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Listening to the Faults of Others

It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbit­ing. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p.  94)

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be part of conversations where people are complaining about others.  It seems to be happening so often and when I get caught up in it, it feels like I’m sitting in a vat full of poison.  I used to like hanging out in the common room in our apartment building to get to know my neighbors, but despite my best efforts to elevate the level of conversation, it always leaves me drained so now I avoid it entirely.  I used to appreciate eating at the soup kitchen as it really helped keep my food budget down but when I heard people criticizing the organization that fed us, I couldn’t bear it so now I don’t go there either.

Some days I think I’m really withdrawing from the world to avoid the conflict and can easily get caught up in judging myself harshly for it.  This quote gives me some comfort because it doesn’t say I have to stay and make things better, which I used to believe, it says I need to do my utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in my presence.  Avoiding the ungodly is acceptable in God’s eyes!

Knowing it’s OK to prevent others from making accusations or complaints in my presence 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Why We Let Go of Our Tales and Stories 

It is high time for you to throw away these tales, these barren stories. God is not pleased with them, humanity is not pleased with them, Your time is too costly to be expended on these trifling events. You are made in the image and likeness of God. Your birthright is more valuable than all the treasures of the empires. Arise with heart and soul and let not these golden days slip by without results! This day is the day of the splendors of the Sun of Reality! This day is the day of the Lord of the Kingdom! This day is the day of the fulfillment of glorious promises! This day is the day of joy and fragrance!  (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)

YIKES!  I love quotes that are very clear!  ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s bluntness is refreshing:

  • God is not pleased with our tales and barren stories (told about ourselves as well as others); our petty bickerings and jealousies
  • humanity is not pleased with them
  • Your time is too costly to be expended on these trifling events
  • Petty bickerings and jealousies
    • make one lose all the traces of spirituality
    • excommunicate a person from the divine company of the worthy ones
    • submerge one in the sea of phantasms
    • suffer one to become cold and pessimistic
    • throw him headlong into the depths of despair and helplessness!

Then He reminds us of our station:

  • You are made in the image and likeness of God.
  • Your birthright is more valuable than all the treasures of the empires.

And what to do instead:

  • arise with heart and soul
  • let not these golden days slip by without results!

And reminds us of the purpose of this day:

  • This day is the day of the splendors of the Sun of Reality!
  • This day is the day of the Lord of the Kingdom!
  • This day is the day of the fulfillment of glorious promises!
  • This day is the day of joy and fragrance!

Having such clear warnings, reminders and instructions, I have my marching orders 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

 

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God’s Forgiveness of Sinners

It is even possible for those who have died in sin and unbelief to be transformed, that is, to become the object of divine forgiveness. This is through the grace of God and not through His justice, for grace is to bestow without desert, and justice is to give that which is deserved. As we have the power to pray for those souls here, so too will we have the same power in the next world, the world of the Kingdom. Are not all the creatures in that world the creation of God? They must therefore be able to progress in that world as well. And just as they can seek illumination here through supplication, so too can they plead there for forgiveness and seek illumination through prayer and supplication. Thus, as souls can progress in this world through their entreaties and supplications, or through the prayers of holy souls, so too after death can they progress through their own prayers and supplications, particularly if they become the object of the intercession of the holy Manifestations.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 62)

I used to think I was perfect and the people who abused me were monsters.  As I’ve studied the Baha’i Writings and become more enlightened, I realize that we are all sinners, me included.  In the grand scheme of sins, surely lying (“the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil”) and gossip and backbiting (the most great sins; “accursed wouldst thou be”; “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”) are the two most important, even before sexual sins.  I think if we would all work on these two sins, the rest would be easy in comparison.

With that in mind, I can approach this prayer with gratitude, knowing that the people who turned away from God and abused me can still be forgiven by God and transformed.  I can pray for them; they can pray for themselves; and best of all, the Manifestations of God can pray for them and they will be forgiven.  I can leave the justice to God and focus on my own sins, hopefully recognizing them in this life and accepting God’s forgiveness and even if I mess up, I know that there are people and Manifestations who can pray for me and I can also pray for myself.  It takes a lot of pressure off trying to be perfect!

Knowing there are many ways to be forgiven even in the next world, I can relax and 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Dampening the Zeal of Others

If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detrac­tion serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honor of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  pp. 230-231)

In today’s quote on the evils of backbiting, we learn two important things:

  1. Backbiting not only dampens the zeal, but is also the leading cause among the friends to withdraw and become indifferent. How many Baha’is in your community have withdrawn and become indifferent?  It seems to be an epidemic.  Now we know what the problem is we can look at how backbiting has played a role and where we might need to adjust our behavior.
  1. When I hear backbiting, I know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to get caught up in it, because our culture is so steeped in it. ‘Abdu’l-Baha knows this and tells us what we can say to stop it in a spiritual and friendly manner:
  • would this comment serve any useful purpose?
  • Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
  • Would it contribute to the lasting honor of the friends?
  • Would it promote the holy Faith
  • Would it support the Covenant?
  • Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?

These questions might be easier to ask another Baha’i, who has recognized Baha’u’llah and accepted the Covenant, but the same principle applies with those who haven’t.  Instead we can ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

Knowing how to respond when I hear backbiting, I am grateful!

What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help?  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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Envy and Jealousy

At the same time those who show forth envies, jealousies, etc., toward a servant, are depriving themselves of their own stations, and not another of his, for they prove by their own acts that they are not only unworthy of being called to any station waiting them, but also prove that they cannot withstand the very first test – that of rejoicing over the success of their neighbour, at which God rejoices . . .  Envy closes the door of Bounty, and jealousy prevents one from ever attaining to the Kingdom of Abhá.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)

First of all, I wanted to understand the difference between envy and jealousy as they are often paired in the Bahá’í Writings.  It seems that we envy people when we want what they have and we’re jealous when we want to keep for ourselves what belongs exclusively to us.  Envy involves 2 people – me and the person who has what I want and it is what feeds the “keeping up with the Jones’s”.

If someone is jealous, on the other hand, they feel angry or bitter because they think that another person is trying to take a lover, friend or possession away from them, so it involves 3 people.  It’s often what feeds suspicions of infidelity.  Both come out of a lack of trust towards yourself (to manage your affairs) or to your partner (to be loyal).

With that in mind, we can understand the quote better.  The problem is that when we give in to envy and jealousy, we deprive ourselves of our own station, close the door of bounty and prevent ourselves from ever attaining the Kingdom of Abha.  If I don’t appreciate the bounties and blessings that are continually streaming forth for me, why would God give me any more?

Knowing that the solution to envy and jealousy is to rejoice over the success of my  neighbors, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Effect of Illness on the Soul 

That a sick person showeth signs of weakness is due to the hindrances that interpose themselves between his soul and his body, for the soul itself remaineth unaffected by any bodily ailments.  Con­sider the light of the lamp. Though an external object may interfere with its radiance, the light itself continueth to shine with undiminished power. In like manner, every malady afflicting the body of man is an impediment that preventeth the soul from manifesting its inherent might and power. When it leaveth the body, however, it will evince such ascendancy, and reveal such influence as no force on earth can equal. Every pure, every refined and sanctified soul will be endowed with tremendous power, and shall rejoice with exceeding gladness.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 154)

If I understand this quote, correctly, I think it’s saying that when we’re physically sick, our souls are healthy, but unable to manifest their inherent might and power.  When we recover, though, our souls will have so much influence and power, that no force on earth can equal them and those who are pure, refined and sanctified will rejoice with exceeding gladness.

It’s true that when I’m physically or emotionally sick, I find it hard to pray and even to trust God, which surely creates a veil between the two of us.  If I’m sick enough, though, my soul cries out for relief and I’m always grateful when the prayer is answered.  I think illness and pain are some of the tests we undergo for the perfection of our souls, to help us develop the virtues we need the most and to draw us closer to God.  I often imagine that when we pass these tests, the Concourse on High celebrates with us.  The exciting part of this quote for me though is knowing that when we recover from our illness, we have a huge power at our disposal.  I wonder what my life would be like if I acted “as if” I believed this?  What would I be able to accomplish then?

Knowing there is a purpose for my sicknesses, 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 Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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