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Unless the season of winter appear, thunder roll, lightning flash, snow and rain fall, hail and frost descend and the intensity of cold execute its command, the season of the soul-refreshing spring would not come, the fragrant breeze would not waft, the moderation of temperature would not be realized, the roses and hyacinths would not grow, the surface of the earth would not become a delectable paradise, the trees would not bloom, neither would they bring forth fruits and leaves. That fierce inclemency of cold, snow, frost and tempest was the beginning of the manifestation of these roses, hyacinths, buds, blossoms and fruits.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 655)

When I was married, I did a lot of growing, educationally, professionally and spiritually but my husband stayed stuck.  He was happy to support me in my endeavors and I was grateful.  I wanted more of an equal partner, though.  Our marriage predictably fell into trouble and I went to 12 marriage counsellors trying to find a way to save it and then all said “there’s no hope.  You have to divorce.”  I knew at the time, that there was one thing I needed to know, which would let me hang in, but I wasn’t able to find it, and the marriage ended.

Many years later, I found the idea of the need for the four seasons.  Many of us marry in spring, where everything is green and fresh and there’s growth everywhere.  When the honeymoon is over, we settle into summer, where everything is warm and cozy.  Then the autumn comes, and change starts to set in.  Leaves begin to change colours.  Instead of being the green we love, I may be yellow and he may be red and I don’t recognize him anymore.  Then winter sets in and everything is cold and dead.  I think most divorces happen in winter, when we forget that winter is always followed by spring.  That’s why I love this quote so much.  It reminds me of the importance of winter.  If I’d understood these things when I was still married, it would have helped me hold on.

Remembering the importance of winter in our lives, I can hold on during times of tests, and I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

Help Keep This Site Alive

 

 

Newsletter – on Divorce

 In this issue – Divorce

Compilation on Divorce

Considering Divorce?  Read this First 

Divorce  

Divorce  

Divorce Quotes from Lights of Guidance

Divorce Resistance

Finding Love Again

How do I know when it’s time to Divorce?

Life After Divorce

Featured Story:

Would You Rather Be A Flower Or A Ray Of Sunshine?

I was asked to say a few words to the dear South African believers who are here today. I thought I could tell you about a tablet, a very short tablet, revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. The contents of this Tablet are as follows: the Master says the relationships of the believers to the Cause of God are of two kinds. One kind is like the relationship of the flower to the garden. The other relationship is that of the ray of the sun to the sun. “I hope”, Master says, “that your relationship will be of the second kind”. And that is the end of the Tablet!

Now, I have been thinking about this Tablet, and I have been wondering why ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says that he prefers the second kind to the first kind. There is nothing wrong in being a flower in the garden of Bahá’u’lláh. In fact, we have prayers, “O God, make me a flower in Thy garden”. Why is it that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá prefers the other type, which is the ray of the sun?

The sun is the Cause of God, and the ray emanates from it. So I am offering my views, my humble views, about this beautiful, simple tablet of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá.

I thought like this, I said, OK, we have a flower in a garden, the flower says, “I like this garden”, in other words, we say, we like the Cause. “I like this garden, I grow in this garden, I am proud of my garden, I am named after this garden”.  (I am a Bahá’í) OK, this is all good.

We take the ray of the sun. The ray says exactly all these things, he says, “I am from the sun, I am proud of the sun, I depend everything, all my life on the sun,” etc, etc, exactly the same thing.

But, if you bring one ray and you bring a second ray, what happens? The two rays become one. But if you bring one flower and you bring another flower, they remain two flowers. If on an Assembly or a Bahá’í committee, you bring nine rays and bring them together, they become one strong united ray. But if you bring nine flowers and bring them together, they are a beautiful bouquet, a beautiful flower arrangement, but they are nine different flowers.

If we credit the flower with some thinking, some intelligence and some ego, the flower will say, “Really, I don’t want to say, but I think I‘m better than the others. I think I‘m more beautiful, I think I have a more beautiful scent. I don’t want to talk about it, but… never mind…” This is what the flower will do. Why, because of the ego. The ego is inside. And believe me, this animal ego is in all of us. If we have 20 people in this room, there are 20 egos, no exception. And this ego will be with us till the very last breath. When we go to the next world, we separate, we say goodbye. But until that day, it is with us, it suggests things to us, it deviates us from the right path, because that is the animal in us, it wants everything for itself.

OK, let’s go to the ray now. The ray says, “I have no name, it doesn’t matter. I don’t have colour, it doesn’t matter. I am from the sun. My job is to be faithful and to carry the light of the sun, the heat of the sun. That is my duty. And I am doing it.” It is so pure that if you take a chair, and you go outside where there is the sun, you say, “I am sitting in the sun.” Ha! You are not sitting in the sun. The sun is up there! But the ray is so faithful, so pure, that it carries all the qualities of the sun, in a pure way, so much so that you say I am sitting in the sun.

Now, another difference is that the flower is on the receiving end.” Soil, give me good soil, water, give me good water, light and sun, I want more light.” It’s all the time receiving. “Give me.”

What does the ray do? It doesn’t want anything, the ray gives, it helps the flowers to grow. Big difference between the two!!

So, that is why I think ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says, “It’s good to be a flower in the garden, but better still is to be a ray of the sun. This is my first choice for you, this is what I prefer you to be. To be a ray from the sun, so that you give to others, you are a way of helping others. You are not thinking of yourself. You are thinking of others, to assist others all the time, to give the light, to give the heat, the warmth.  (Ali Nakhjavani, Pilgrim’s Notes)

Featured Prayer:

Prayer for Unity

 Bring them together again, O Lord, by the Power of Thy Covenant, and gather their dispersion by the Might of Thy Promise, and unite their hearts by the dominion of Thy Love! Cause them to love one another so as to sacrifice their spirits, expend their money and give up their desires for each other’s sake! O Lord, make to descend upon them quietness and tranquillity! Shower upon them the clouds of Thy Mercy in full abundance, and make them to characterize themselves with the characteristics of the spiritual! O Lord, hold us firm in Thy noble command, and bestow upon us Thy Gifts through Thy bounty, grace and beneficence! Verily, Thou art the Generous, the Merciful, and the Benevolent.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5 – Issue 15)

Featured Video:

 Zia Holte

This month, we look at the music of Zia Holte – a singer songwriter with a clear, versatile, vocal range.  To listen to her version of this love song called “I will Love You” by Fisher

Check out her original songs

Find her devotional music

To find her on YouTube

Featured Book:

 Letters From Your Angels

 If you had a direct connection to angels, what would you want, or even need them to say?

This month’s book selection, “Letters From Your Angels” by Zia Holte, is a collection of stunning, non-denominational images, carefully combined with heart-warming words of love, comfort and hope… Words we all need to hear from time to time, but especially during the many challenges life can confront us with.

Read it from beginning to end for a guided journey through the wisdom your angels want to share. Or open to any page to receive the message your angels want you to hear most, at this moment. This book is a gift of love and joy for yourself, loved ones, and anyone who needs an infusion of angelic light—no matter your background or faith.

Zia describes how this book came into being:

In February 2013 my step-father, Roger Harvey, the only Dad I had ever truly known, was murdered. As horrific as this was, the event was all the more traumatic for the fact that he was killed by my very ill brother. In the grief that ensued, I had to turn to my angels like never before… and I could feel them close, comforting me. While the pain and sadness was debilatating, I had a strong sense that somewhere in the mire there would be meaning. I had that hope and clung to it, looking for every gift, every tiny moment of joy, I could.  Somewhere along the way I was inspired to start writing a series of “letters”. As I drove up and down Vancouver Island for the funeral arrangements, court procedures and more… I found myself recording more and more letters on my iPhone’s voice memo app. That was the start of “Letters From Your Angels.”

To buy the book

Featured Business:

Reza Mostmand Calligraphy

Reza Mostmand is a Persian-Canadian whose calligraphy is an art of discipline and grace.   As you can see, his work is a mix of drawing/painting and writing, which allows him to  transcend cultural traditions and expectations about the interplay of words and images on the canvas. Many of his pieces are inspired by words from the Baha’i writings, which explore the mysteries of spiritual and material realms of existence.  In this digital age, everything he does, is still done by hand.

In the piece above, called ‘Valiant Horseman II’, the calligraphy and picture are based on this quote:

O ye servants of the Sacred Threshold! The triumphant hosts of the Celestial Concourse, arrayed and marshalled in the Realms above, stand ready and expectant to assist and assure victory to that valiant horseman who with confidence spurs on his charger into the arena of service. Well is it with that fearless warrior, who armed with the power of true Knowledge, hastens unto the field, disperses the armies of ignorance, and scatters the hosts of error, who holds aloft the Standard of Divine Guidance, and sounds the Clarion of Victory. By the righteousness of the Lord! He hath achieved a glorious triumph and obtained the true victory.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 264)

In an interview with Baha’i Blog,  he describes the process he uses:

Often I start with a verse that I like and resonates with me, and depending on the length of the verse I sketch different layout options on paper, and choose the best. Then I determine the steps that are required to create the piece. I usually start by making a light sketch of the design on the final paper and decide where the writings and the visual elements go, the size of the pen I should use and the colours that would suit best. Once the Verse is written and drawings are done, I erase the pencil marks, add colours if necessary and look at the piece from far away to see how well it balance and if it needs any more elements. When the work is done I spray a matte coating over the piece which protects the ink and the paper and makes the piece last longer, and then worry about a complementary matte and frame.

To see his home page

To scroll through his gallery

To read an article about him

To find him on Facebook

To find him on Linkedin

 

Thanks to all who write in!  Your encouragement really keeps me going!  

By the way, I accept donations!  If you like the materials in these newsletters and on my website, please consider making a donation. Your help and feedback is GREATLY appreciated, to defray the costs of making these available to you!!!  There’s a PayPal “Donate” Button at the bottom of every page on my website. Thank you!!!

See you next month!  Hope it’s a month filled with light! 

Hanging on During a Year of Patience

One day I got an email from a coaching client, which said:

I’m tired of trying to work out the problems in our marriage. My wife can look after the divorce papers that I will sign and she can write to the LSA and ask them to backdate the year of patience.

I replied:

Sorry XXX,

No can do!

Wanting to flee is a normal response, but as a Baha’i there are certain steps which must be followed.
The two of you can start the year of patience, but to initiate divorce proceedings now is totally against the purpose of the year of patience. The purpose of that time is to attempt to reconcile your difference.

During the year the couple have the responsibility of attempting to reconcile their differences. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 390)

It is always the hope that, during the year of patience, affection between the couple will recur and that divorce will not be necessary. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 394)

Attempts at reconciliation should continue during the year of waiting. Divorce, though permitted in the Bahá’í Faith, is abhorred and it is the hope that during the year of waiting the couple may become reconciled and divorce avoided. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 396)

I respect the fact that you’re both exhausted by the process, and yet, I know that both of your efforts towards unity have made the Concourse on High very happy.

You’ve only just started to look at the issues with more personal honesty and vulnerability, and there is still (and more) hope that with your honesty, things can be turned around.

The House of Justice gives us some tools to use during that time. It includes:

Your letter of … to the Universal House of Justice makes clear that you are seeking to re-establish your marriage through study of the Writings and through various modes of consultation and assistance. We are asked to convey its advice on this vital subject of reconciliation of partners in marriage in the context of understanding of yourself and your relationship to others. You are urged to persevere in your studies, in your prayers for resolution of your problems, and in your meditation which may provide guidance and confidence, inasmuch as the understanding of self and of relationships to others are contained in the Writings and in the example of the Master, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

Here in this quote, they talk about the necessity of using this time for understanding yourself and your relationship to others. You’re starting to do this, and I applaud your efforts. Nothing in your life will be more important than this.

Your wife is doing this too, by working with me, and on her career, and by hanging in with this process and being willing to learn more about the issues that plague you. You are both to be commended.

Now you can look towards the end of the quote, where it says that meditation on the Writings will provide guidance and confidence in learning more about yourself and your relationships to others. If you hang in with me, I will continue to point you in the direction of Writings that will help.

This quote talks about using this time to persevere in your studies. You are doing this by learning a new job, as is your wife by completing her studies.

This quote talks about praying for the resolution of your problems, which you have done, and will need to continue to do so, preferably together, for as long as it takes, remembering that God wants this marriage to continue, and He knows that by hanging in with the process He’s outlined, you will both grow spiritually.

We live in a world where we expect instant results but God doesn’t work that way. He often tests us to the very breaking point, to the last dregs of our endurance, before answering, so it may take you the whole year before you see results. Hang in with the process for the whole year! It’s a divinely ordained process, designed to work, so please, give it a chance.

Neither you nor your husband should hesitate to continue consulting professional marriage counsellors, individually and together if possible, and also to take advantage of the supportive counselling which can come from wise and mature friends. Non-Bahá’í counselling can be useful but it is usually necessary to temper it with Bahá’í insight. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

This quote talks about consulting professional marriage counsellors. I am not that! Is there one you’ve tried before that you could go back to?

It also talks about tempering it with Bahá’í insight, which is what I bring to the table, and am willing to continue to do so.

You ask how to deal with anger. The House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our Writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others; to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and to endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

This quote gives us an example of what the House was talking about earlier – in terms of meditation on the Writings to help you understand yourself and your relationships to others, and identifies the spiritual principles you need to apply every time you get angry:

  • overlook the shortcomings of others
  • forgive
  • conceal their misdeeds
  • not to expose their bad qualities
  • to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones
  • to endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful

This doesn’t happen by reading the quote, or by praying for it. It only happens every single time you are angry and choose to apply one of these principles. This could take a whole year to learn right there! And it can’t be learned if you don’t hang in with each other. We’re given the tests, to strengthen the virtues. Walking away from the marriage now, will stunt your growth in this area and a whole lot more.

We live in a culture which suggests we fall in love and live happily together ever after, but as you’ve found out, this isn’t the reality. In a Bahá’í marriage, we choose the partner to do our soul work with, so that we can live together through all the worlds of God, which means we grow together; and grow stronger together through tests.

You both still love each other, and you’re tired with the process. I get that!

You also have a real opportunity here to work through these issues, and be one of the couples who stay together. You have a real opportunity here to beat the divorce statistics. I hope you take it!

Such passages as the following extracts from letters written on behalf of the beloved Guardian will be helpful: There are qualities in everyone which we can appreciate and admire, and for which we can love them; and perhaps, if you determine to think only of these qualities which your husband possesses, this will help to improve the situation …. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

This applies equally to the qualities your wife possesses too . . .

When you learn to focus on the positive, to root out the positive, to see the positive even amidst the negative, this WILL improve the situation. The Guardian has said so, so please give it a try. Like any new skill, this will have to be used many times, over and over until it becomes a habit, and when it becomes a habit, you will be happier in all areas of your life too.

You should turn your thoughts away from the things which upset you, and constantly pray to Bahá’u’lláh to help you. Then you will find how that pure love, enkindled by God, which burns in the soul when we read and study the Teachings, will warm and heal, more than anything else. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

Here you’re being asked to turn your thoughts away from the things which upset you. This will be a real challenge for you, because you’ve been obsessing over the problems for so long you can’t see the changes your wife and daughter have made. Now that you know the reasons that led to some of the problems, you’ve got a real opportunity to focus on solutions, but you can only do it through conscious choice to use the tools for dealing with anger above, combined with this quote about turning away from the things that upset you.

You want the pure love that used to exist between you and your wife, and this Writing tells you that reading and studying the Teachings will warm and heal more than anything else. This is why I urge you both so strongly to continue to do this together.

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. (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454-455)

As this quote suggests, your job in the coming year is to perfect your own life and character, and to focus all your attention, will-power and energy on doing this.

My suggestion is that you make this a promise to your wife, and give her permission to call you on it, every time you stray off course.

There is hope for your marriage, so please hang in there!

As the House of Justice said in this year’s Ridvan Message:

Have hope. It will not always be so.

 

How have you overcome the desire for instant gratification during a year of patience?  How has this helped you “hang on” a little longer?  Post your comments below!

Considering Divorce? Read this First!

 

The statistics on divorce in North America are very high – most statistics suggest that around 50 percent of marriages in the United States end in divorce. The number is similarly high in many other developed nations. Sadly, the undisciplined attitude of present-day society towards divorce is reflected in some parts of the Bahá’í World Community:

The Universal House of Justice has noted with increasing concern that the undisciplined attitude of present-day society towards divorce is reflected in some parts of the Bahá’í World Community. Our Teachings on this subject are clear and in direct contrast to the loose and casual attitude of the ‘permissive society’ and it is vital that the Bahá’í Community practise these Teachings.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 390)

As we know, Bahá’u’lláh abhors divorce, so Bahá’ís must do all in their power to avoid it:

Bahá’u’lláh, as you have mentioned, abhors divorce, and therefore the Bahá’ís should do their utmost to preserve their marriage which is a divinely ordained institution. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

Recently I had a discussion with someone who wanted to divorce because he believed his wife didn’t love him anymore. Let’s take a look at what I told him.

Conditions for Divorce

First of all, whether she loves you or not isn’t grounds for divorce.  Aversion and antipathy are.

Irreconcilable antipathy arising between the parties to a marriage is not merely a lack of love for one’s spouse but an antipathy which cannot be resolved . . . It is not affected by the other party’s not wishing to apply for a divorce.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)

As a Baha’i, the only reason a divorce can be granted is if one or both parties feel aversion.

Concerning the definition of the term “aversion” in relation to Bahá’í divorce law, the Universal House of Justice points out that there are no specific “grounds” for Bahá’í divorce such as there are in some codes of civil law . . . A Bahá’í should consider the possibility of divorce only if the situation is intolerable and he or she has a strong aversion to being married to the other partner. This is a standard held up to the individual. It is not a law, but an exhortation. It is a goal to which we should strive….. It can be seen, therefore, that “aversion” is not a specific legal term that needs to be defined. Indeed a number of other terms are used in describing the situation that can lead to divorce in Bahá’í law, such as “antipathy”, “resentment”, “estrangement”, “impossibility of establishing harmony” and “irreconcilability”.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456-457)

Bahá’í law permits divorce but, as both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have made very clear, divorce is abhorred.

Divorce should be avoided most strictly by the believers, and only under rare and urgent circumstances be resorted to. Modern society is criminally lax as to the sacred nature of marriage, and the believers must combat this trend assiduously.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 450)

There is no doubt about it that the believers in [the west], probably unconsciously influenced by the extremely lax morals prevalent and the flippant attitude towards divorce which seems to be increasingly prevailing, do not take divorce seriously enough and do not seem to grasp the fact that although Bahá’u’lláh has permitted it, He has only permitted it as a last resort and strongly condemns it.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 392)

One of the great obstacles to progress is the tendency of Bahá’ís to be sucked into the general attitudes and disputes that surround them, to be influenced, for example, as you yourself pointed out, by the prevailing attitude to marriage so that the divorce rate becomes a problem within the Bahá’í community itself which should be an example to the rest of society in such matters.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 516-517)

Formerly in Persia divorce was very easily obtained. Among the people of the past Dispensation a trifling matter would cause divorce. However, as the light of the Kingdom shone forth souls were quickened by the spirit of Bahá’u’lláh, then they totally eschewed divorce. In Persia now divorce does not take place among the friends, unless a compelling reason existeth with maketh harmony impossible. Under such rare circumstances some cases of divorce take place. Now the friends in [the West] must live and conduct themselves in this way. They must strictly refrain from divorce unless something ariseth which compelleth them to separate because of their aversion for each other. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 391)

Your job is to do all you can to refrain from divorce, and strive to make your marriage an eternal bond of unity and harmony.  This requires effort, sacrifice, wisdom and self-abnegation.

Bahá’í law permits divorce but, as both Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá have made very clear, divorce is abhorred. Thus, from the point of view of the individual believer he should do all he can to refrain from divorce. Bahá’ís should be profoundly aware of the sanctity of marriage and should strive to make their marriages an eternal bond of unity and harmony. This requires effort and sacrifice and wisdom and self-abnegation.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456-457)

 Effect on the Children

Separation and divorce is confusing and detrimental to the children which is reason enough to work on the marriage:

The presence of children, as a factor in divorce, cannot be ignored, for surely it places an even greater weight of moral responsibility on the man and wife in considering such a step. Divorce under such circumstances no longer just concerns them and their desires and feelings but also concerns the children’s entire future and their own attitude towards marriage.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 392)

It is always a source of sorrow in life when married people cannot get on well together, but the Guardian feels that you and your husband, in contemplating divorce, should think of the future of your children and how this major step on your part will influence their lives and happiness. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 448)

He feels that you should by all means make every effort to hold your marriage together, especially for the sake of the children, who, like all children of divorced parents, cannot but suffer from conflicting loyalties, for they are deprived of the blessing of a father and a mother in one home, to look after their interests and love them jointly. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)

God’s will not yours

The Baha’i marriage vow is:

We will all, verily, abide by the Will of God. (Baha’u’llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 58)

The will of God is that you both find a way to stay married, for your spiritual growth and for the sake of the children.  We do it for God’s sake and not for our own:

He has been very sorry to hear that your marriage seems to have failed utterly. I need not tell you as a Bahá’í that every effort should be made by any Bahá’í to salvage their marriage for the sake of God, rather than for their own sake. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 393)

3 Reasons Why People Consider Divorce

1.  Wanting a divorce so you can find someone better

Getting divorced in order to release you to find someone else is not a spiritually sound reason for divorce:

It should not happen that upon the occurrence of a slight friction of displeasure between husband and wife, the husband would think of union with some other woman or, God forbid, the wife also think of another husband. This is contrary to the standard of heavenly value and true chastity. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 391)

2.  Neediness

Sometimes in a marriage one partner is really needy, putting all their focus on the other person, instead of on God. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá makes it quite clear that by clinging to an attachment to your spouse to the exclusion of God, you prevent them from entering the Kingdom of God.  This is really serious stuff!  And intuitively, they might be aware of it even if they’ve never read this quote.

As to thy question, “If the husband preventeth his wife from entering into the Light, or the wife preventeth the husband from entering into the Kingdom of God.” In reality neither one of them preventeth the other from entering into the Kingdom of God, except when the husband hath a great attachment to the wife, or the wife to the husband. When either one of the two adoreth the other to the exclusion of God, then each will prevent the other from entering into the Kingdom of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 609)

3.  Ambivalence

When one spouse wants a divorce and the other doesn’t, is where you can make your ambivalence work for you, knowing that you are on spiritually strong ground:

We know that Bahá’u’lláh has very strongly frowned upon divorce; and it is really incumbent upon the Bahá’ís to make almost a superhuman effort not to allow a Bahá’í marriage to be dissolved.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)

Your job here is to trust your own intuition and make a superhuman effort not to allow your Bahá’í marriage to be dissolved.

Your spouse’s intuition as evidence that it couldn’t work may be true from a material standpoint, but is spiritually faulty.  As Baha’is we have forces at our disposal, which are not available to non-Baha’is – the power of prayer and drawing on the spiritual powers available by the bounty of God.

There have been many instances in which a couple, through a consecrated and determined effort, aided by the power of prayer and the advice of experts, succeeded in overcoming seemingly insuperable obstacles to their reconciliation and in reconstructing a strong foundation for their marriage. There are also innumerable examples of individuals who have been able to effect drastic and enduring changes in their behaviour, through drawing on the spiritual powers available by the bounty of God. (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 6 August 1989)

Having said all that, one person’s desire to continue a marriage is not enough to make it happen in the face of the other’s desire to divorce after the year of waiting is complete.

Question: Concerning divorce, which must be preceded by a year of patience: if only one of the parties is inclined toward conciliation, what is to be done?
Answer: According to the commandment revealed in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, both parties must be content; unless both are willing, reunion cannot take place.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 118).

Question: If, upon completion of the year of patience, the husband refuseth to allow divorce, what course should be adopted by the wife?
Answer: When the period is ended divorce is effected. However, it is necessary that there be witnesses to the beginning and end of this period, so that they can be called upon to give testimony should the need arise.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 128).

Please don’t be resigned that there is no point standing in your spouse’s way when she is certain divorce is the only way for both of you to move on and find some happiness.   God’s way is more important!

You are not spiritually responsible for her decisions, but you are responsible for your own, so any effort you can make towards reconciliation will benefit you spiritually.

 Things to Try Before a Year of Patience 

Effort

Many of us have bought into the fairy tales told to us as children – that once you were married you would live “happily ever after”.  Unfortunately we bought into a lie!

Marriages are not meant to be easy!  They’re meant to force us to look at our issues so that we can draw closer to God and acquire the virtues we’ll need in the next world.  This takes work, and sacrifice; and effort; and detachment; and patience; and long suffering.  It requires looking at our part in the problems and changing it.  It means overlooking the faults of others.  Loving them for the sake of God when you don’t feel very loving; or aren’t getting anything back.

 Recommended Homework

I’d like you to read Using the Marriage Tablet as a Prescription for Healing Troubled Marriages then identify at least 10 areas where you could work on to build a better marriage. 

Consultation 

Very few people know the art of consultation, which, if done right, will have a beneficial effect on a marriage. The Bahá’í Writings for the first time in religious history, have given us a lot of guidance on learning the art of consultation. When couples learn to use it properly, it can be a panacea for conflict.

Bahá’u’lláh also stressed the importance of consultation. We should not think this worthwhile method of seeking solutions is confined to the administrative institutions of the Cause. Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict. Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)

Recommended Homework

Read the compilation on consultation and make a list of 10 things you could do to improve the quality of your consultation, based on what you’ve read.

Marriage Counseling

Marriage counseling is important as long as it is tempered with spiritual counseling based on the Writings as well. A counsellor will help with psychological baggage while ignoring spiritual needs.

There is spiritual value in making efforts to overcome difficulties in close personal relationships, which is an opportunity counsellors will be missing.  If you skip this step, you will be losing an opportunity for spiritual growth.

Knowing the spiritual value of the effort to overcome difficulties in close personal relationships, Bahá’ís should not readily give up on a marriage or family relationship.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 121)

The following Bahá’ís do marriage counselling:

Dr. Elena Mustakova-Possardt is an Individual, Couples & Family Psychotherapist specializing in sexual abuse, sexual identity issues, loss, disillusionment, loss of meaning and purpose, addiction, anxiety, personality disorders, and marital and relational problems.

Katrin Modabber is a Psychologist, Family and Conflict Counselor of Positive Psychotherapy and Couples and Family Therapist.  For more than 15 years she has been studying marriages and the factors which make them happy and successful. She is fascinated by this most unique human relationship and its potential to transform people, families and society.  Her work is resource and solution oriented and during her work she puts an emphasis on the strengths, virtues and capacities each human being is characterized by.

Keyvan Geula is a licensed marriage, family, and child therapist specializing in mindfulness approach in therapy, transformation and education.  She received her Master of Science in Marriage, Family and Child Therapy from University of La Verne, in La Verne, California.  She offers her services as a clinician, lecturer, trainer and supervisor to a global set of clients in person and online. In her clinical work she incorporates the wisdom of the Baha’i Writings, Cognitive Behavioral Therapy approach, Mindfulness techniques, and John Gottman’s approach in couple’s therapy.

Raymond and Furugh Switzer offer therapy and coaching for struggling couples and those wanting to enrich their relationship; and for singles searching for a committed, intimate connection.  Their philosophy is that ruptures in relationships to others, especially the struggles with our life partner, often seem to be the most painful experiences in our lives. Although these trials may seem to us the most entrenched, and impossible to work through, there is a purpose to these conflicts: they provide us with a beacon for our maturation and healing from the past. While marriage seems almost designed to bring us to the brink of despair, it also presents potent opportunities for growth and self-realization. Raymond and Furugh are both trained in Imago Therapy and find that working together with couples adds to the power of the therapeutic experience. Couples often find that the insights given from both a male and female perspective and experience add important dimensions to their understanding. In addition, having a live model of a couple exhibiting differentiation and unity in working together signal hope and can add to confidence in couplehood, a crucial element in healing marriages in distress.  Their books include Conscious Courtship and Mindful Matrimony

Sabah Arjomand works with couples who are new to marriage; and provides hope, healing and transformation to couples dealing with unsurmountable issues; or in marital crisis.

Susanne Alexander, Baha’i Marriage Transformation Coach, specializing in Relationships, Marriage, and Character Development.  She is ready to collaborate with and accompany you with honesty, insightfulness, and compassion! She is skillful at matching you up with learning resources that help move you forward.  Baha’i Relationships site 

 Recommended Homework:

 I’d like you to study the compilations on marriage and divorce with your spouse.  You can read them online at:

Preserving Baha’i Marriages

Divorce (ignore the list of topics on the right and the ad on the left – it starts squeezed between the two)

If your spouse is unwilling, perhaps you could read them yourself and discuss what you’ve found.

Making a Decision to Start a Year of Patience

Many people in the midst of a marital crisis want to go straight to divorce, thinking things will never get better. While taking the easy way out may indeed clear the air, and may seem appealing in the moment, in the end, however, because it’s not spiritually sound, will only lead to some new situation of frustration and disillusion.

We often feel that our happiness lies in a certain direction; and yet, if we have to pay too heavy a price for it in the end we may discover that we have not really purchased either freedom or happiness, but must some new situation of frustration and disillusion.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 392-393)

And the person who is the cause of the divorce will become the victim of formidable calamities and experience deep remorse.

In short, the foundation of the Kingdom of God is based upon harmony and love, oneness, relationship and union, not upon differences, especially between husband and wife. If one of these two become the cause of divorce, that one will unquestionably fall into great difficulties, will become the victim of formidable calamities and experience deep remorse.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 391-392)

I’m sure this isn’t what you want for either of you!

Marriages are like everything else – they go through seasons.  Perhaps your marriage is in winter – and if you leave now, you’ll never know the beauty of spring:

Before the coming of the spring, the earth looks as if dead and lifeless, but when it appears, all the world seems to spring into life and brightness —into a new existence of beauty and joy. All nature is clad in fresh green, the grass springs up, the leaves bud, and the trees are covered with blossoms. But the spring passes, and then comes the summer, in which the promise of the spring is fulfilled; the spring blossoms ripen into fruit, and the fields are covered with yellow grain; the result of the new life of the spring is manifested. Then comes the autumn, in which the life of the spring and summer begins slowly to fade, and finally winter comes round, and the life of the earth seems to be completely extinct—dead.  (Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 57)

This is the quote I wish I’d had when I was considering divorce.  I think I’d have stayed in my marriage if I understood this.  Hope it gives you some hope and a new way of looking at reconciliation! 

Since your spouse is the one who wants the divorce now, and you understand intuitively that it is wrong, you can stand firm in these quotes as coming from a loving God, who has your best interests in hand, and wants you to find solutions even more than you want this!

Role of the Spiritual Assembly

When you approach a Spiritual Assembly to set a date for the year of waiting, there are 3 things they have to do:

  • determine whether grounds for a Bahá’í divorce exist
  • try to reconcile the couple
  • set the date for the beginning of the year of waiting

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)

 Backdating a Year of Patience

Often people approach an Assembly for a year of patience when it’s really too late to save the marriage. Spouses are entrenched in their decision to divorce and eager to get it over with quickly.

Asking an Assembly to back-date a year of patience is expedient but not spiritually helpful, since it subverts the purpose of a year of waiting, which is for both couples to work on the issues which lead to the separation, so that hopefully a solution can be found.

The purpose of the year of waiting is to attempt the saving of a marital relationship.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 399)

Conclusion

There are certain things that can (and should) be done during the year of waiting, which include:

  • drawing upon the power of prayer
  • spiritual transformation
  • learning to consult
  • seeking guidance in the Bahá’í Writings
  • exploring creative solutions to problems
  • requesting assistance from Bahá’í institutions and/or professional counselors as necessary

Given the value of marriage as a divine institution, Bahá’ís should make great efforts to create, preserve and strengthen healthy marriages, drawing upon the power of prayer and spiritual transformation, learning to consult, seeking guidance in the Bahá’í Writings, exploring creative solutions to problems, and requesting assistance from Bahá’í institutions and/or professional counselors as necessary. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 121)

For more Information:

Learning to Transform a Loveless Marriage

Would God Forgive and Adulterer?

When Marriage Becomes Abusive

Showing Kindness to a Liar, Traitor and Thief

Using the Year of Patience in Marriage

Financial Considerations During the Bahá’í Year of Patience

Sex and the Year of Waiting

How Do I Know When it’s Time to Divorce?

Divorce

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

Avoiding Parental Alienation in the Baha’i Faith

 

With the high incidence of divorce these days; it’s becoming quite common for one parent to pit their children another against the other, causing the child to express unjustified hatred or unreasonably strong dislike of one parent, making access by the rejected parent difficult or impossible.  These feelings can be caused by negative comments by the other parent or grandparents.

This can occur when one parent actively undermines the other by making derogatory remarks, telling the child that the other parent is responsible for the separation, or telling the child that the other parent is the cause of financial difficulties. Indirect alienation occurs when one parent fails to support access or contact with the other parent or tacitly accepts the child’s negative behaviour and comments towards the other.

There’s a good list of behaviours associated with parental alienation at this site.

NOTE:  This does not apply in cases of child abuse, when the child rejects the abusing parent to protect themselves.

One of my readers wrote:

Our Assembly was discussing my divorce and considering the balance of rights and responsibilities of the parents when one of the members said: “We all know what the writings say about mothers…”

The common “misunderstanding is that men could be chucked to the trash and it wouldn’t affect the children much, since the mother’s role is so high and important and predominant!

We simply don’t understand the Writings.  The compilations on Men & Fathers will help.  Also of importance is the 1990 memo from the BWC on Preserving Baha’i Marriages as it emphasizes a new context of sanctity for marriage.

The Aqdas says that if a parent fails in the discharge of their parental responsibilities then it is the duty of the Assembly to assume these responsibilities.

If ANY parent induces alienation in a child (of tender mind and heart) against the other parent, this is, de facto, child abuse.  Assemblies have to recognize this.  The legal system has to recognize this.  And actions have to accord with this reality.

We are weak-kneed and lily-livered as a community when it comes to this issue, and much of it comes from pre-judging and misunderstanding of Baha’u’llah’s Writings.  Of course, most LSAs don’t know how to conduct a proper investigation of anything yet, let alone such a complicated issue as psychological alienation – we all need lots of training.

And a grandmother wrote:

I am wondering if you have any information or have come across grandparents who are dealing with grandparent alienation.

So I thought it was time to look at this issue.

When you consider that the purpose of Baha’u’llah’s Revelation was to bring unity to the world, it’s obvious that any actions taken to alienate a parent or grandparent from a child is against the Baha’i Teachings.  Let’s look specifically at the guidance to see what it says.

Effects on the Children:

Divorce WILL influence your children’s lives and happiness:

He was very sorry to hear that you and your husband are still so unhappy together. It is always a source of sorrow in life when married people cannot get on well together, but the Guardian feels that you and your husband, in contemplating divorce, should think of the future of your children and how this major step on your part will influence their lives and happiness. If you feel the need of advice and consultation he suggests you consult your Local Assembly; your fellow Bahá’ís will surely do all they can to counsel and help you, protect your interests and those of the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 448)

Young minds ARE affected by the choices parents make for their own lives:

What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification.  (Universal House of Justice, to the Conference of the Continental Boards of Counsellors, 28 Dec. 2010)

Divorce concerns the children’s entire future and their attitudes towards marriage:

The presence of children, as a factor in divorce, cannot be ignored, for surely it places an even greater weight of moral responsibility on the man and wife in considering such a step. Divorce under such circumstances no longer just concerns them and their desires and feelings but also concerns the children’s entire future and their own attitude towards marriage.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 392)

All children of divorced parents suffer from conflicting loyalties, for they are deprived of the blessing of a father and a mother in one home, to look after their interests and love them jointly:

He feels that you should by all means make every effort to hold your marriage together, especially for the sake of the children, who, like all children of divorced parents, cannot but suffer from conflicting loyalties, for they are deprived of the blessing of a father and a mother in one home, to look after their interests and love them jointly. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)

Unity:

The unity of the family should take priority over any other consideration:

In considering the problems that you and your wife are experiencing, the House of Justice points out that the unity of your family should take priority over any other consideration. Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world, and a fundamental unity is that of the family. Therefore, we must believe that the Faith is intended to strengthen the family, not weaken it. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 452)

Where unity exists in a given family:

  • everyone makes progress
  • they prosper
  • their concerns are in order
  • they enjoy comfort and tranquillity
  • they are secure
  • their position is assured
  • they come to be envied by all

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

Without unity, countless ills are the consequence:

… countless ills … are the consequences of the disunity afflicting the human family.  (The Universal House of Justice, Century of Light, p. 97)

Nothing attracts God’s blessings and grace more than unity and nothing is more destructive than divisions and misunderstandings:

Nothing will attract God’s blessings and grace more than the unity of the friends, and nothing is more destructive of their highest purpose than divisions and misunderstandings. Cling therefore to unity if you desire to succeed and abide by the will of your Lord Bahá’u’lláh; for that is the true objective of His Mission in this world.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 421)

Parents with full custody, who belittle the importance to the Bahá’í laws and teachings, contribute to the corrosive forces which are so rapidly destroying home life and the beauty of family relationships, and tear down the moral structure of society:

People separated from each other, especially if one of them has had full custody of the children are only too willing to belittle the importance to the Bahá’í laws and teachings, combat these corrosive forces which are so rapidly destroying home life and the beauty of family relationships, and tearing down the moral structure of society.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 369)

Education:

The root cause of all wrongdoing is lack of education. Good character must be taught:

The root cause of wrongdoing is ignorance, and we must therefore hold fast to the tools of perception and knowledge. Good character must be taught. Light must be spread afar, so that, in the school of humanity, all may acquire the heavenly characteristics of the spirit, and see for themselves beyond any doubt that there is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 136)

Single parents often need training in how to interact effectively with the estranged parent, if there is voluntary or mandated contact, as well as education in what the needs of the children are in relation to the attitudes and behaviors of the parents:

Single parents often need training in how to be a single parent and how to interact effectively with the estranged parent, if there is voluntary or mandated contact, as well as education in what the needs of the children are in relation to the attitudes and behaviors of the parents.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 130)

Rights and Responsibilities:

Every member of the family has rights which must not be transgressed and the unity of the family must be sustained:

The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the individual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother—none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have certain prerogatives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 168)

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child is the chief responsibility of the mother:

The task of bringing up a Bahá’í child, as emphasized time and again in Bahá’í Writings, is the chief responsibility of the mother, whose unique privilege is indeed to create in her home such conditions as would be the most conducive to both his material and spiritual welfare and advancement.   (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

The mother has a right to be financially supported by her husband:

A corollary of this responsibility of the mother is her right to be supported by her husband—a husband has no explicit right to be supported by his wife. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

The father has a responsibility for education his child, and if he fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood:

Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children, and this responsibility is so weighty that Bahá’u’lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

It is intended that, if possible, the mother should be with the baby to train and nurture it in its earliest days and months, during this intensely formative time when it is growing and developing faster than it ever will again during the whole of its life. As the child grows older and more independent, the father can play a greater role:

The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child. Her attitude, her prayers, even what she eats and her physical condition have a great influence on the child when it is still in womb. When the child is born, it is she who has been endowed by God with the milk which is the first food designed for it, and it is intended that, if possible, she should be with the baby to train and nurture it in its earliest days and months. This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited, while the mother is usually closely associated with the baby during this intensely formative time when it is growing and developing faster than it ever will again during the whole of its life. As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

Consultation:

Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict:

Bahá’u’lláh also stressed the importance of consultation. We should not think this worthwhile method of seeking solutions is confined to the administrative institutions of the Cause. Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict. Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)

Husbands and wives should seek counsel from those they trust and in whose sincerity and sound judgement they have confidence:

You have asked, however, for specific rules of conduct to govern the relationships of husbands and wives . . . If, God forbid, they fail to agree, and their disagreement leads to estrangement, they should seek counsel from those they trust and in whose sincerity and sound judgement they have confidence, in order to preserve and strengthen their ties as a united family.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456)

Include children in family consultations:

You mention your concern over your eldest daughter. It is suggested that you include her and perhaps your younger children in family consultations. As Bahá’ís we understand the importance of the consultative process and we should not feel it is to be used only by the Spiritual Assemblies.    (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 453)

The keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation:

Let us also bear in mind that the keynote of the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.           (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 33)

The greatest means for the union and harmony of all is Spiritual Meetings which are a magnet for divine confirmations:

To be brief, it hath been decided by the Desire of God that union and harmony may day by day increase among the friends of God and the maid-servants of the Merciful One, in the West. Not until this is realized will the affairs advance by any means whatever! And the greatest means for the union and harmony of all is Spiritual Meetings. This matter is very important and is as a magnet (to attract or) for divine confirmation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 124-125)

There are times when a wife should defer to her husband, and times when a husband should defer to his wife:

In any group, however loving the consultation, there are nevertheless points on which, from time to time, agreement cannot be reached. In a Spiritual Assembly this dilemma is resolved by a majority vote. There can, however, be no majority where only two parties are involved, as in the case of a husband and wife. There are, therefore, times when a wife should defer to her husband, and times when a husband should defer to his wife, but neither should ever unjustly dominate the other.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Custody Agreements:

It is preferable that the couple amicably agree on the custody of the children and submit their agreement to the Assembly for endorsement:

It is preferable that the couple amicably agree on the custody of the children and submit their agreement to the Assembly for endorsement . . . Usually custody arrangements continue until the child comes of age unless, of course, new circumstances transpire during this period which call for a review of the arrangements.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 401)

This agreement should be guided by the following principles:

  • Normally in the case of very young children custody is given to the mother
  • Regardless of which parent is given custody, the children should be educated to develop a proper Bahá’í attitude towards, and due regard for, both parents.
  • Fair and practical arrangements should be made to protect the rights of the parent not having custody to associate with the children and spend time with them
  • Usually custody arrangements continue until the child comes of age unless, of course, new circumstances transpire during this period which call for a review of the arrangements.

Normally in the case of very young children custody is given to the mother unless there are compelling reasons which make this inadvisable. Regardless of which parent is given custody, the children should be so educated that they may develop a proper Bahá’í attitude towards, and due regard for, both parents. Fair and practical arrangements should be made to protect the rights of the parent not having custody to associate with the children and spend time with them. Usually custody arrangements continue until the child comes of age unless, of course, new circumstances transpire during this period which call for a review of the arrangements.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 401)

Proper Attitudes:

Harmony, unity and love are held up as the highest ideals in human relationships:

Wherever there is a Bahá’í family, those concerned should by all means do all they can to preserve it, because divorce is strongly condemned in the Teachings whereas harmony, unity and love are held up as the highest ideals in human relationships. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 393)

Strife and dissension are entirely unworthy of our station:

With the utmost unity, and in a spirit of perfect fellowship, exert yourselves, that ye may be enabled to achieve that which beseemeth this Day of God. Verily I say, strife and dissension, and whatsoever the mind of man abhorreth are entirely unworthy of his station.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 196)

Neither husband nor wife should unjustly dominate the other:

Also wives, in some cases, have a tendency to exert an unjust degree of domination over their husbands which, of course, is not right, anymore than that the husband should unjustly dominate the wife.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Instead of taking each other to court, we need to manifest magnificent patience during every calamity and hardship:

If one of thy relations oppress thee, complain not against him before the magistrate; rather manifest magnificent patience during every calamity and hardship. Verily thy Master is the Lord of Faithfulness! Forgive and overlook the shortcomings which have appeared in that one, for the sake of love and affection.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 374)

PLEASE NOTE:  This does not apply in cases of abuse!

For more information on the Baha’i standard in abusive relationships, please see:

When Marriage Becomes Abusive

Honoring an Abusive Spouse or Parent

Showing Kindness to a Liar, Traitor or Thief

Bahá’ís should not readily give up on a family relationship:

Bahá’ís should not readily give up on a marriage or family relationship. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 121)

Seek professional therapy in addition to counselling from your Local Spiritual Assembly:

The House of Justice is pleased to learn from your letter that both you and your husband are receiving professional therapy, in addition to the counselling you are receiving from your Local Spiritual Assembly.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 July, 1987)

What has been your experience?  How has this guidance helped?  Post your comments below!

The Role of Fathers in a Bahá’í Family

 

As Father’s Day approaches, I thought I’d take a look at the father’s role in the Baha’i family and see what the Baha’i Writings have to teach us about it.  Let’s have a look! 

Choose Your Wife Wisely!

If the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm:

Consider that if the mother is a believer, the children will become believers too, even if the father denieth the Faith; while, if the mother is not a believer, the children are deprived of faith, even if the father be a believer convinced and firm. Such is the usual outcome, except in rare cases.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 287)

Love

Fathers love, pray for, care for, educate and provide for their children, even when his time to be with his child is limited:

This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

Equality

In this Revelation, the women go neck and neck with the men:

`Abdu’l-Bahá has stated:  In this Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, the women go neck and neck with the men. In no movement will they be left behind. Their rights with men are equal in degree. They will enter all the administrative branches of politics. They will attain in all such a degree as will be considered the very highest station of the world of humanity and will take part in all affairs.  and again:  So it will come to pass that when women participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world, when they enter confidently and capably the great arena of laws and politics, war will cease;…  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 230)

Equality of status does not mean identity of function:

That the first teacher of the child is the mother should not be startling, for the primary orientation of the infant is to its mother. This provision of nature in no way minimizes the role of the father in the Bahá’í family. Again, equality of status does not mean identity of function.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

The concept of a Bahá’í family is based on the principle that the man has primary responsibility for the financial support of the family, and the woman is the chief and primary educator of the children:

The concept of a Bahá’í family is based on the principle that the man has primary responsibility for the financial support of the family, and the woman is the chief and primary educator of the children. This by no means implies that these functions are inflexibly fixed and cannot be changed and adjusted to suit particular family situations, nor does it mean that the place of the woman is confined to the home. Rather, while primary responsibility is assigned, it is anticipated that fathers would play a significant role in the education of the children and women could also be breadwinners. As you rightly indicated, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encouraged women to ‘participate fully and equally in the affairs of the world’.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

The mother has a right to be supported by her husband:

A corollary of this responsibility of the mother is her right to be supported by her husband — a husband has no explicit right to be supported by his wife. This principle of the husband’s responsibility to provide for and protect the family can be seen applied also in the law of intestacy which provides that the family’s dwelling place passes, on the father’s death, not to his widow, but to his eldest son; the son at the same time has the responsibility to care for his mother.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife) 

Active Role

It is highly important for man to raise a family:

It is highly important for man to raise a family. So long as he is young, because of youthful self-complacency, he does not realize its significance, but this will be a source of regret when he grows old.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 219)

The father’s role changes as the child grows older and more independent:

The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child  . . . This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited. . .  As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)

 Education of Children

The father should, above all else, continually call to his mind the remembrance of God:

The father must always endeavour to educate his son and to acquaint him with the heavenly teachings. He must give him advice and exhort him at all times, teach him praiseworthy conduct and character, enable him to receive training at school and to be instructed in such arts and sciences as are deemed useful and necessary. In brief, let him instil into his mind the virtues and perfections of the world of humanity. Above all he should continually call to his mind the remembrance of God so that his throbbing veins and arteries may pulsate with the love of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Men should hand over a portion of what he earns in his occupation, for the training and education of children:

In the Tablet of the World, Bahá’u’lláh Himself has envisaged that women as well as men would be breadwinners in stating:  ‘Everyone, whether man or woman, should hand over to a trusted person a portion of what he or she earneth through trade, agriculture or other occupation, for the training and education of children, to be spent for this purpose with the knowledge of the Trustees of the House of Justice.'”   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing:

Unto every father hath been enjoined the instruction of his son and daughter in the art of reading and writing and in all that hath been laid down in the Holy Tablet. He that putteth away that which is commanded unto him, the Trustees are then to take from him that which is required for their instruction, if he be wealthy, and if not the matter devolveth upon the House of Justice. Verily, have We made it a shelter for the poor and needy. He that bringeth up his son or the son of another, it is as though he hath brought up a son of Mine; upon him rest My Glory, My loving kindness, My Mercy, that have compassed the world.  (Bahá’u’lláh, A Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 15-16)

Every father must educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences and in morals, and in crafts and professions:

God hath prescribed unto every father to educate his children, both boys and girls, in the sciences and in morals, and in crafts and professions. Thus have We instructed you in Our Most Holy Book, revealed by Us from Our all-hallowed Realm. Well is it with him who cleaveth fast to this with a power from Our own Self; he verily is a man related to this Station.  Make ye an effort that there may issue forth from you that which befitteth the days of your God, the King before Whom all heads bow down.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 1)

The father must choose for his daughter the glory that never dies:

It is to be regretted, however, that her husband is still wrapped in the veils of his idle imaginings. If her dear daughter be trained according to the instructions of God, she will grow to be a peerless plant in the garden of the heart. It is incumbent upon the father to choose for his daughter the glory that dieth not. Nevertheless, this is up to him; he may educate her in any way he desireth.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Rosenberg Tablet)

 Rights and Obligations

The father can be regarded as the “head” of the family:

The Research Department has not come across any statements which specifically name the father as responsible for the “security, progress and unity of the family: as is stated in Bahiyyih Nakhjavani’s book, but it can be inferred from a number of the responsibilities placed on him, that the father can be regarded as the “head” of the family. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)

To read the entire letter in context

The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the indi­vidual members must not be transgressed:

All the virtues must be taught the family. The integrity of the family bond must be constantly considered, and the rights of the indi­vidual members must not be transgressed. The rights of the son, the father, the mother — none of them must be transgressed, none of them must be arbitrary. Just as the son has certain obligations to his father, the father, likewise, has certain obligations to his son. The mother, the sister and other members of the household have their certain preroga­tives. All these rights and prerogatives must be conserved, yet the unity of the family must be sustained. The injury of one shall be considered the injury of all; the comfort of each, the comfort of all; the honor of one, the honor of all.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 168)

The husband should not unjustly dominate the wife:

Wives, in some cases, have a tendency to exert an unjust degree of domination over their husbands which, of course, is not right, anymore than that the husband should unjustly dominate the wife.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

There are times when a husband should defer to his wife:

There are, therefore, times when a wife should defer to her husband, and times when a husband should defer to his wife, but neither should ever unjustly dominate the other. In short, the relationship between husband and wife should be as held forth in the prayer revealed by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá which is often read at Bahá’í weddings: ‘Verily they are married in obedience to Thy command. Cause them to become the signs of harmony and unity until the end of time.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 225)

Consultation:

Consultation of a father with his son, or vice versa is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God:

Regarding thy question about consultation of a father with his son, or a son with his father, in matters of trade and commerce, consultation is one of the fundamental elements of the foundation of the Law of God. Such consultation is assuredly acceptable, whether between father and son, or with others. There is nothing better than this. Man must con­sult in all things for this will lead him to the depths of each problem and enable him to find the right solution.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 228)

Role of Sons

To serve their fathers:

Verily, We have enjoined on every son to serve his father. Such is the decree which We have set forth in the Book.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 138)

Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them:

Say, O My people! Show honour to your parents and pay homage to them. This will cause blessings to descend upon you from the clouds of the bounty of your Lord, the Exalted, the Great.  (Baha’u’llah, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Don’t do anything to sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers:

Beware lest ye commit that which would sadden the hearts of your fathers and mothers. Follow ye the path of Truth which indeed is a straight path. Should anyone give you a choice between the opportunity to render a service to Me and a service to them, choose ye to serve them, and let such service be a path leading you to Me. This is My exhortation and command unto thee. Observe therefore that which thy Lord, the Mighty, the Gra­cious, hath prescribed unto thee.   (Baha’u’llah, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

The son must show forth the utmost obedience towards his father;  ensure his comfort and welfare; and constantly strive to bring gladness to the hearts of his father and mother:

The son, on the other hand, must show forth the utmost obedience towards his father, and should conduct himself as a humble and a lowly servant. Day and night he should seek diligently to ensure the comfort and welfare of his loving father and to secure his good-pleasure. He must forgo his own rest and enjoyment and constantly strive to bring gladness to the hearts of his father and mother, that thereby he may attain the good-pleas­ure of the Almighty and be graciously aided by the hosts of the unseen.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 229)

Physical fatherhood and sonship are not important:

Clear it is that physical fatherhood and sonship are not factors of true import. Canaan was the son of Noah and Abraham was the son of Adhar. One father was a Prophet, but His son was disowned and cut off. Another father was an idolator, yet his Son was the great and exalted Friend … Therefore be not saddened. Pray thou and supplicate at the threshold of the One True God, begging forgiveness for thine earthly father.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, quoted in H.M. Balyuzi, Eminent Baha’is in the Time of Baha’u’llah, p. 28)

A real son is one who has branched from the spiritual part of his father’s soul and heart:

O dear one of `Abdu’l-Bahá! Be the son of thy father and be the fruit of that tree. Be a son that hath been born of his soul and heart and not only of water and clay. A real son is such one as hath branched from the spiritual part of man. I ask God that thou mayest be at all times confirmed and strengthened.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of `Abdu’l-Bahá”, p. 140)

Consequences for Not Doing His Duty

Should the father neglect this weightiest of all concerns, his paternal right shall be forfeit and he shall be accounted guilty in the sight of God:

O Muhammad! The Countenance of the Ancient of Days is turning towards thee, and He maketh mention of thee, and He commandeth the people of God to educate their chil­dren. Should the father neglect this weightiest of all concerns, which hath been revealed from the Pen of the Ancient King in the Most Holy Book, then his paternal right shall be forfeit and he shall be accounted guilty in the sight of God.  (Baha’u’llah, Extracts on Fatherhood in the Baha’i Writings)

 

How has this helped you understand the role of fathers and husbands better?  Post your comments below!