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Unity: One of the First Essentials

If we Bahá’ís cannot attain to cordial unity among ourselves, then we fail to realize the main purpose for which the Báb, Bahá’u’lláh and the Beloved Master lived and suffered. In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

How much disunity exists in our Bahá’í communities, because we haven’t yet learned how to attain cordial unity among ourselves?  My hunch is a lot, especially since a lot of people are opting out of participating in the core activities.  Instead of just accepting this reality, I can dig a little deeper.

I love it when a quote tells me a problem and immediately gives a solution!  In this case, unity is not just a nice concept we can all agree on (Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world), but it gives me something practical I can do:  stop dwelling on the faults and failings of other rather than my own, and remember the main purpose for which the Bab, Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá lived and suffered.  Sometimes easier said than done, particularly in a culture that values gossip and fault-finding.

We’re told our greatest tests will come from other Bahá’ís and really, these tests are a gift, not something to fear or become frustrated and judgmental.  With every test comes an opportunity to grow spiritually, to grow closer to God and to attain the virtues we’ll need in the next world.  Instead of focusing on the faults and failings of others, I could welcome and embrace the awareness it gives, knowing that this finger-pointing can act as a mirror for my own growth.

Turning my attention to the crises and victories that came to the lives of the Central Figures, I can learn to adjust my own behavior and I am grateful!

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

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

 

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Setting Aside Every Personal Sense of Grievance

Regarding the matter of … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … when Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress;… All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance—justified or unjustified—for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world: love and unity. (From a letter dated 13 May 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of Australia and New Zealand, in Living the Life, p. 27)

In helping to organize the Bicentennial event in our small cluster, a decision was made to not include a certain Bahá’í in the invitation.  She’s 90 years old, has some dementia, is strongly opinionated and tends to dominate the conversations.  People were worried about what the non-Bahá’í guests would think about the Faith if she went off on one of her rants.  I understood people’s concerns and even shared them.  I too have had my tests with this person.  So I agreed.

I went away feeling very unsettled though.  Is this a Faith of oneness, where everyone is welcomed, where diversity is celebrated?  Or is it a Faith of people just like me?  What if we had encouraged her to come, to show our guests that we can treat all people with respect and courtesy and dignity?  Wouldn’t that have been more important than showing the film and having a discussion about the Bab?  I couldn’t say that to the organizer, though, and an opportunity was missed.

To make up for this failing, I held a small gathering for elderly and shut-in Baha’is who couldn’t get to the community’s bicentennial celebrations.  I knew there would be another opinionated 80-year old in attendance, and there was potential for either or both to alienate everyone they’re talking to, and I didn’t want my resentment and frustration to spill over.  Before the gathering, I prayed to be patient, kind and respectful, particularly to the most difficult person.  And with God’s help, I was.

It turned out that I prayed for the wrong person, though, because there was someone else in attendance who got into a power struggle with the difficult person, which, for me, destroyed the whole Holy Day.  Another opportunity to examine my expectations, forgive, let go of all ill-feelings, pray for our community and remember the importance of unity.

Remembering that people will never embrace our Faith until they see us practice love and unity in action, I can do my part, perfectly imperfect, and I am grateful.

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

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

 

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What to Do Instead of Gossip and Backbiting

If some people come to thee alone complaining against each other, don’t listen to them, don’t let them breathe the faults of others in thy presence. Tell them: “I have not come here to engage my time with these things. I am not a judge. I have come to summon the people to the Kingdom of Abha, to call you to unity and accord, to raise the dead, make mindful those who are unaware, awaken those who are asleep, breathe new life into the mouldering bones and sound the trumpet of resurrection! Friends! . . . You must not listen to anyone speaking about another; because no sooner do you listen to one than you must listen to someone else, and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly. Therefore, say to them: “O friends! Let us come together, forget all our self-thoughts and be in one accord, and cry at the top of our voices, ‘Ya-Baha-El-Abha!’  (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)

I often get drawn into other people’s gossip, no matter how much I try to stay clear of it.  In fact, just yesterday, a neighbor was confiding in me some of her concerns about the neighbors in our building, whose actions are attracting the police several times a week.  I too am seriously concerned about this.  I knew she needed to vent, and I knew it was verging on backbiting.  All I could do was pray silently in my head:  “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!”, over and over again.  Once she’d said her piece, and I acknowledged her concern, without engaging myself, she went on her way, happy to have been heard.  I went away feeling poisoned by the experience, but grateful I at least knew how to pray.

I was at fault for listening to her, knowing she was backbiting, knowing that she would repeat her sad tale to other tenants in the building and keep the story going.  I did try to focus my comments on her and her concerns, rather than the problems of our neighbors.  I did tell her I was systematically praying for the people in our building, which seemed to take her aback, and caused her to give me a big hug, which she has never done before.  Please God, let it be enough!

Knowing there are steps I can take when listening to the faults of others, I am grateful!

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

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

 

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The Strongest Spiritual Test We Can Meet

Yet who can doubt that all the central Figures demonstrated to the whole of mankind an assured and happy way of life? Here is where their example seems particularly precious. To rise above the disappointments, obstacles, and pain which we experience in serving the Cause is difficult enough, but to be called on, in doing so, to be happy and confident is perhaps the keenest spiritual test any of us can meet. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

O dear!  I don’t like that not only do I have to find a way to rise above disappointments, obstacles and pain, but I also have to be happy and confident too?  Sometimes I really think God asks too much of me!  That’s how I feel today, in the middle of feeling sorry for myself.

This morning, believing I was acting on a prompting from spirit, I tried to tackle a 2-person job all by myself.  I failed miserably and made the problem worse, and sunk into hopelessness, despair and self-pity as a result.  Fortunately, I don’t indulge in those emotions as often as I used to, because I’ve learned that happiness is a choice, as this quote seems to imply.  I identified the feeling, got up and walked for 10 minutes, praying for my neighbors as I walked and came back feeling ready to tackle the next meeting, grateful to have had the opportunity to be of service to someone.

Learning how to behave from the central figures of our Faith, I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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The Reason We Have Tests

The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one be­comes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribula­tions and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the greater his knowledge be­comes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties… Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. XIV, No. 2, p. 41).

I’ve always loved this quote, because it uses practical examples that are easy to understand, but the thing I love best is when `Abdu’l-Bahá tells us “Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows”.  It seems such an odd way to end this quote.  The clue is in the middle though:  “the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one be­comes.”

Why is it important for us to become more perfect than we were?  I think it’s so we can increase our capacity and be better fit for service; better soldiers in the Army of God.  We know we’re never going to be perfect.  That’s a station reserved for `Abdu’l-Bahá, but we can become more perfect as we accept the tests instead of railing against them, feeling punished by God or sorry for ourselves.  When I’m being tested (as I am today!), I need to remember to let go, trust God and enjoy the ride, remembering it all serves a purpose.

Knowing the purpose of my tests, I can relax into them, and I am grateful!

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

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Learning How to Be Happy

 

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Listening to the Faults of Others

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

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

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

Knowing it’s OK to prevent others from making accusations or complaints in my presence I am grateful!

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

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

 

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