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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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When We Argue, We’re Both Wrong

If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise; that they may speak with each other with infinite amity and love. Should there appear the least trace of controversy, they must remain silent, and both parties must continue their discussions no longer, but ask the reality of the question from the Interpreter. This is the irrefutable command!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

I love this quote and find it interesting that it’s embedded within the Tablets of the Divine Plan, our marching orders for spreading the Faith to every corner of the planet.  This incontrovertible law and irrefutable command of God is important to be embedded into the hearts of all travel-teachers and pioneers, because it means we don’t have to be right.  We don’t have to prove a point.  We don’t have to engage in any controversial discussion.  We can just listen and approach every interaction with a humble posture of learning.  For someone addicted to adrenaline and drama, this is such a relief!  It’s hard on my adrenals and my liver to keep fighting for my position. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be in a marriage or a job or a community, where this was taken seriously?

It can be a challenge to learn to speak with infinite amity and love, remaining silent and looking to the Baha’i Writings for some insights.  First we need to have the discipline of turning to the Writings so we can develop the habit of “asking the reality of the question from the Interpreter”.  Then we need to learn how to share them with “words as mild as milk”, and then leave the results to God, humbly asking Him to plant the truth in the hearts of those we teach.

Knowing I don’t have to dispute with anyone, and can remain silent and avoid controversy, 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 Criticizing Others

 

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Overcoming Backbiting – Changing our Behaviour

 

How do we overcome this cultural past-time?

Just stop!

As with many things, deeds not words are what is required:

However, deprivation of voting rights is usually of little help in such circumstances and should be resorted to only after other remedies have been tried and failed . . . Rash action can dampen the zeal of the community, and this must be avoided at all costs.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 60)

We’re asked to refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causes sadness in men:

Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man!  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 219-220)

A silent tongue is the safest:

A silent tongue is the safest. Even good may be harmful, if spoken at the wrong time, or to the wrong person.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 125)

If the situation is not serious, we should ignore it:

Sometimes, however, the matter does not seem grave enough to warrant reporting to the Spiritual Assembly, in which case it may be best to ignore it altogether. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 ‘Abdu’l-Baha longed to see us use our lips in praise of others instead:

I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting were shut eternally and each one of the believers unsealed his lips in praise of others. (’Abdu’l-Baha, Star of West, Vol. IV. p. 192)

We must overlook people’s shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues:

The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

We must think of our own imperfections and try to remove them:

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 88)

In ‘Star of the West’, Volume 8, No. 10, on page 138, there is a record of a reply given by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked ‘How shall I overcome seeing the faults of others — recognizing the wrong in others?’, and He replied: ‘I will tell you. Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections? — and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others.’  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will-power and energy:

Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will- power and energy.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)

I love this analogy – If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, our own furrow will assuredly become crooked:

If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)

Here’s a story of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha helped someone overcome the things she’d said about her worst enemy:

A woman went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, received His teachings and blessings, and asked for a special work.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said, ‘Spread the law of love.  Live in accord with love, reciprocity and cooperation.’  She answered, ‘I want something special.  All Baha’is are asked to do this.’ ‘Abdu’l-Bahá answered, ‘Very well.  Come tomorrow morning, when you are about to leave, and I will give you the special work.’  She was very happy all that day and night, in anticipation. The next day ‘Abdu’l-Bahá said to her, ‘I am going to give you my son that you may educate him physically, mentally and spiritually.’  She was surprised, and was made happy at this.  But her surprise gave way to wonder when she reflected that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had no son.  What could He mean? ‘Abdu’l-Bahá asked, ‘Do you know this son of mine?’  Then He told her:  In her city there had lived a man, her worst enemy.  He had died leaving a son, who no one to take care of him:  this was now her task.  When she heard this she was overwhelmed.  She was spiritually reborn.  She wept and said, ‘My Master, I now know what the Baha’i Cause means.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 106)

When We Hear Others Gossiping

Justice requires we do our own investigation; seeing with our own eyes and knowing through our own knowledge, instead of relying on others:

The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 2)

We should ignore it:

Ignoring gossip and slander is a positive, constructive and healing action helpful to the community, the gossiper and to the persons slandered.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We should close our ears to it:

You must not listen to anyone speaking about another, because no sooner do you listen than you must listen to someone else and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Ramleh, Egypt, 29 October 1913, Star of the West – 4, p. 104)

We should tactfully but firmly prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence:

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. 93)

When we hear gossip and backbiting, we can stop the discussion in a friendly manner, with questions such as:

  • Would this detraction serve any useful purpose?
  • Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
  • Would it contribute to the lasting honour of the friends?
  • Would it promote the holy Faith?
  • Would it support the covenant?
  • Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?

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 honour 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 not longer behold the light of truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections From The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)

We could tactfully draw the offender’s attention to the teachings on the subject:

Or perhaps the relationship is such that he can tactfully draw the offender’s attention to the teachings on the subject — but here he must be very careful not to give the impression of prying into a fellow-believer’s private affairs or of telling him what he must do, which would not only be wrong in itself but might well produce the reverse of the desired reaction.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We could tactfully draw the offender into Bahá’í activities hoping that as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct:

There are also other things that can be done by the Bahá’í to whose notice such things come. For example he could foster friendly relations with the individual concerned, tactfully drawing him into Bahá’í activities in the hope that, as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 We can always consult our LSA or Auxiliary Board member for advice:

If a believer faced with knowledge of another Bahá’ís conduct is unsure what course to take, he can, of course, always consult his Local Spiritual Assembly for advice. If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.  Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offense.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 Here are 3 stories of how ‘Abdu’l-Baha showed us how to handle discussions that involve backbiting:

When once someone complained of Lua to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, He turned to the person who had made the criticism and with a benign smile, said, ‘But she loves her Lord.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 164)

Under a grove of trees near Lake Michigan, while in Chicago in 1912, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gave intimate and loving counsel to His friends:  ‘Some of you may have observed that I have not called attention to any of your individual shortcomings.  I would suggest to you, that if you shall be similarly considerate in your treatment of each other, it will be greatly conducive to the harmony of your association with each other.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

It is related that His Holiness Christ — May my life be a sacrifice to Him! — one day, accompanied by His apostles, passed by the corpse of a dead animal. One of them said: ‘How putrid has this animal become!’ The other exclaimed: ‘How it is deformed!’ A third cried out: ‘What a stench! How cadaverous looking!’ but His Holiness Christ said: “Look at its teeth! how white they are!’ Consider, that He did not look at all at the defects of that animal; nay, rather, He searched well until He found the beautiful white teeth. He observed only the whiteness of the teeth and overlooked entirely the deformity of the body, the dissolution of its organs and the bad odour.  This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and the manner of the real Bahá’ís. I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)

He stopped the fault-finding by focusing on something positive instead.

‘Abdu’l-Baha also understood those who gossiped, and showered them with love and forgiveness, as these stories illustrate:

That very afternoon, in my room with two of the believers, I spoke against a brother in the truth, finding fault with him, and giving vent to the evil in my own heart by my words . . . A little later we all went to supper, and my hard heart was unconscious of its error, until, as my eyes sought the beloved face of my Master, I met His gaze, so full of gentleness and compassion that I was smitten to the heart.  For in some marvellous way His eyes spoke to me; in that pure and perfect mirror I saw my wretched self and burst into tears.  He took no notice of me for a while and everyone kindly continued with the supper while I sat in His dear Presence washing away some of my sins in tears.  After a few moments He turned and smiled on me and spoke my name several times as though He were calling me to Him.  In an instant such sweet happiness pervaded my soul, my heart was comforted with such infinite hope, that I knew He would cleanse me of all of my sins.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 63)

We began to argue about the New York Assembly: as to whether or not it was united!  Mr Kinney declared that it was. I said it was not. I even went so far as to mention the breeder of the discord, to condemn her destructive work!  But when X and I crept off to the room we were temporarily occupying — crept through the black, vaulted halls and rooms, over the old stone floors, to the rear wing of the house — a feeling of guilt such as I could hardly bear consumed me.  Next morning when I met our Lord outside the dining room door, in the sunny little court I so love because it is associated with His footsteps, with the benediction of His Presence, looking with eyes that … forgave? … no, that understood … deep, deep into my eyes, He put out His hand and took mine in a clasp of love.  (Diary of Juliet Thompson)

Who Can Help?

As with everything in the Faith, we need all 3 protagonists – the individual, the community and the Institutions.

First, as individuals, we need to really study the Writings and become peacemakers:

What the believers need is not only … to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The the older and the more mature Bahá’ís can help the weaker ones to function and live like true believers:

It is one of the functions of the older and the more mature Bahá’ís, to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers!  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

The NSA could provide for the proper deepening of the friends to instill in them a respect for Bahá’í laws:

We think it would be much better for the National Assembly to provide for the proper deepening of the friends and in a loving and patient manner attempt to instill in them a respect for Bahá’í laws.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 60)

How has this helped you understand this topic better?  Post your comments below!

Understanding Gossip and Backbiting

 

The Baha’i Writings are clear on this point – backbiting is the worst human quality and the “most great sin”.

The worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 88)

So if there is one fault we need to most focus on, this would be a great place to start!

But what about news reporting?  Where does that fit?

Recently one of my readers wrote:

One topic of the Baha’i Faith that has really shown its power to me, is the concept of refraining from backbiting. Sometimes it can seem so innocent, but even so, look how much damage it can do!

I am currently stuck on a topic that I find hard to understand. I’ll give an example.  As you no doubt know, there was a Mayor of a large city who was videotaped doing crack cocaine.  The local newspaper reported it; the story went viral and the city was made a laughing-stock!

Of course it was true, but was it backbiting? After all, the Mayor did use drugs in his own private time, not during his duties as a mayor. But to most voters, a mayor isn’t someone who just does their job, but a role model in the community.  We want our Mayor to be someone whom their children can look up to.

Is there any guidance on where to draw the line on backbiting? Also, is this an example of backbiting?  The local newspaper brought something to people’s attention with the intent of providing transparency into the character of a mayor, knowing full well that the consequences would be damaging to his person.

I personally believe, that what newspaper did was – OK to a large extent. Putting forward facts (while it can be damaging to someone) should not be considered backbiting, if it is done openly which they did. It gave the Mayor a chance to come clean and it informed the citizens of the character of the person they elected. I read all the stuff there is on backbiting, but haven’t found anything YET that talks about backbiting vs news reporting.

I replied: 

In a Bahá’í world, which we are all working towards, I think the spiritual principal that applies in this situation is contained in these quotes:

O SON OF MAN!

Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 27)

The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language!

Bahá’u’lláh says in Hidden Words; ‘Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command ACCURSED ARE THOU.’ The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language than in these passages, and it is obviously one of the foremost obligations for Bahá’ís to set their faces against this practice. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 87)

Baha’u’llah is pretty clear on this matter!  If we can’t breathe the sins of another, one to one, how much more damaging are the effects when the whole world is privy to our faults via the news?  And do we as individuals or as reporters really want to be “accursed of God”?

Shoghi Effendi clarifies that even if what is said is true the mentioning of faults to others still comes under the category of backbiting:

The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language than in these passages, and it is obviously one of the foremost obligations for Bahá’ís to set their faces against this practice. Even if what is said against another person be true, the mentioning of his faults to others still comes under the category of backbiting, and is forbidden.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 87)

Stories repeated about others are seldom good:

Remember, above all, the teaching of Bahá’u’lláh concerning gossip and unseemly talk about others. Stories repeated about others are seldom good. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 125)

In a Baha’i world, we’re likely to see only good news stories!

Before we go any further, let’s look at the meaning of the two words, often found together in the Baha’i Writings.  The dictionary defines them as follows:

Gossip:  talk, chat, conversation, chatter, blather, natter, blabbermouth, tattle, rumourmonger, scandalmonger, tell-tale, bigmouth and hearsay.

Backbiting: vicious, spiteful, unkind remarks, backstabbing, badmouthing and infighting.

So on the one hand, our very conversations with others are laden with gossip, which makes it much harder to identify we’re doing anything wrong.  It’s easy to think “I’m not badmouthing anyone”, but if we’re mentioning a fault, it has to stop. 

The Standard

The problem of backbiting is even worse if it comes from the believers of God, who should presumably know better:

As regards backbiting, i.e. discussing the faults of others in their absence, the teachings are very emphatic. In a Tablet to an American friend the Master wrote: ‘The worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting, more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God.  (’Abdu’l-Baha, Star of West, Vol. IV. p. 192)

Not only are we supposed to stop backbiting and gossip, we’re supposed to stop listening to it too!

The friends should understand that they should not only cease backbiting and gossiping, but should cease listening to others who fall into this sin. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

When we listen to those who complain about the faults of others, we are guilty of complicity:

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. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 93)

Exceptions to the Rule

We can turn to our friends to discuss our problems, and seek help and advice in resolving them, as long as we don’t mention names:

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)

Taking a problem to an Institution or therapist to seek assistance with a problem is not backbiting – the motive is different:

While gossip and backbiting are explicitly prohibited by Bahá’u’lláh, taking a problem to a Bahá’í institution, to a relevant civil or social service agency, therapist, or counselor to seek assistance with the problem is not viewed as gossip or backbiting.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 55)

If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint should be submitted to the LSA or to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors:

While it can be a severe test to a Bahá’í to see fellow believers violating Bahá’í laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offense and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender.  If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Abdu’l-Bahá does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause. If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

Assemblies may appoint counseling committees to determine the best approach:

When necessary, a Spiritual Assembly has the prerogative to appoint individuals or committees to work on its behalf with the friends because it is obviously impossible for the body to meet with every believer on every matter, especially as the membership of the community grows. The Assembly may determine the best approach in each instance in order to ensure it has the necessary information to reach a decision and to satisfy the requirements that each situation presents. As to your questions about the implications of the prohibition on backbiting on the functioning of Spiritual Assemblies and the committees they appoint, it is suggested that you turn to your National Assembly for guidance.  (Universal House of Justice, to an individual, 14 June 2016)

None of this is backbiting:

When a friend is reporting to the Assembly on a matter of backbiting in the community, the act in itself is not backbiting. Indeed, the believer is doing his duty by reporting the matter to the Assembly.  (Universal House of Justice to a Local Spiritual Assembly, 9 October 1976)

Once it is in the hand of the Assembly the believer’s obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement:

Once it is in the hand of the Assembly the believer’s obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement — unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Reasons We Like to Gossip

Because of our immaturity, it seems easier to fall into the pattern we see around us, where gossip, trouble-making and criticism seem easier than the putting into practice virtues such as love, constructive words and cooperation:

Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís, are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

Consequences of Backbiting

It devours and quenches the light of the heart, and extinguishes the life of the soul:

Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.  (Bahá’u’lláh: The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 193)

It poisons the relationship between people:

For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

We realize that a great problem is presented by gossip when it occurs in Bahá’í communities, and the poison it can instill into the relationship between the friends.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 60)

It’s hard to be a friend to someone when we look at only their faults:

If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 168)

We may become dishonored in the community:

. . . believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine Wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)

It strikes at the very unity of the Bahá’í community:

You are quite correct in your understanding of the importance of avoiding backbiting; such conduct strikes at the very unity of the Bahá’í community. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

It causes disputes:

. . . failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Bahá’ís as it is among men and women in general.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

It dampens the zeal of the friends and makes them indifferent:

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. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections From The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)

It causes people to withdraw:

For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections From The Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)

It can wear us down, as this story how ‘Abdu’l-Baha refrained from backbiting, even when He had a good reason to talk about someone behind His back:

One of those ‘unspiritual people’ was at that moment a member of Abdul-Bahá’s party, Dr. Amin Fareed, who had already tried to fraudulently get money out of her [Phoebe Hearst].  It was probably during ‘Abdul-Bahá’s stay at the Hearst residence that His signet ring disappeared.  That theft and some of other activities of Dr. Fareed were described by Marzieh Gail in her book, “Arches of the Years”:

Abdul-Bahá’s signet ring disappeared during his Western journey.  The Master had confided His loss to Florence and Khan, and named the thief but He did not wish them to speak of it.  We in the family always thought that it took place during his stay at the Hacienda… Thereafter the Master signed all his tablets instead of using a seal, capitalizing neither abdu’l nor abbas but only Bahá.

Fareed’s efforts to destroy the Master (who had seen to his education from childhood) make a page of triple darkness . . . Fareed was capable of whispering to the rich in the United States that although Abdul-Bahá needed funds He would not openly accept them, but if they would pass over the money to him, Fareed, he would deliver it to the Master . . . After returning to the holy land Abdul-Bahá sent Dr. Baghdadi a Tablet, and directed that copies be distributed to every community so that all could read it.  The Master wrote here that during his stay in America he had forgiven a certain member of his suite four times, but that he would forgive the man’s misdeeds no longer. Abdul-Bahá returned to Haifa, he proceeded directly to the room with His wife, Munirih Khanum, and said in a feeble voice, “Dr. Fareed has ground me down!”  (Earl Redman, Abdul-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 228)

And the effects can last a century:

The force of the former [material fire] lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter[the fire of the tongue] endureth a century.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264)

Learning not to concern ourselves with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for us to master:

Learning not to concern oneself with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for people to master, and that failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Bahá’ís as it is among men and women in general.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

But master it we must if we want to avoid the consequences, and the wrath of God!

Benefits of Overcoming Backbiting

It’s worthwhile overcoming this fault, knowing that our example and spiritual strength really helps the Cause:

In a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the Guardian it is stated: “If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength.”  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)

Our efforts will be blessed:

How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)

The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh would be spread and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity:

If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh (Bahá’u’lláh) would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 91)

When we see only that which is worthy of praise in every human being, we can be a friend to the whole human race:

One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 168)

A Final Note on Confidentiality

Every believer must know that he can confide a personal problem to an institution of the Faith, with the assurance that knowledge of the matter will remain confidential:

Every believer must know that he can confide a personal problem to an institution of the Faith, with the assurance that knowledge of the matter will remain confidential.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

If a Bahá’í accepts confidential information, he is in duty bound to preserve that confidentiality:

Members of Assemblies, whether they are assistants [to Auxiliary Board members] or not, are obviously in a position to receive confidential information as individuals from several sources. It is an important principle of the Faith that one must not promise what one is not going to fulfill. Therefore, if a Bahá’í accepts confidential information either by virtue of his profession (e.g. as a doctor, a lawyer, etc.), or by permitting another person to confide in him, he is in duty bound to preserve that confidentiality.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Any information which comes to the notice of an Assembly member by reason of his membership on that Assembly must not be divulged by that member, even though the Assembly itself may later decide to share it:

Any information which comes to the notice of an Assembly member, solely by reason of his membership on that Assembly must not be divulged by that member, even though the Assembly itself may later decide to share it.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Assistants have the same duty to observe the confidentiality of its consultations, and of matters considered by the Assembly to be confidential, as does any other member:

Assistants who are members of a National Assembly or a national committee do not function as assistants in relation to that body, and they have the same duty to observe the confidentiality of its consultations, and of matters considered by the Assembly to be confidential, as does any other member.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

If a member of the Assembly knows of a personal problem, and if he has not undertaken to keep it confidential, he may bring it to the Assembly’s attention if he feels it would be in the interests of the Faith for him to do so, but he is not obliged to:

If a member of the Assembly knows of a personal problem, and if he has not undertaken to keep it confidential, he may bring it to the Assembly’s attention if he feels it would be in the interests of the Faith for him to do so, but he is not obliged to.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential, and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it:

Every institution in the Faith has certain matters which it considers should be kept confidential, and any member who is privy to such confidential information is obliged to preserve the confidentiality within the institution where he learned it. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy:

Where no confidentiality is involved the institutions must strive to avoid the stifling atmosphere of secrecy.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

The Assembly must carefully consider which information should fall in the category of confidential information; which should not be shared with others, and which may be divulged under special circumstances, and how:

The Assembly must itself carefully consider which information should rightly fall in the category of confidential information and which should not be shared with others, and which information may be divulged under special circumstances, and how such information may be divulged.   (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Should confidential matters regarding personal problems be freely shared with others, the confidence of the believers in the Assembly and its members will obviously be destroyed:

Should confidential matters regarding personal problems be freely shared with others, upon application, the confidence of the believers in the Assembly and its members will obviously be destroyed. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  Post your comments below!

How to De-escalate an Argument in 2 Minutes or Less

In this video, Janna gives you two questions you can ask:

  1. What do I need?
  2. What am I protecting?

Have a listen and post your comments below.

Janna Denton-Howes is a Marriage Coach whose passion is to help couples get unstuck and move powerfully towards the vision of true Baha’i marriage.  If you liked this video, you can visit her site; read her blog and watch her other videos.

Common Communication Problems and Baha’i Solutions

 

In doing the research for my book on Learning How to Consult Effectively, I wondered what some of the most common communication problems might be.  I went onto the internet and gathered some ideas which I felt could be easily addressed by implementing Baha’i concepts.  Let’s take a look at what I’ve found.

Aggression:

Abuse is forbidden:

No husband should subject his wife to abuse of any kind, whether emotional, mental or physical…. When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance, and might also find it highly advantageous to seek the assistance of competent professional counsellors. If the husband is also a Bahá’í, the Local Spiritual Assembly can bring to his attention the need to avoid abusive behaviour and can, if necessary, take firm measures to encourage him to conform to the admonitions of the teachings.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 458)

Aggression has lost its credibility as a means for solving problems:

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)

Be moderate in your tone of voice:

Bahá’ís are enjoined to be . . . moderate in tone . . .  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

The threat and fear of violence must be removed before effective consultation can take place:

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)

Avoiding Conflict

Consultation is a law in the Faith, so when there is conflict we must consult:

The principle of consultation, which constitutes one of the basic laws of the Administration . . .  (Shoghi Effendi, in Consultation: A Compilation, p. 15)

It’s important to choose a time when you can use these principles.

Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 172-173)

Blame Game

Blame no one but yourselves:

It behoveth you, therefore, to attach blame to no one except to yourselves, for the things ye have committed, if ye but judge fairly.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 222-223)

When we’re being blamed we need to show forth love and affection:

The more they deride and blame thee, show thou forth the greater love and affection. Do not look upon their shortcomings. Look thou upon all of them as the people of God and endeavor thou in right-doing and well-meaning. Ignorant are they; understand they do not. Therefore they are avoiding, criticizing and scorning thee.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 504-505)

NoteThis does not hold true in situations of abuse. 

It is not advisable to show kindness to a person who is a tyrant, a traitor or a thief because kindness encourages him to become worse and does not awaken him. The more kindness you show to a liar the more he is apt to lie, for he thinks that you know not, while you do know, but extreme kindness keeps you from revealing your knowledge.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 412)

Closed Mind

We need to listen to the opinions of others without taking offence or belittling their views:

They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)

We need to meditate on what has been said to us:

Bahá’u’lláh says there is a sign (from God) in every phenomenon: the sign of the intellect is contemplation and the sign of contemplation is silence, because it is impossible for a man to do two things at one time—he cannot both speak and meditate.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 174)

Competitive Attitudes

We aren’t to advance ourselves before others:

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)

We must listen to others without belittling their views:

They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without . . .  belittling the views of another.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)

If two souls quarrel, both are wrong.

In brief, O ye believers of God! The text of the divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise . . .  This is the irrefutable command!  (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Defensiveness

We can’t be upset if someone contradicts us:

If another contradicts him, he must not become excited because if there be no investigation or verification of questions and matters, the agreeable view will not be discovered neither understood.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 406)

We’re not to give offence or take offence:

Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member’s statements.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179-180)

Expecting Your Partner to Read Your Mind

Express your own thoughts:

The honoured members must with all freedom express their own thoughts, and it is in no wise permissible for one to belittle the thought of another, nay, he must with moderation set forth the truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

Set forth your ideas:

Show forth that which ye have: if it be accepted, the object is attained; if not, interference is vain: leave him to himself, [while] advancing toward God, the Protecting, the Self-Subsistent.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, A Traveller’s Narrative, p. 83)

Giving in and Not Really Saying What You Want or Think

Everyone must be free to express his own opinion and set forth his argument:

The members thereof must take counsel together in such wise that no occasion for ill-feeling or discord may arise. This can be attained when every member expresseth with absolute freedom his own opinion and setteth forth his argument. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

Harping on Issues

Stop 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, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

If two souls quarrel, both are wrong.

In brief, O ye believers of God! The text of the divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise . . .  This is the irrefutable command!  (Άbdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of the Divine Plan, p. 56)

Suppress every critical thought and harsh words:

You should urge your fellow-Bahá’ís to take this point of view, and to support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and His service.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Put the past behind and refrain from mentioning the subjects that have led to misunderstanding:

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, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Cling to patience and resignation and observe silence:

He must . . . cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smouldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endure a century.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 192)

Set aside every personal sense of grievance – justified or unjustified – for the good of the Cause:

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. (Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)

Forget these insignificant disturbances and rush to the rescue of humanity:

When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations, Vol. II, p. 23)

Insisting on Your Own Opinion

We should not voice our opinions as correct and right:

He who expresses an opinion should not voice it as correct and right but set it forth as a contribution to the consensus of opinion, for the light of reality becomes apparent when two opinions coincide.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

The purpose of consultation is to investigate truth, not to determine who is right and who is wrong:

The purpose is to emphasize the statement that consultation must have for its object the investigation of truth.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

We can’t insist on our own opinion:

They must . . . not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 88)

We can’t insist that our views are the only correct ones:

Bahá’ís are enjoined to . . . not insist on the correctness of their views; however, such conditions should not preclude the frank expression of differing views. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We can’t be splitting hairs:

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

If someone has expressed an opinion that is more true and worthy, he should accept it immediately:

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)

If one person is right and they disagree, that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs:

Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 13-14)

If they agree and both are wrong, the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right:

. . . but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 13-14)

Lack of Kindness: 

We all need to be kind in speaking the truth: 

Be kind in truth, not only in appearance and outwardly. Every soul of the friends of God must concentrate his mind on this, that he may manifest the mercy of God and the bounty of the Forgiving One.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 216)

God is kind to all of us, so why should we be unkind?

He founded the oneness of the world of humanity. He declared that all humanity is the servant of God, and that God is kind to all, that He created all and provides for all; that He nurtures all; therefore why should we be unkind? Inasmuch as God is kind and merciful to all His creatures and manifests His care and goodwill to them in every way, why should we show forth that which is contrary? Inasmuch as God loves all, why should we entertain animosity or envy? For if God did not love all, He would not have provided for all; He would not have created man; He would not have trained him. Now that He has created, provided for all and preserved man, it is therefore evident that God is kind to all. Why then should man be unkind to man?  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 315)

Lying:

 Without truthfulness, there can be no progress:

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 338)

Search for the truth:

They must in every matter search out the truth and not insist upon their own opinion, for stubbornness and persistence in one’s views will lead ultimately to discord and wrangling and the truth will remain hidden.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

Don’t promise what you can’t fulfill:

It is an important principle of the Faith that one must not promise what one is not going to fulfill.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Making Character Attacks

Individuals can change:

It must be remembered that individuals can reform, and a reprehensible past does not necessarily disqualify a believer from a better future.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Me Instead of We

We need to send love to others and receive strength from them:

The beloved of God must, like the roses of the rose-garden, send fragrant messages from one to another, receive strength from one another, and cooperate together, by the strength of the Kingdom. There is no greater means than communion and communication. Communication is half a meeting.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 417)

Where unity exists in a family, their affairs flourish and they enjoy comfort and tranquility:

Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 278)

Not Considering Things from the Other Person’s Point of View

We must have regard for the interests of others:

It is incumbent upon them to take counsel together and to have regard for the interests of the servants of God, for His sake, even as they regard their own interests, and to choose that which is meet and seemly. Thus hath the Lord your God, the Gracious, the Pardoner, commanded you. Beware lest ye put away that which is clearly revealed in His Tablet. Fear God, O ye that perceive.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 13)

Overgeneralizing

Consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears:

[You] may also find it helpful to steer thinking away from extreme outcomes, worst-case scenarios or unrealistically optimistic scenarios, as those kinds of thinking tend to escalate apprehension between both parties, exacerbate the current situation, or set them up for future disappointments if they are unrealistically optimistic. It should assist the parties involved to consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears. It may find that either or both parties need assistance in clarifying and separating facts from assumptions and/or opinions. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

Refusing to Talk or Listen

Sullen resistance causes situations to deteriorate:

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)

Trying to “Win” The Argument

There is no argument!  There’s just a difference of opinion which fulfils a valuable function in all deliberations:

The friends should therefore not feel discouraged at the differences of opinion that may prevail among the members of an Assembly, for these, as experiences has shown, and as the Master’s words attest, fulfil a valuable function in all Assembly deliberations.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 48)

If we quarrel, we’re disobeying God:

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)

The more we argue back and forth about who’s right, the worse things become:

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, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions:

Should anyone oppose, he must on no account feel hurt for not until matters are fully discussed can the right way be revealed. The shining spark of truth cometh forth only after the clash of differing opinions. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

It’s better to agree and be wrong, than to disagree and be right:

If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 411)

Have I missed any?  How has this helped you with your understanding?  Post your comments below!