expense of their employees, many of us are unwittingly caught up in this behaviour.

At the root of being driven is a mistaken belief that:

  • No one will love me for who I am.  I have to earn their love
  • Someone always has something better and I have to have what they have, and more
  • I have to find a solution to all my own problems
  • I have to take responsibility for things that aren’t mine to take on
  • I did something to deserve abuse, bullying, humiliation, rejection, disapproval etc.
  • I have to do everything right, all the time, to be number 1.  Nothing else is acceptable.
  • I have to be a “somebody” to be accepted.
  • The only way to survive a broken heart is to get busy.

Fear is at the root of it all.  In my case, it’s:

  • Fear of letting go – who will I be if I’m not driven?
  • Fear of poverty – who will I be if I’m fired or take time off for disability, or declare bankruptcy?
  • An overwhelming disappointment in this life and wanting to do everything in my power to earn “spiritual brownie points” so I can secure a better place in the next world
  • Feeling guilty for not doing enough for the Faith and being judged by the Institutions

I had to learn that being asked by representatives of the Institutions to do something is not necessarily the voice of God.  I could be driven towards people pleasing, wanting to be seen and judged by others as a “good Baha’i”.

God doesn’t want us to seek the approval of others, though.  ‘Abdu’l-Baha is reported to have said:

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)

Even if we let go of the need to seek the approval of others, there are pressures coming from the goals of the 5-Year plan, especially at a time when the workers are so few and we’re being called on to make a “herculean effort.”

I wonder if being driven is from God, though.  Somehow I doubt it.

Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)

Overstep not the bounds of moderation.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 235)

And even:

Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 216)

So what is moderation and how do we achieve it?  This is a question I’ve taken to the Writings.  Come along with me as I see what I can learn.

What I’ve Learned About Being Driven:

First of all, this quote got my attention!

Ambitions are an abomination before the Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West –  4)

So not only are we NOT to push ourselves towards our goals, we aren’t to have ambitions in the first place!

Drivenness is a lack of awareness of God in that moment, and a belief that I have to push on with a task, regardless of the cost to self and family.  It’s easy in the Faith, at this period in history when the workers are so few and the tasks requiring a “herculean effort”, to give everything we’ve got and more, and to believe we can’t say no, when an Institution asks us to give even more.  Instead of asking God what He wants us to do, we assume we know the answer from reading the recent letters of the House of Justice.  The problem is, we may be applying the wrong remedy!  Although insulin and penicillin are both valuable medications, each has to be applied to the right ailment at the right time.

Many workaholics do tasks that are not necessarily theirs to do.  They may feel absolutely responsible for something, but inadequate to do it and/or unwilling or unable to delegate or ask for help.  They can be hard on themselves for not being able to do it all, or as well as they would like.  They blame themselves and feel guilty and ashamed and don’t know why, because in their minds, they believe they are doing all the right things.

The paradox is that we’re hard on ourselves because we know we have to follow the current guidance from the House of Justice, and when others aren’t stepping up to the plate, we do more and more and eventually burn out.

For example, here’s something I wrote about 3 years ago:

I totally understand and see the vision of the House of Justice, in which we do the core activities in our own neighborhoods as a way to build communities.  I want to be part of the process but my passion lies in researching the practical application of the Writings to everyday problems, and making this information available to others through books and my blog.  Even though I’m having several devotional gatherings with others over the phone; and tutoring 3 Ruhi Books over the phone, and supporting others who are animators and children’s class teachers, over the phone, I feel hugely guilty that I’m not doing it in my own cluster.  Surely God sees my efforts as “enough”, yet my guilt has driven me to do more.

Recently, a member of the Institute Board told me that community building was the role of the Institutions and not the responsibility of the individual.  It was a huge relief!

Also, God never asks us to carry anyone else’s responsibilities.  As the House of Justice said in its Ridvan Message of 2014:  “Everyone has a share in this enterprise; the contribution of each serves to enrich the whole.”

If I’m trying to fill someone else’s role because they are inactive, I don’t have time to fill my own.

Finding this quote really got my attention!

No good but only evil can come from taking the responsibility for the future of God’s Cause into our own hands and trying to force it into ways that we wish it to go regardless of the clear texts and our own limitations. It is His Cause. He has promised that its light will not fail. Our part is to cling tenaciously to the revealed word and to the institutions that He has created to preserve His Covenant.’  (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 119)

YIKES!  “only evil can come from taking the responsibility for the future of God’s Cause into our own hands and trying to force it into ways that we wish it to go regardless of our own limitations”!  That’s exactly what I was doing!

But as a workaholic, it was one thing to leave the community building to the institutions and another to know what moderation looked like.  I had to ask myself – when working full time on my business, is tutoring 3 study circles; holding devotional gatherings and accompanying others  excessive?  Or is it applying a “herculean effort”?  I didn’t know, until I carefully studied the second half of this quote:  my job is to “cling tenaciously to the revealed word and to the institutions.”

Recently, I joined Workaholics Anonymous who gave me the 3 R’s as a standard:  In addition to working (and service), I need to spend equal amounts of time on Rest, Relaxation and Relationship Building.

So which “revealed word” can help shed some light on my need for rest, relaxation and relationship building?

Recently at a Baha’i Conference, we looked at this quote, where Shoghi Effendi told us:

…you should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It — the body . . . should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 297)

It was a real “aha” moment for me.  I felt that Shoghi Effendi really understood me, when he said I should “force myself to take time for real rest and relaxation”!  That’s what it will take!  A force of willpower and a herculean effort, because I don’t know when or how to stop the work and service I enjoy doing.

That takes care of 2 of the 3 R’s right there!  That’s a quote I can cling to tenaciously.

But how does an introvert like me go about building relationships when I have no ties to my biological family or a spouse?  Home visits and elevated conversations with like-minded people seem to be clues, but only if these activities aren’t coming from a place of “should” and only if they lead to real rest and relaxation.  I think that’s a topic for another day!

The good news is, even with a society that promotes workaholism, we can overcome it and not live in drivenness, constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard. God knows what we need and will provide everything we need, if only we remember to ask.

What’s your experience with drivenness?  Post your comments below.