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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!

Is Criticism Allowed In The Baha’i Faith?

 

I was playing a game at summer school last year, in which we were asked this question and of course, I answered “no”.  Bahá’ís have to be positive, loving, forgiving, creating unity, building communities, don’t we?

How can we do that if we allow criticism to come in?

I was shocked that the answer I gave was wrong!  I set out to prove the speaker wrong (thereby criticizing them in my own mind!  O God, forgive me, please!).  I was surprised by what I found.  Have a look with me.

The answer is both yes (with conditions) and no, as we’ll see below.

We all have a right to set forth our views:

Let us also remember that at the very root of the Cause lies the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views. (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 63)

The root cause of criticism is lack of faith in the system of Baha’u’llah:

Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh, i.e., the Administrative Order — and lack of obedience to Him — for He has forbidden it! If the Bahá’ís would follow the Bahá’í laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decisions, all this waste of strength through criticizing others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan. (Shoghi Effendi, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

We have been protected against the misuse of criticism through the Covenant and by an administration which draws out the constructive ideas of individuals and uses them for the benefit of the entire system:

If Bahá’í individuals deliberately ignore the principles imbedded in the Order which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has established to remedy divisiveness in the human family, the Cause for which so much has been sacrificed will surely be set back in its mission to rescue world society from complete disintegration. May not the existence of the Covenant be invoked again and again, so that such repetition may preserve the needed perspective? For, in this age, the Cause of Bahá’u’lláh has been protected against the baneful effects of the misuse of the process of criticism; this has been done by the institution of the Covenant and by the provision of a universal administrative system which incorporates within itself the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system. Admonishing the people to uphold the unifying purpose of the Cause, Bahá’u’lláh, in the Book of His Covenant, addresses these poignant words to them: “Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord.” Such assertions emphasize a crucial point; it is this: In terms of the Covenant, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Bahá’í community, namely, the establishment of the unity of mankind. (Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 15-16)

Yes, with conditions

We are fully entitled to address criticisms but then we must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly:

The Bahá’ís are fully entitled to address criticisms to their assemblies; they can freely air their views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the assembly, local or national, but then they must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly, according to the principles already laid down for such matters in Bahá’í administration. (Shoghi Effendi, Letters from the Guardian to Australia and New Zealand, p. 55)

It is our vital responsibility to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community:

You had asked whether the believers have the right to openly express their criticism of any Assembly action or policy; it is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the Community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community, and it is the duty of the Assembly also to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them by any one of the believers.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feasts, pp. 27-28)

Criticism should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community where it might foment division and misunderstandings:

It is clear then that criticism is allowed, but it should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community where it might foment division and misunderstandings.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

The best time to do it is at the Feast:

The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast which, besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfills various administrative needs and requirements of the Community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá’í Community.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Meetings/The Nineteen Day Feasts, pp. 27-28)

No

Criticism and discussions of a negative character which undermines the authority of the assembly should be strictly avoided:

It should be stressed that all criticism and discussions of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the community. (Shoghi Effendi, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Criticism is often the harbinger of conflict and contention:

The responsibility resting on the individual to conduct himself in such a way as to ensure the stability of society takes on elemental importance in this context. For vital as it is to the progress of society, criticism is a two-edged sword: It is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention. The balanced processes of the Administrative Order are meant to prevent this essential activity from degenerating to any form of dissent that breeds opposition and its dreadful schismatic consequences. How incalculable have been the negative results of ill-directed criticism: in the catastrophic divergences it has created in religion, in the equally contentious factions it has spawned in political systems, which have dignified conflict by institutionalizing such concepts as the “loyal opposition” which attach to one or another of the various categories of political opinion — conservative, liberal, progressive, reactionary, and so on.  (Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 15-16)

If we continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, we prevent any real progress and repel outsiders:

The Guardian believes that a great deal of the difficulties from which the believers . . . feel themselves to be suffering are caused by their neither correctly understanding or putting into practice the administration. They seem — many of them — to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their assemblies. If the Bahá’ís undermine the very leaders which are, however immaturely, seeking to coordinate Bahá’í activities and administer Bahá’í affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves!  (Shoghi Effendi, The National Spiritual Assembly compilation, p. 35-36)

It is again not permitted that any one of the honoured members object to or censure, whether in or out of the meeting, any decision arrived at previously, though that decision be not right, for such criticism would prevent any decision from being enforced. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

In this Cause, consultation is of vital importance; but spiritual conference and not the mere voicing of personal views is intended. In France I was present at a session of the senate but the experience was not impressive. Parliamentary procedure should have for its object the attainment of the light of truth upon questions presented and not furnish a battleground for opposition and self-opinion. Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. In the parliamentary meeting mentioned, altercation and useless quibbling were frequent; the result mostly confusion and turmoil; even in one instance a physical encounter took place between two members. It was not consultation but comedy.   . . Therefore true consultation is spiritual conference in the attitude and atmosphere of love. Members must love each other in the spirit of fellowship in order that good results may be forthcoming. Love and fellowship are the foundation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Contradiction and altercation will make it necessary for a judicial body to render decision upon the question:

Opposition and division are deplorable. It is better then to have the opinion of a wise, sagacious man; otherwise, contradiction and altercation, in which varied and divergent views are presented, will make it necessary for a judicial body to render decision upon the question.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

Conclusion:

So from this we learn that criticism is a two-edged sword.  On the one hand:

  • We have a right to set forth our views
  • We are fully entitled to address criticisms to our assemblies
  • We can freely air our views about policies or individual members of elected bodies to the assembly
  • We must whole-heartedly accept the advice or decision of the assembly
  • It is our responsibility to offer suggestions, recommendations or criticism in order to improve and remedy conditions or trends in our local community
  • We do so fully and frankly, with due respect and consideration to the authority of the Assembly
  • It is the duty of the Assembly to give careful consideration to any such views
  • Criticism is allowed, but it should be addressed to the institutions of the Faith and not aired in the community
  • The best occasion chosen for this purpose is the Nineteen Day Feast which encourages open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the state of affairs within the local Bahá’í Community
  • We are protected against the effects of the misuse of the process of criticism through the institution of the Covenant
  • Our administrative system has the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system

And on the other hand:

  • Criticism which undermines the authority of the assembly should be strictly avoided
  • Criticism’s root is lack of faith in the system of Bahá’u’lláh
  • Criticism is a waste of strength that could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan
  • Criticism is often the harbinger of conflict and contention
  • Criticism allows confusion and discord to reign
  • Criticism breeds opposition
  • Criticism leads to division and misunderstandings
  • Criticism has dreadful schismatic consequences
  • Criticism leads to negative results
  • Criticism has created catastrophic divergences in religion, in the equally
  • Criticism has spawned contentious factions in political systems
  • Criticism prevents any real rapid progress in the Faith’s development from taking place
  • Criticism furnishes a battleground for opposition and self-opinion
  • Criticism is destructive to truth
  • Criticism results in confusion and turmoil
  • Criticism can lead to physical violence
  • Criticism that creates dissidence prevents the establishment of the unity of mankind
  • Criticism repels outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves

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

9 Invisible Enemies that Trap Us in the Prison of Self

‘Abdu’l-Baha talks about nine material ideas and worldly thoughts which attract man to the centre of self. These nine “invisible enemies” prevents us from ascending to the realms of holi­ness and imprison us in the claws of self and the cage of egotism. These nine are:

  • Anger
  • Passion
  • Ignorance
  • Prejudice
  • Greed
  • Envy
  • Covetousness
  • Jeal­ousy
  • Suspicion

 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. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

What does surrendering to these enemies result in?

  • We’re prevented from ascending to the realms of holi­ness
  • We’re trapped in the claws of self and the cage of egotism.
  • Whenever we try to escape from one of these, we will unconsciously fall into hands of another

Let’s look at each one separately to see why ‘Abdu’l-Baha refers to them as enemies.

Anger

Anger Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Antagonism (means rivalry, resentment, ill will) Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Argue 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)
Contention (means argument, debate, controversy) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . contention . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)The worldwide undertakings on which the Cause of God is embarked are far too significant, the need of the peoples of the world for the Message of Bahá’u’lláh far too urgent, the perils facing mankind far too grave, the progress of events far too swift, to permit His followers to squander their time and efforts in fruitless contention. Now, if ever, is the time for love among the friends, for unity of understanding and endeavor, for self-sacrifice and service by Bahá’ís in every part of the world. (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)
Cruelty The domestic animals do not manifest hatred and cruelty toward each other; that is the attribute of the wild and ferocious beasts. In a flock of one thousand sheep you will witness no bloodshed. Numberless species of birds are peaceful in flocks. Wolves, lions, tigers are ferocious because it is their natural and necessary means for obtaining food. Man has no need of such ferocity; his food is provided in other ways. Therefore it is evident that warfare, cruelty and bloodshed in the kingdom of man are caused by human greed, hatred and selfishness. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 24)
Dispute Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)
Dissension (means opposition, rebellion, conflict) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)
Hatred I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 29)
Holding grudges . . . that if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Bahá’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)
Malice For malice is a grievous malady which depriveth man from recognizing the Great Being, and debarreth him from the splendors of the sun of certitude. We pray and hope that through the grace and mercy of God He may remove this mighty obstacle. He, verily, is the Potent, the All-Subduing, the Almighty. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 96)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Tyranny O ignorant one that hath been shut out as by a veil from God. Thou hast clung to tyranny, and cast away justice; whereupon all created things have lamented, and still thou art among the wayward . . . By God! The things thou possessest shall profit thee not, nor what thou hast laid up through thy cruelty. Unto this beareth witness thy Lord, the All-Knowing. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 102)

 

Have you read the story of the fence? It nicely illustrates what happens when we get angry. Unfortunately the author is unknown, so I can’t give credit:

There once was a little boy who had a bad temper. His father gave him a bag of nails and told him that every time he lost his temper, he must hammer a nail into the fence. The first day the boy had driven 37 nails into the fence. Over the next few weeks as he learned to control his anger, the number of nails hammered daily, gradually dwindled down. He discovered it was easier to hold his temper than to drive those nails into the fence.

Finally the day came when the boy didn’t lose his temper at all. He told his father about it and the father suggested that the boy now pull out one nail for each day that he was able to hold his temper. The days passed and the young boy was finally able to tell his father that all the nails were gone.

The father took his son by the hand and led him to the fence. He said “you have done well, my son, but look at the holes in the fence. The fence will never be the same. When you say things in anger, they leave a scar just like this one.” You can put a knife in a man and draw it out. It won’t matter how many times you say I’m sorry, the wound is still there. Make sure you control your temper the next time you are tempted to say something you will regret later.

Passion

Passion (means obsession, rage) We must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle or bar themselves from the path of God. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 512)

Ignorance

Ignorance Man must free himself from the weeds of ignorance, thorns of superstitions and thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible, contention and divergence of religious belief will always remain and mankind, like ferocious wolves will rage and attack each other in hatred and antagonism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)

Prejudice

Prejudice If we allow prejudice of any kind to manifest itself in us, we shall be guilty before God of causing a setback to the progress and real growth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It is incumbent upon every believer to endeavour with a fierce determination to eliminate this defect from his thoughts and acts. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 529)

Greed

Greed Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?   (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)
Avarice (Greed) He should be content with little and free from avarice (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)
Gluttony In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation; if the meal be only one course this is more pleasing in the sight of God; however, according to their means, they should seek to have this single dish be of good quality. (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)

Envy

Envy Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity.(Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 6)

Covetousness

Covetousness Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 50)
Love of luxury and comfort All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite. How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
Materialism You see all round you proofs of the inadequacy of material things — how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)

Jeal­ousy

Jealousy Jealousy consumeth the body . . . avoid [it] as you would a lion. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)

Suspicion

Suspicion Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)

Trying to break free from any of these is a bit like herding kittens! No sooner do we try to escape from one we unconsciously fall into the hands of another. Whenever we attempt to soar upward, the density of the love of self, like gravity, draws us back to the centre of the earth:

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. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 241)

So how do we break free?

The only power capable of delivering us from this captivity is the power of the Holy Spirit.

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)

How do we access this power?

In the following quote ‘Abdu’l-Baha gives us some clues.

  • Ask God to expose you to its fragrance, move you by its breeze, enkindle you by its coals of fire and illuminate you by its brightness.
  • Turn wholly to it so you will be enabled to ascertain its influence and power, the strength of its life and the greatness of its confirmation.
  • Prepare yourself by making your heart empty and your eyes ready to look only toward the Kingdom of God.

He promises if we do these things, the radiance of that widespread effulgence will descend upon you in succession, and the motion rendered by the Holy Spirit will make you dispense with any other strong evidence that leads to the appearance of this Light.

I ask God to expose thee to its fragrance, move thee by its breeze, enkindle thee by its coals of fire and illuminate thee by its brightness. Turn thyself wholly to it — thus thou shalt be enabled to ascertain its influence and power, the strength of its life and the greatness of its confirmation. Verily, I say unto thee, that if for the appearance of that Divine Essence thou desirest to have a definite proof, an indisputable testimony and a strong, convincing evidence, thou must prepare thyself to make thy heart empty and thine eye ready to look only toward the Kingdom of God. Then, at that time, the radiance of that widespread effulgence will descend upon thee successively, and that motion rendered thee by the Holy Spirit will make thee dispense with any other strong evidence that leadeth to the appearance of this Light, because the greatest and strongest proof for showing the abundance of the Spirit to the bodies is the very appearance of its power and influence in those bodies. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 368-370)

What’s been your experience with any of these?  What’s helped you break free?  Post your comments below!

Newsletter – on Anger

Welcome to the Month of Sovereignty 171!

Stack of my books

 Here’s a shameless bit of self-promotion!

 It sure feels good to see my name on 17 books!

 They aren’t available for sale just yet. These books have gone to George Ronald:

  • The Bahá’í Marriage Manual
  • Overcoming Anxiety and Depression
  • The Courage to be Chaste in a Sexual World

I’ve just received the results of the Literature Review for the others; and still need to make some changes, but I’ll keep you posted! In the meantime, the eBook version of each of them is still available as a free download from my site!

In this issue

 Anger and a Prayer, One Day at a Time

25 Ways to Let Go of Anger and Bitterness

Dealing with Anger in Marriage

Anger to Wildness

Anger Burns the Liver 

Showing Kindness to a Liar, Traitor or Thief 

Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

When Marriage Becomes Abusive 

Married to Dr. Jekyll 

Visiting Hours

Featured Story:

Why do we Shout in Anger?

By Pablo Coelho 

A master asked his disciples:

‘Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?’

The disciples thought for a while, and one of them said:

‘Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.’

But, why to shout when the other person is just next to you? ‘Isn’t it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you’re angry?’

The disciples gave him some other answers but none satisfied the master.

Finally he explained:

‘When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.’

Then the master asked:

‘What happens when two people fall in love? They don’t shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close. The distance between them is very small…’

And he concluded:

‘When they love each other even more, what happens?

‘They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love.

‘Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that’s all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.’

 

Featured Prayer:

Prayer to Detach from Anger

 O God, my God! Have mercy then upon my helpless state, my poverty, my misery, my abasement! Give me to drink from the generous cup of Thy grace and forgiveness, stir me with the sweet scents of Thy love, gladden my bosom with the light of Thy knowledge, purify my soul with the mysteries of Thy oneness, raise me to life with the gentle breeze that cometh from the gardens of Thy mercy—till I sever myself from all else but Thee, and lay hold of the hem of Thy garment of grandeur, and consign to oblivion all that is not Thee, and be companioned by the sweet breathings that waft during these Thy days, and attain unto faithfulness at Thy Threshold of Holiness, and arise to serve Thy Cause, and to be humble before Thy loved ones,   and, in the presence of Thy favoured ones, to be nothingness itself. Verily art Thou the Helper, the Sustainer, the Exalted, the Most Generous. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 4-5)

Featured Book:

 

 

 

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Featured Video:

 

When you’re angry, what better way to calm your mood than with the Fire Tablet? In it, you will see how Bahá’u’lláh too was angry at a lot of injustices he had to endure.

This month’s music selection is a partnership between Canadian singer-songwriters Karim Rushdy (the voice) and Arlen Yanch (the music)

 

 

 

 

Let Bahá’u’lláh’s conversation with God wash over and heal your anger and pain!

Arlen Yanch:

To listen to more of his music 

To follow him on Facebook

To find him on Twitter 

To find him on Linkedin 

To read more about him from his home-town newspaper! Spruce Grove Native Arlen Yanch Celebrates Diversity Through Music 

Karim Rushdy

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To listen to his music on YouTube

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Featured Coach:

 

Phillipe Copeland

Phillipe Copeland is a social worker and clinical assistant professor in the social work and theology program at Boston University’s School of Social Work. His interests include social justice and the impact of mass-incarceration on mental health. He provides clinical consultation to Public Defense Attorneys in developing approaches to legal defense of indigent clients; and provides individual and family therapy for children, youth and adults.   His passion is in supporting the most vulnerable in their efforts to recover from mental illness and addiction.

For 7 years, Phillipe was the author of the blog, “Baha’i Thought” which offered commentary on issues of religion, society, and culture based on the teachings of the Baha’i Faith; and is currently a contributing scholar to “State of Formation”, a multi-author blog founded by the Journal for Interreligious Dialogue.

Home Page 

Journal of Inter-Religious Studies Blog 

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Featured Business:

With Ayyam-i-Ha fast approaching, you might want to consider buying some prayer beads for friends, family, children and even to treat yourself!

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They also offer inexpensive prayer bead kits  and free download instructions for “How To Make Prayer Beads”.

One of their favorite is their Come Pray With Me line, made for children. These prayer beads are intended to aid parents in sharing the bounty of prayer with their children. Children love Bahai prayer beads, and eagerly adopt their use.

Our Readers Write:

Thanks for this compilation of articles Susan (Sandra Briand)

Thank you. I especially liked the smoking story by Colby Ives. So many articles to read … (Lynn Wright)

As a retired drinker, I pray for the day when, as you stated in the article on the future of alcohol, that it goes the way of the cigarette. (John DesLauriers)

You are doing amazing work and making an enormous contribution to society. All of this material is available for every one but you make so conveniently accessible. May you be strengthened to keep up your wonderful service. (Lena Scallion)

Marvelous as always. Thank you, Susan. This is a difficult subject, and the material and perspectives you have provided will be of much assistance to my Junior Youth group. We are currently discussing the last few lessons of “Glimmerings of Hope”, and this material will add much depth to our understanding of it. (Marzia Dalal)

I replied:

Thanks to all of you for the encouragement! That (and prayer) is what keeps me going!

 

I Want Patience and I Want it NOW!

 

I have a Bahá’í friend who has suffered with a normally terminal illness for over 20 years, which has left her unable to use her arms.  Yet despite such incredible disabilities, she’s still living on her own, in her own apartment and writing books on the Faith by using the trunk of her body to force her fingers onto the keyboard, one keystroke at a time.  She requires home care aides to come in and do everything for her, from getting her up and dressing her; cooking and feeding her; taking care of her personal hygiene and putting her to bed at night.  In spite of such obvious hardships, she always seems positive and upbeat, saying only that we must really need patience more than anything else in the next world, since we are tested with it so often in this world!

That comment stayed with me, and I wanted to see what the Bahá’í Writings had to say about patience.  Have a look with me!

What is Patience?

It’s a sign of our love for God:

The sign of love is fortitude under My decree and patience under My trials.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words 48)

It’s one of the most important virtues which God has bestowed on man:

Bahá’u’lláh throws light upon patience, one of the most important virtues which God has bestowed on man.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 1, p. 271)

It is the course that is praiseworthy:

Bahá’u’lláh defines “the course that is praiseworthy” as “the exercise of patience”.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 210)

Who Are We Patient With?

There are 3 people we need to have patience with:

God

When we recite the prayer for the departed, at the end, we remind ourselves, 19 times:

We all, verily, are patient in God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i Prayers, p. 40)

Others

We must show patience to those who demonstrate immaturity:

Understanding . . . that the believers are encouraged to be loving and patient with one another, it will be clear that you too are called upon to exercise patience with the friends who demonstrate immaturity, and to have faith that the power of the Word of God will gradually effect a transformation in individual believers and in the Bahá’í community as a whole.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

We must endure people even when they are unendurable:

Stanwood Cobb wrote that on one occasion He spoke of the need for loving patience in the face of aggravating behavior on the part of others: ‘One might say, “Well, I will endure such and such a person so long as he is endurable.” But Bahá’ís must endure people even when they are unendurable!’ Stanwood Cobb pointed out that ‘He did not look at us solemnly as if appointing us to an arduous and difficult task. Rather, He beamed upon us delightfully, as if to suggest what a joy to us it would be to act in this way!’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

Ourselves

We must be patient with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair:

We must not only be patient with others, infinitely patient!, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair!  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Bahá’í Community, p. 456)

We also need the patience of other people!

All of us suffer from imperfections which we must struggle to overcome, and we all need one another’s understanding and patience.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – The Bahá’í Faith and Homosexuality)

What Are We Patient About?

We’re patient in our work for the Faith:

The work of the friends therefore, interesting and useful as it may be, is hard and most exacting to one’s patience and energy.  (Shoghi Effendi, Arohanui – Letters to New Zealand, p. 11)

We’re patient with the consciousness of self:

You have asked as to what point in man’s evolution he becomes conscious of self. This consciousness of self in man is a gradual process, and does not start at a definite point. It grows in him in this world and continues to do so in the future spiritual world.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)

We’re patient with the transition to full equality between women and men:

The transition to full equality between women and men is an evolutionary process requiring education and patience with oneself and others, as well as an unswerving determination.  (Bahá’í International Community, 1993 Mar 15, Women Peace Process)

We’re patient with different degrees of motion:

There are different degrees of motion. There is a motion of transit, that is from place to place. For example, the revolution of the earth around the sun; a bird flies from branch to branch. Another kind is the motion of inherent growth, like that of man from the condition of childhood to the estate of manhood, or the development of a tree from the seedling to its full fruition. The third is the motion of condition – the sick man passes from the stage of sickness to the state of health. The fourth motion is that of the spirit. For instance, the child while in the mother’s womb has all the potential qualities of the spirit, but those qualities begin to unfold little by little as the child is born and grows and develops, finally manifesting all the attributes and qualities of the spirit. The fifth is the motion of the intellect whereby the ignorant become wise; the indifferent, alert; the dark, illuminated and the carnally-minded, spiritual.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 124-125)

We’re patient with our Assemblies in setting a date for a year of patience; and then patient during that year, in our efforts to reconcile and overcome our aversion, before we can divorce:

The setting of the date of the beginning of the year of patience is not automatic. The Assembly must first determine whether grounds for a Bahá’í divorce exist and should make every effort to reconcile the parties. If the aversion existing between the parties is found to be irreconcilable then the Assembly may set the date for the beginning of the year of waiting.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 395)

What Robs Us of Patience?

Our DNA!  When we inherit the weakness and debility of our parents:

For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted, and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 319)

Atmospheric vibrations, where the movement of the air becomes the cause of transporting us from one state to another, and entirely overpowering us:

Therefore, see the connection which exists between the spirit of man and the atmospheric vibration, so that the movement of the air becomes the cause of transporting him from one state to another, and of entirely overpowering him; it will deprive him of patience and tranquillity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 246)

That certainly explains a lot for me!  How about you?  🙂

When is Patience Needed the Most?

During every hardship:

Manifest magnificent patience during every calamity and hardship.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 374)

During the calamities which cause our eyes to flow with tears and greatly afflicted us:

Thou oughtest to bear it with becoming patience. Again, thou oughtest to patiently bear this calamity which hath flowed thine eyes with tears and hath greatly afflicted thee.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 139)

In the moment of catastrophe:

In the moment of catastrophe, find ye patience, resignation and submission.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

When are we NOT to be patient?

In teaching:

The doors of the Kingdom of God are open, the Call of the Lord of the Kingdom is raised, the Bestowals of the Almighty are endless and the effulgence of the Sun of Reality has illumined the East and the West. In such a time patience and tranquility are not allowable. Thou must engage with infinite joy and happiness in the mention of the Forgiving Lord.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Japan Will Turn Ablaze, p. 12)

What Are the Benefits of Being Patient?

Victory from the unseen Kingdom will be vouchsafed to us:

The prime requisites for them that take counsel together are purity of motive, radiance of spirit, detachment from all else save God, attraction to His Divine Fragrances, humility and lowliness amongst His loved ones, patience and long-suffering in difficulties and servitude to His exalted Threshold. Should they be graciously aided to acquire these attributes, victory from the unseen Kingdom of Bahá shall be vouchsafed to them.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 87)

Why Do We Need Patience?

Without patience, we will reach nowhere and attain no goal:

The steed of this Valley [Search] is patience; without patience the wayfarer on this journey will reach nowhere and attain no goal. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 3)

It’s impossible for a seed to grow, blossom and bear fruit in a short time:

Know, verily, that the seed, however virile it may be, however strong the hand of the sower, however pure the water that watereth it, it is impossible for it to grow, blossom and bear fruit in a short time; nay, a long period is needed for its development. So it is the Kingdom of God. Consider the seed which was sown by Christ; verily, it did not blossom until after a long period. Thus it is incumbent upon thee to be patient in all affairs. Verily thy Lord is powerful, forgiving, precious and persevering! Depend upon the favor of thy Lord. He shall bless thee and protect thee under the shadow of His generosity and mercy.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 312-313)

As with everything in the Bahá’í Faith, there seems to be a need to learn through contrasts, and this is no exception.  Here it seems that we need calamity in order to develop patience:

Were it not for calamity, how would the sun of Thy patience shine, O Light of the worlds? Lament not because of the wicked. Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire Tablet, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 217)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá asks us to “be patient, be as I am”:

Florence Khanum relates two sayings she heard from ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. On one occasion He said to her ‘”Sabr kun; mithl-i-Man bash” – be patient, be as I am. The other was when some one expressed discouragement to Him, saying they could not possibly aquire all the qualities and virtues that Bahá’ís are directed to possess, and the Master replied, “Kam Kam. Ruz bih ruz” – little by little; day by day.’  (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)

With patience, we will succeed, for God is with us:

Only have faith, patience and courage—this is but the beginning, but surely you will succeed, for God is with you!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 101)

With patience, we will have progress:

The greatest requirement for this progress is patience. Patience is the thing which is described in the Qur‘án as having rewards unlimited…please have patience, God will work through you, even if it is not in your lifetime—the lifetime of generations after you. All services will be rewarded. Be sure!  (Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Faizi at the closing session of the World Congress, May 2, 1963, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 108)

With patience, trials and ordeals won’t deflect us from the path of God:

We beseech Him to graciously enable them to show forth patience and fortitude that haply trials and ordeals might not deflect them from the path of God, the Almighty, the All-Knowing.  (Shoghi Effendi, Fire and Light, p. 33)

With patience, we’ll achieve victories which are rarely accomplished at a single stroke:

Victories are won usually through a great deal of patience, planning and perseverance, and rarely accomplished at a single stroke.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 598)

With patience, understanding and forbearance for other people’s shortcomings, we will assure the progress of the whole Bahá’í community at large:

The greater the patience, the loving understanding and the forbearance the believers show towards each other and their shortcomings, the greater will be the progress of the whole Bahá’í community at large.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 9)

With patience towards each other, we will attract large numbers to our ranks:

Too great emphasis cannot be laid on the importance of the unity of the friends, for only by manifesting the greatness of their love for and patience with each other can they hope to attract large numbers to their ranks.  (Shoghi Effendi, Promoting Entry by Troops, p. 3)

With patience, we will create a spiritual atmosphere conducive to learning:

They [tutors] need to combine the qualities of love, humility, and patience, with the dedication, perseverance, and commitment required to create a spiritual atmosphere conducive to learning.  (International Teaching Centre, 2000 Feb, Training Institutes and Systematic Growth, p. 9)

With patience we will attain our desire:

O my dear …, endure and be patient, and by patience thou wilt attain thy desire.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 456)

With patience, we will attain spiritual states which will last forever and ever:

I beg of God to pour on thee becoming patience, so that thy heart may be consoled with the fragrance of His mercy and that thy breast may be dilated with His favors, that thou mayest attain to the spiritual states which are lasting forever and ever. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 139)

With flexibility and patience, we are able to learn:

Flexibility and patience are encouraged, as essential prerequisites of the learning process.  (ITC, 2003 Apr 23, Building Momentum, p. 17)

With patience, we become the exponents of justice:

Such hath been the patience, the calm, the resignation and contentment of this people that they have become the exponents of justice, and so great hath been their forbearance, that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, and this notwithstanding that these whom the world hath wronged have endured tribulations the like of which the history of the world hath never recorded, nor the eyes of any nation witnessed. What is it that could have induced them to reconcile themselves to these grievous trials, and to refuse to put forth a hand to repel them? What could have caused such resignation and serenity? The true cause is to be found in the ban which the Pen of Glory hath, day and night, chosen to impose, and in Our assumption of the reins of authority, through the power and might of Him Who is the Lord of all mankind.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 74-75)

What are the rewards of patience in the next world?

First of all, it’s important to know that God is aware of our frailties and our impatience in our sufferings:

I recognize that Thou hast afflicted them for no other purpose except to proclaim Thy Cause, and to enable them to ascend into the heaven of Thine eternity and the precincts of Thy court, yet Thou knowest full well the frailty of some of them, and art aware of their impatience in their sufferings.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Prayers and Meditations by Bahá’u’lláh, p. 157)

Therefore, He loves those who show forth patience:

God, verily, loveth those women and men who show forth patience.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 43)

His recompense is limitless for those who show forth patience and long-suffering:

And He reminds them that, whereas God rewards every good deed in accordance with its merit, in the case of patience and long-suffering, as attested in the Qur‘án, the recompense is limitless.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 1, p. 271)

He rewards beyond measure those who endure with patience:

He, verily, rewardeth beyond measure them that endure with patience.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 71)

He increases the reward of those who endure tribulations with patience:

Rejoice not in what ye have done, or will do in the future … for ye are unable by such means as these to exalt your stations, were ye to examine your works with acute discernment … Nay, God will add unto the recompense with which He shall reward Us, for having sustained with persevering patience the tribulations We have suffered. He, verily, shall increase the reward of them that endure with patience.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 128)

His choicest gifts are the reward for those who endure with patience:

Say, this earthly life shall come to an end, and everyone shall expire and return unto my Lord God Who will reward with the choicest gifts the deeds of those who endure with patience.  (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 161)

He extols the station of those who endure their hardships and calamities with patience and resignation:

He extols the station of those believers who endured hardships and calamities with patience and resignation. Through their fortitude and constancy, their forbearance and long-suffering, these souls attained to such a lofty position that the Concourse on high seek their companionship and long for their blessings.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 1, p. 271)

We will become everlasting in the Kingdom of God:

Be thou a mountain of quiescence, a sign of meekness, a sea of patience, a light of love, a standard of utter separation (from all else save God), so that thou mayest become everlasting in the Kingdom of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 291)

Are some people rewarded more than others for patience?

A poor man who is patient and forbearing is better than a rich man who is thankful:

In the course of one of His talks to His companions ‘Abdu’l-Bahá states that a poor man who is patient and forbearing is better than a rich man who is thankful. However, a poor man who is thankful is more praiseworthy than the one who is patient, while more meritorious than all is the rich man who expends his wealth for others.  (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 281)

Great is the blessedness awaiting the poor that endure patiently and conceal their suffering:

Great is the honor destined by God for those poor who are steadfast in patience. By My life! There is no honor, except what God may please to bestow, that can compare to this honor. Great is the blessedness awaiting the poor that endure patiently and conceal their sufferings. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 202)

How Do We Get Patience?

By putting our reliance in God:

It behooveth whosoever hath set his face towards the Most Sublime Horizon to cleave tenaciously unto the cord of patience, and to put his reliance in God, the Help in Peril, the Unconstrained.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 98)

Through the love of God:

It was the Love of God that led Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, that strengthened Joseph in Egypt and gave to Moses courage and patience.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 82)

By seeking patience only in God and no one or nowhere else:

Verily I seek patience only in God, and Him do I regard as the goal of My desire. This signifieth that I have the undoubted Truth on My side.  (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 20)

Through prayers and supplications:

Prayers and supplications should be offered at the sacred Threshold, so that thou mayest remain firm in tests, and patient in ordeals.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)

With perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God:

When calamity striketh, be ye patient and composed. However afflictive your sufferings may be, stay ye undisturbed, and with perfect confidence in the abounding grace of God, brave ye the tempest of tribulations and fiery ordeals.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 73)

Through knowledge:

Knowledge is the most grievous veil between man and his Creator. The former bringeth forth the fruit of patience, of longing desire, of true understanding, and love; whilst the latter can yield naught but arrogance, vainglory and conceit.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Iqan, p. 69)

Little by little; day by day

One would well remember the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, who when approached by a believer in the depths of discouragement despairing of ever acquiring the qualities and virtues that Bahá’ís are required to possess, replied with the greatest compassion and encouragement, “little by little; day by day” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World 12: 704)

How do we Show Patience?

In the following quote, Bahá’u’lláh gives us a lot of ideas, which include:

  • put his trust in God
  • renounce the peoples of the earth
  • detach ourselves from the world of dust
  • cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords
  • never seek to exalt himself above any one
  • wash away every trace of pride and vain-glory from our hearts
  • cling to resignation
  • observe silence
  • refrain from idle talk

That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 264-265)

Seek patience only in God:

I seek patience only in God. Verily He is the best protector and the best helper. No refuge do I seek save God.  (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 20)

Have faith that the power of the Word of God will gradually effect a transformation in individual believers and in the Bahá’í community as a whole:

Understanding . . . that the believers are encouraged to be loving and patient with one another, it will be clear that you too are called upon to exercise patience with the friends who demonstrate immaturity, and to have faith that the power of the Word of God will gradually effect a transformation in individual believers and in the Bahá’í community as a whole.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

Adorn ourselves with resignation and steadfastness, never being dismayed or disheartened by adversity:

Bahá’u’lláh urges the people of the Bayan to do likewise, counselling them to adorn their beings with the mantle of resignation, to be steadfast in the Cause of God, and never to be dismayed or disheartened by adversity. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 1, p. 271)

Understand that change is an evolutionary process requiring patience with one’s self and others, loving education and the passage of time:

Change is an evolutionary process requiring patience with one’s self and others, loving education and the passage of time as the believers deepen their knowledge of the principles of the Faith, gradually discard long-held traditional attitudes and progressively conform their lives to the unifying teachings of the Cause.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 620)

Conduct ourselves with the utmost submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if another person did not know anything about our troubles, he would think that we were in the perfect ease of soul, happy and tranquil:

However, relying upon God, we conducted ourselves with the utmost patience and submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if one did not know anything about these matters, he would have thought that we were in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

Follow the patient example of the Master

Concerning the attitude of some Bahá’ís, who seem at times to be insensitive and unsupportive, all we can do is to try to follow the patient example of the Master, bearing in mind that each believer is but one of the servants of the Almighty who must strive to learn and grow. The absence of spiritual qualities, like darkness, has no existence in itself. As the light of spirituality penetrates deep into the hearts, this darkness gradually dissipates and is replaced by virtue. (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

How Long Do We Have to Be Patient?

It’s always according to God’s timetable, knowing there is no past, present or future in His world:

The past, the present, the future, all, in relation to God, are equal. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 116)

We must be patient until God discloses our fate to us:

She should abide in patience until such time as God shall please to disclose to her his fate. By the course that is praiseworthy in this connection is meant the exercise of patience.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 106)

We’re to be patient until relief is forthcoming from God:

Ours is the duty to remain patient in these circumstances until relief be forthcoming from God, the Forgiving, the Bountiful.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 177)

For twenty-four years ‘Abdu’l-Bahá showered kindness on one of his enemies before he finally asked for forgiveness:

Hear how he treats his enemies. One instance of many I have heard will suffice. When the Master came to ‘Akká there lived there a certain man from Afghanistan [Haji Siddiq], an austere and rigid Mussulman [Muslim]. To him the Master was a heretic. He felt and nourished a great enmity towards the Master, and roused up others against him. When opportunity offered in gatherings of the people, as in the Mosque, he denounced him with bitter words. ‘This man,’ he said to all, ‘is an imposter. Why do you speak to him? Why do you have dealings with him?’ And when he passed the Master on the street he was careful to hold his robe before his face that his sight might not be defiled. Thus did the Afghan. The Master, however, did thus: The Afghan was poor and lived in a mosque; he was frequently in need of food and clothing. The Master sent him both. These he accepted, but without thanks. He fell sick. The Master took him a physician, food, medicine, money. These, also, he accepted; but as he held out one hand that the physician might take his pulse, with the other he held his cloak before his face that he might not look upon the Master. For twenty-four years the Master continued his kindnesses and the Afghan persisted in his enmity. Then at last one day the Afghan came to the Master’s door, and fell down, penitent and weeping, at his feet. ‘Forgive me, sir!’ he cried. ‘For twenty-four years I have done evil to you, for twenty-four years you have done good to me. Now I know that I have been in the wrong.’ The Master bade him rise, and they became friends.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Centre of the Covenant, p. 101)

Results might take eighty or nighty years’ work and suffering:

The results of the sacrifices of all these people are manifested now. Therefore, those who have been for five or ten years in some place should never complain. These results are of eighty years’ work—yes, ninety years, and suffering. Work day and night in such time and the harvest will be ready. Bahá’u’lláh has definitely said clearly to the friends: ‘Your function is to sow the seeds. God will either let them grow or will bury them.’ It is yours to stand at your post and sow the seed. The greatest requirement for this progress is patience. Patience is the thing which is described in the Qur‘án as having rewards unlimited…please have patience.  (Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Faizi at the closing session of the World Congress, May 2, 1963, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 108)

It might take a thousand three hundred and five and thirty days:

Blessed is he that waiteth, and cometh to the thousand three hundred and five and thirty days.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 43)

We might not even see the results in our lifetime or even the lifetimes of generations after us:

God will work through you, even if it is not in your lifetime—the lifetime of generations after you. All services will be rewarded. Be sure!  (Hand of the Cause of God Mr. Faizi at the closing session of the World Congress, May 2, 1963, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 108)

It might even take as long asa hundred thousand years!

If he strive for a hundred thousand years and yet fail to behold the beauty of the Friend, he should not falter. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Seven Valleys, p. 3)

I love this story, told to us by the Counsellor (Dan Scott) at a recent gathering:

The Process of Cluster Growth and the Moral of the Chinese Bamboo Tree

If you plant a seed from the Chinese Bamboo tree, be prepared for a long wait.  The patient gardener will have to water and fertilize the invisible seed for no less than four years before the first shoots begin to appear. In those four years of silent growth, the “lucky Bamboo, ” as the Chinese call it, is sending out taproots, the root system that spreads out horizontally and downward into the soil. Throughout all those four years, nothing significant is visible at ground-level.

But then during the fifth year, something wonderful happens.   The Chinese Bamboo sprouts and grows an incredible 90 feet in six weeks! (Some species will grow 100 cm or 39 inches per day!)

A rich variety of moral and spiritual lessons lie hidden in applying the lessons of the Chinese Bamboo to the institute process and cluster growth.

In his talk, Counsellor Dan Scott referred to Shoghi Effendi’s phrase that the building of [our personal lives] and of the Faith appears to be “slow and unobtrusive”:

It is this building process, slow and unobtrusive, to which the life of the world-wide Bahá’í Community is wholly consecrated, that constitutes the one hope of a stricken society. For this process is actuated by the generating influence of God’s changeless Purpose, and is evolving within the framework of the Administrative Order of His Faith.  (Bahá’u’lláh, World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 194)

As unobtrusive as it may seem to be, things are going on behind the scenes which we have no awareness of, and we have to trust are happening.

Seldom do we live long enough to see the benefits of our efforts to be patient, but here’s a story of a woman who did, which moves me to tears every time I read it!

A young Bahá ‘i lady pioneered to Bolivia in the 1930 s to open it to the Faith. Having no success in teaching anyone, she began to write to the Guardian expressing feelings of failure. With each passing month she wrote and he replied encouraging her to stay, to remain steadfast, to have faith and to pray. So obediently she continued on. Every day she went to the centre of a small town and in one of the regions found a spot by a fountain and tearfully prayed for the progress of the Faith.

After two years the beloved Guardian consented to her wish to return home. The story of this young lady was lost and unknown to the friends in Bolivia. Years later when they experienced entry by troops they organised regional teaching conferences. At the end of one of them they decided to take a group photograph. They found a sunny spot big enough for 1,200 friends to gather. Mr Vojdani took a copy of this photo everywhere to show to the friends on his travels.

Years later, friends from many countries had gathered in Paris for a huge anniversary celebration and Mr Vojdani attended as part of a delegation from the Americas. In the crowd a very old lady using two walking sticks hobbled over to them and asked if there was anyone from Bolivia. He said yes. She asked if there were many Bahá ’s there, again he said yes, then she asked if he had any photographs from Bolivia. He showed her the one of the teaching conference group photo. She took it and looked at it for a few moments and then fainted.

Later in hospital, when she came round, the shocked friends asked her what had happened. In a frail voice she told her story that she had been sent to Bolivia by the Guardian and every day for two years she had sat down in the exact spot where the photograph had been taken to pray and beseech Bahá‘u’llah to open the doors of His Faith to the people of Bolivia. Seeing the photograph she realised then, years later, that her prayers had been answered. Three days later she died.

We’re never alone in our struggle!  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is praying that we will attain the utmost patience, composure and resignation:

I hope that you will attain to the utmost patience, composure and resignation, and I supplicate and entreat at the Threshold of Oneness and beg pardon and forgiveness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 379)

How has this helped you with your impatience?  Post your comments below: