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Setting Aside Every Personal Sense of Grievance

Regarding the matter of … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … when Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress;… All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance—justified or unjustified—for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (From a letter dated 13 May 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, in Living the Life, p. 27)

In helping to organize the Bicentennial event in our small cluster, a decision was made to not include a certain Bahá’í in the invitation.  She’s 90 years old, has some dementia, is strongly opinionated and tends to dominate the conversations.  People were worried about what the non-Bahá’í guests would think about the Faith if she went off on one of her rants.  I understood people’s concerns and even shared them.  I too have had my tests with this person.  So I agreed.

I went away feeling very unsettled though.  Is this a Faith of oneness, where everyone is welcomed, where diversity is celebrated?  Or is it a Faith of people just like me?  What if we had encouraged her to come, to show our guests that we can treat all people with respect and courtesy and dignity?  Wouldn’t that have been more important than showing the film and having a discussion about the Bab?  I couldn’t say that to the organizer, though, and an opportunity was missed.

To make up for this failing, I held a small gathering for elderly and shut-in Baha’is who couldn’t get to the community’s bicentennial celebrations.  I knew there would be another opinionated 80-year old in attendance, and there was potential for either or both to alienate everyone they’re talking to, and I didn’t want my resentment and frustration to spill over.  Before the gathering, I prayed to be patient, kind and respectful, particularly to the most difficult person.  And with God’s help, I was.

It turned out that I prayed for the wrong person, though, because there was someone else in attendance who got into a power struggle with the difficult person, which, for me, destroyed the whole Holy Day.  Another opportunity to examine my expectations, forgive, let go of all ill-feelings, pray for our community and remember the importance of unity.

Remembering that people will never embrace our Faith until they see us practice love and unity in action, I can do my part, perfectly imperfect, and I am grateful.

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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Useless Hairsplittings

If . . . it consists in empty, profitless debates and in a vain concatenation of imaginings that lead to no result except acrimony, why devote one’s life to such useless hairsplittings and disputes.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 106)

I love this quote because I absolutely hate being around people who need to be right, and who “devote their lives to useless hairsplittings and disputes” that “lead to no result except acrimony”.  I love being right, too, especially when I have the Writings on my side!

I used to think that people engaged in useless hairsplitting were insecure and needed to be right at the expense of other people and at the expense of unity, but there may be another side.

I looked up the meaning of hairsplitting and found it’s the “drawing of distinctions that don’t make a practical difference”.  Sometimes, though, such distinctions may depend on the context and purpose.  For example, the expression “’the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth” may seem like too many words saying the same thing, but it’s possible to  tell the truth without telling the whole truth, or  telling the whole truth without telling nothing but the truth. This is not hairsplitting but making a necessary distinction for the clarity of thought needed for ethical action and prudent action.

Knowing there may be times where we need people who can be precise in their thinking makes me more compassionate and forgiving and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book  Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

 

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Spiritual Gravity

Just as the earth attracts everything to the centre of gravity, and every object thrown upward into space will come down, so also material ideas and worldly thoughts attract man to the centre of self. Anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jeal­ousy and suspicion prevent man from ascending to the realms of holi­ness, imprisoning him in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.  The physical man, unassisted by the divine power, trying to escape from one of these invisible enemies, will unconsciously fall into hands of another. No sooner does he attempt to soar upward than the density of the love of self, like the power of gravity, draws him to the centre of the earth. The only power that is capable of delivering man from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit. The attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is so effective that it keeps man ever on the path of upward ascension.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

This is one of my very favorite analogies in the Faith and I’m always sorry I can’t find it in a more acceptable translation.  It may just be that it’s there and I’m just using the wrong search terms to find it, so if anyone has an equivalent quote in something more authoritative, please let me know.

In the meantime, this seems to be the Bahá’í equivalent of the Christian “7 Deadly Sins” (anger, passion, ignorance, prejudice, greed, envy, covetousness, jealousy and suspicion).  It makes sense that each of this prevents us from ascending to the realms of holiness.  I’ve certainly found that when I try to master one, another pops up and I fall into hands of another.  It feels a bit like God’s playing “whack a mole” with me!

Just as man is incapable of defying gravity, so too are we unable to escape from one of these invisible enemies without assistance from a divine power.  It’s not that we need help from the Holy Spirit, but it seems to be that all that’s required from me is that I’m attracted to the power of the Holy Spirit.

Knowing that the attraction of the power of the Holy Spirit is effective in keeping me on the path of upward ascension, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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When to Postpone a Discussion

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)

Recently I was talking to someone who wanted to speak more kindly to her family members, upon whom she was dumping her rage and frustration.  She wondered what advice I could give her and all I thought of was to use “words as mild as milk”, which I attributed to the Bahá’í Writings, and it really seemed to have an effect on her.  I thanked God for this teaching opportunity.  I wish I’d thought of this one, though, as it’s a lot more specific.

Immediately postpone the discussion:  walk away, change the subject, don’t add any more fuel to the fire.  Wait for a propitious time to come back to it:  perhaps it will be as quickly as after taking a deep breath and saying some prayer together.  Perhaps it will be after you have something to eat, or get some much needed sleep, or after you take your problems to God and asking Him to find a solution.

Sometimes people just have no reserves when they are hungry, angry, lonely or tired or sometimes people think they have to solve the problems themselves and forget to give them to God.

Knowing I can walk away from discussions that are getting heated, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

 

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Appeasing the Anger of the Heart

But the body politic has the right to preserve and to protect. It holds no grudge and harbours no enmity towards the murderer, but chooses to imprison or punish him solely to ensure the protection of others. The purpose is not revenge but a punishment through which the body politic is protected. Otherwise, were both the victim’s heirs and the community to forgive and return good for evil, the wrongdoers would never cease their onslaught and a murder would be committed at every moment—nay, bloodthirsty individuals would, like wolves, entirely destroy the flock of God. The body politic is not prompted by ill will in meting out its punishment; it acts without prejudice and does not seek to gratify a sense of vengeance. Its purpose in inflicting the punishment is to safeguard others and to prevent the future commission of such vile actions.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 77)

To me, this quote is about justice.  In an earlier translation the word “body politic” was “community”, which seems clearer.  What this suggests is that it’s my job as a victim to forgive and return good for evil and the community’s job to imprison and protect.  The community imprisons and punishes evil-doers, not out of revenge or enmity, but to protect others and prevent more wrong-doing.

In the past, grudges were held for centuries and passed down from one generation to another, and punishments given out of revenge and vengeance.  Even today, many employees in penal institutions treat prisoners badly because they don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  When I remember to leave justice in the hands of the Institutions and trust God to deal with those who have hurt me, I am free to forgive and move on with my life.

Knowing that I’m not responsible for justice, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book  Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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