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Abuse Happens when We Come From our Lower Nature 

As a devoted believer you are urged to strive to develop forgiveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner, and to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature, whose actions can only lead them deeper into unhappiness and separation from God. By this means, you can liberate yourself from the anger to which you refer in your letter, and foster your own spiritual development.   (Written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, to this author, 9 September 1992)

The first time my heart was broken was when I was first sexually abused by my father, and hearing my mother say in response: “I wish she’d never been born.”  With this criticism, I believed it was my fault.  Neither the abuse, nor her hurtful comment had anything to do with me, though I believed it did.

For over 50 years, I told myself things like “you’re unlovable”; “you deserve to be used for sex”; “life will always be like this” etc.  As a small child, these statements made sense as I was trying to make sense of the world the only way I knew how.  As an adult, though, the House of Justice taught me that I had to learn to separate their actions from the meaning I gave to them.  I came to realize that these beliefs (and more) were just lies coming from my lower nature, and I would be just as responsible to God for the “abuse” I was heaping on myself; as my parents would be for the abuse they heaped on me!   The scale of the sin might be different, but we were all acting from our lower natures.

Once I realized that my parent’s abusive actions arose from their lower natures, which hooked into my lower nature (when I believed the abuse had anything to do with me), I was able to get free of both my anger and my self-pity.

Learning that when I can attain this level of insight, I free myself from criticism and anger; and foster my spiritual development, I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others


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Praying for our Parents

O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love. Verily, Thou art the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers (US Edition), p. 65)

In the days when I was so angry with my parents for the abuse they perpetrated on me as an adult, and their choice not to talk to me about it; in the days when I couldn’t forgive, I found this prayer that I could use, remembering that the Bab had promised that:

Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense! (Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 217).

Although I wasn’t yet ready to forgive, I knew that I could ask God to forgive them for me, and that it would benefit me as well as them.  That’s what was in my heart, when I was saying this prayer.

I like using this prayer because it reminds me:

  • God accepts our intercession in behalf of our parents
  • Asking for God’s forgiveness for my parents is one of His special infinite bestowals
  • The service and efforts I make will submerge them in the Ocean of His grace
  • God is the Giver, the For­giver and the Kind (for both me and my parents)

Knowing that when I use this prayer, God will also forgive me, and submerge me in the Ocean of His grace, I am grateful!

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

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


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Children Learn First to Obey their Parents, and then to Obey God

Parents must exert every effort to rear their offspring to be religious, for should the children not attain this greatest of adornments, they will not obey their parents, which in a certain sense means that they will not obey God. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 6)

Children learn to be obedient to their parents first because they are the only authority figure they know. This allegiance is then transferred to God. For children like me, who grew up with abusive parents, who never received love or mercy or forgiveness, the concept of a loving God is just an intellectual knowing.

I’m 63 and my parents are long dead, but I’m still waiting for God’s punishment and have driven myself into burnout and adrenal exhaustion trying to earn enough spiritual brownie points to earn a place in heaven.

Just this week someone helped me finally see why, after being a loyal, devoted and deepened Bahá’í for nearly 40 years, I react so strongly and negatively to Ruhi and letters from our beloved House of Justice: I’ve seen them as a growing list of tasks from God (my Father), which I have to complete on time, perfectly or I will be punished by God or His representatives on earth (the Institutions). It’s been a terrible way to live! Thank God I now understand!

Never having personal experience with anyone approaching the All-Loving, the All-Merciful or the Ever-Forgiving, I can step out in faith, trusting God to heal this deep and far-reaching primal wound, 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 Overcoming Abuse and Violence


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Confronting Those Who Hurt Us

Do not complain of others. Refrain from reprimanding them and if you wish to give admonition or advice let it be offered in such a way that it will not burden the hearer.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453)

Whenever I’m angry it seems natural to nurse the hurt and complain about the injustice.  That’s what society has taught me is normal, after all.  That’s one thing I love about the Bahá’í Faith – it frequently turns everything I thought I knew around, 180 degrees.  In another quote Bahá’u’lláh tells us:

For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)

This helps us to see why we aren’t to complain of others.  We don’t want our hearts and souls to be devoured or the effects of our words to last a century.

Here’s an example from my own life:  when I was very young, I heard my mother say (in a moment of anger and frustration towards life in general and my father particularly):  “I wish she’d never been born.”  This was a dagger to my heart.  I put it on the hamster wheel inside my head, nursed it for over 60 years, used it to prove everything that happened to me, that I was unlovable.  You can bet that affected my relationships in my marriage, and towards my son, family and friends, as all I knew was to push people away.  It would have been much better if my mother could have been angry at my father, in private, about his behaviour towards me, and even then, it should have been couched in words as mild as milk, so it didn’t burden him either.  They didn’t know any better, and I’ve forgiven them and the damage has been done and lasting and both things are true.

Knowing what to do when I’ve taken offence to something someone has said or done to me, I am grateful!


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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others



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Baha’is and Baptism

When my son was born, I was a new Bahá’í (of 2 years), and my husband was Anglican.  I had a vague idea that Bahá’ís didn’t baptize their children, but believed that unity in the family was a higher principle, so my son was baptized in the Anglican church and raised as a Bahá’í.

It would have been helpful to know this guidance at that time:

Children of such a union may be baptized if the Christian parent so wishes; from the Bahá’í point of view the baptism has no effect. It must be emphasized, however, that the Bahá’í parent, while perfectly free to attend the baptismal ceremony, should not undertake any commitment or vow contrary to Bahá’í law and should not surrender her parental right to impart the Bahá’í teachings to her child.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 139)

I promised to raise my child in the Anglican church, believing that to raise a Baha’i child was also to raise a Christian, Moslem, Jewish child.  Now I wonder if this is the same kind of dissimulation Baha’is in Iran are rejecting when they are asked if they are Moslem and they say no?  On the surface, they could answer yes, because Baha’is believe in all Faiths, but they don’t.  I didn’t have anyone I could talk to about this back then, so I was on my own.  Fortunately I did not have to surrender any parental right to impart the Baha’i teachings to my son, otherwise I never would have gone through with it.

I wondered how many other families might be in the same situations, so I turned to the Writings to see what they had to teach us.  Let’s have a look!

In the past, baptism was used to awaken people:

Reflect, also, that baptism in the days of John the Baptist was used to awaken and admonish the people to repent from all sin, and to watch for the appearance of the Kingdom of Christ. (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 94-95)

Children don’t derive any spiritual benefit from baptism.  In fact, many of them become agitated and ill.

But at present in Asia, the Catholics and the Orthodox Church plunge newly born children into water mixed with olive oil, and many of them become ill from the shock; at the time of baptism they struggle and become agitated. In other places, the clergy sprinkle the water of baptism on the forehead. But neither from the first form nor from the second do the children derive any spiritual benefit.   (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

In this dispensation we don’t need a symbol of repentance and seeking forgiveness from sins:

No, this baptism with water was a symbol of repentance, and of seeking forgiveness of sins.  But in the cycle of Bahá’u’lláh there is no longer need of this symbol; for its reality, which is to be baptized with the spirit and love of God, is understood and established.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baptism doesn’t cause spiritual awakening or conversion – it’s only a custom we follow:

Other peoples are amazed and wonder why the infant is plunged into the water, since this is neither the cause of the spiritual awakening of the child, nor of its faith or conversion, but it is only a custom which is followed.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 95)

Religious laws are changed in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times:

Question. — Is the ablution of baptism useful and necessary, or is it useless and unnecessary? In the first case, if it is useful, why was it abrogated? And in the second case, if it is useless, why did John practice it?

Answer. — The change in conditions, alterations and transformations are necessities of the essence of beings, and essential necessities cannot be separated from the reality of things. So it is absolutely impossible to separate heat from fire, humidity from water, or light from the sun, for they are essential necessities. As the change and alteration of conditions are necessities for beings, so laws also are changed and altered in accordance with the changes and alterations of the times.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 93-94)

Material water doesn’t purify the heart:

For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism is through the divine teachings and the exhortations of Baha’u’llah:

The performance of baptismal celebration would cleanse the body, but the spirit hath no share; but the divine teachings and the exhortations of the Beauty of Bahá will baptize the soul. This is the real baptism. I hope that thou wilt receive this baptism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 390)

It’s the heavenly water and spirit which makes the human heart good and pure:

But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure — that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Real baptism removes evil qualities such as anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.:

These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.  Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit. That is why He says baptism with the spirit, with water and with fire is necessary, and that it is essential — that is to say, the spirit of divine bounty, the water of knowledge and life, and the fire of the love of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

When we’re baptized this way, we will become filled with eternal bounty:

Man must be baptized with this spirit, this water and this fire so as to become filled with the eternal bounty. Otherwise, what is the use of baptizing with material water? (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 91)

Baha’is don’t act as godparents either:

Your Assembly understands that a conscientious Bahá’í couple must not have their children baptized, nor should Bahá’ís ordinarily participate as godparents in a baptismal ceremony for this also may seem to imply their affiliation with the church.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 143)

For parents who are looking for a spiritual baptism ceremony to welcome the newly arrived babe, they can consider a naming ceremony:

Thou hast asked regarding the naming of children: When thou wishest to name a babe, prepare a meeting therefor; chant the verses and communes, and supplicate and implore the Threshold of Oneness and beg the attainment of guidance for the babe and wish confirmated firmness and constancy; then give the name and enjoy beverage and sweetmeat. This is spiritual baptism.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 149-150)

This would not be an official public ceremony, and would not involve any ritual:

We have no ‘baptismal service’ in the Cause, such as the Christians have. There could be no objection, however, for the friends to come together on such happy occasions, provided they do not hold an official public ceremony, and provided also they strictly avoid any uniformity and rigidity in all such practices.  We feel that this activity should be left to the discretion of the parents.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 138)

How has this helped you understand the topic better?  What’s been your experience?  Post your comments below.

A Pep Talk for the “Default Parent”

Janna shares 3 ideas for the default parent (the one who goes to parent-teacher interviews; stays home when a child is sick; or on school holidays etc)

  1. Remember you chose this role
  2. Changing “I have to” to “I get to”
  3. Your husband isn’t out to get you


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