I’m Susan and I’m a workaholic. My life has become unmanageable and exceeds the bounds of moderation.
I don’t think I’m alone, especially in the Baha’i community.
I’m driven to complete my goals. I’m driven to please others. I’m driven to being the best Baha’i I can be. I’m driven to participate in the community building process.
The thesaurus lists the following synonyms related to being driven:
The problem with this addiction is that it’s praised in our materialistic society, and with employers more interested in the bottom line and maximizing profits at the expense of their employees, many of us are unwittingly caught up in this behaviour.
At the root of being driven is a mistaken belief that:
- No one will love me for who I am. I have to earn their love
- Someone always has something better and I have to have what they have, and more
- I have to find a solution to all my own problems
- I have to take responsibility for things that aren’t mine to take on
- I did something to deserve abuse, bullying, humiliation, rejection, disapproval etc.
- I have to do everything right, all the time, to be number 1. Nothing else is acceptable.
- I have to be a “somebody” to be accepted.
- The only way to survive a broken heart is to get busy.
Fear is at the root of it all. In my case, it’s:
- Fear of letting go – who will I be if I’m not driven?
- Fear of poverty – who will I be if I’m fired or take time off for disability, or declare bankruptcy?
- An overwhelming disappointment in this life and wanting to do everything in my power to earn “spiritual brownie points” so I can secure a better place in the next world
- Feeling guilty for not doing enough for the Faith and being judged by the Institutions
I had to learn that being asked by representatives of the Institutions to do something is not necessarily the voice of God. I could be driven towards people pleasing, wanting to be seen and judged by others as a “good Baha’i”.
God doesn’t want us to seek the approval of others, though. ‘Abdu’l-Baha is reported to have said:
To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)
. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
Even if we let go of the need to seek the approval of others, there are pressures coming from the goals of the 5-Year plan, especially at a time when the workers are so few and we’re being called on to make a “herculean effort.”
I wonder if being driven is from God, though. Somehow I doubt it.
Bahá’u’lláh tells us:
In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation. (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)
Overstep not the bounds of moderation. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 235)
Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 216)
So what is moderation and how do we achieve it? This is a question I’ve taken to the Writings. Come along with me as I see what I can learn.
What I’ve Learned About Being Driven:
First of all, this quote got my attention!
Ambitions are an abomination before the Lord. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West – 4)
So not only are we NOT to push ourselves towards our goals, we aren’t to have ambitions in the first place!
Drivenness is a lack of awareness of God in that moment, and a belief that I have to push on with a task, regardless of the cost to self and family. It’s easy in the Faith, at this period in history when the workers are so few and the tasks requiring a “herculean effort”, to give everything we’ve got and more, and to believe we can’t say no, when an Institution asks us to give even more. Instead of asking God what He wants us to do, we assume we know the answer from reading the recent letters of the House of Justice. The problem is, we may be applying the wrong remedy! Although insulin and penicillin are both valuable medications, each has to be applied to the right ailment at the right time.
Many workaholics do tasks that are not necessarily theirs to do. They may feel absolutely responsible for something, but inadequate to do it and/or unwilling or unable to delegate or ask for help. They can be hard on themselves for not being able to do it all, or as well as they would like. They blame themselves and feel guilty and ashamed and don’t know why, because in their minds, they believe they are doing all the right things.
The paradox is that we’re hard on ourselves because we know we have to follow the current guidance from the House of Justice, and when others aren’t stepping up to the plate, we do more and more and eventually burn out.
For example, here’s something I wrote about 3 years ago:
I totally understand and see the vision of the House of Justice, in which we do the core activities in our own neighborhoods as a way to build communities. I want to be part of the process but my passion lies in researching the practical application of the Writings to everyday problems, and making this information available to others through books and my blog. Even though I’m having several devotional gatherings with others over the phone; and tutoring 3 Ruhi Books over the phone, and supporting others who are animators and children’s class teachers, over the phone, I feel hugely guilty that I’m not doing it in my own cluster. Surely God sees my efforts as “enough”, yet my guilt has driven me to do more.
Recently, a member of the Institute Board told me that community building was the role of the Institutions and not the responsibility of the individual. It was a huge relief!
Also, God never asks us to carry anyone else’s responsibilities. As the House of Justice said in its Ridvan Message of 2014: “Everyone has a share in this enterprise; the contribution of each serves to enrich the whole.”
If I’m trying to fill someone else’s role because they are inactive, I don’t have time to fill my own.
Finding this quote really got my attention!
No good but only evil can come from taking the responsibility for the future of God’s Cause into our own hands and trying to force it into ways that we wish it to go regardless of the clear texts and our own limitations. It is His Cause. He has promised that its light will not fail. Our part is to cling tenaciously to the revealed word and to the institutions that He has created to preserve His Covenant.’ (Universal House of Justice, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 119)
YIKES! “only evil can come from taking the responsibility for the future of God’s Cause into our own hands and trying to force it into ways that we wish it to go regardless of our own limitations”! That’s exactly what I was doing!
But as a workaholic, it was one thing to leave the community building to the institutions and another to know what moderation looked like. I had to ask myself – when working full time on my business, is tutoring 3 study circles; holding devotional gatherings and accompanying others excessive? Or is it applying a “herculean effort”? I didn’t know, until I carefully studied the second half of this quote: my job is to “cling tenaciously to the revealed word and to the institutions.”
Recently, I joined Workaholics Anonymous who gave me the 3 R’s as a standard: In addition to working (and service), I need to spend equal amounts of time on Rest, Relaxation and Relationship Building.
So which “revealed word” can help shed some light on my need for rest, relaxation and relationship building?
Recently at a Baha’i Conference, we looked at this quote, where Shoghi Effendi told us:
…you should not neglect your health, but consider it the means which enables you to serve. It — the body . . . should be well cared for so it can do its work! You should certainly safeguard your nerves, and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 297)
It was a real “aha” moment for me. I felt that Shoghi Effendi really understood me, when he said I should “force myself to take time for real rest and relaxation”! That’s what it will take! A force of willpower and a herculean effort, because I don’t know when or how to stop the work and service I enjoy doing.
That takes care of 2 of the 3 R’s right there! That’s a quote I can cling to tenaciously.
But how does an introvert like me go about building relationships when I have no ties to my biological family or a spouse? Home visits and elevated conversations with like-minded people seem to be clues, but only if these activities aren’t coming from a place of “should” and only if they lead to real rest and relaxation. I think that’s a topic for another day!
The good news is, even with a society that promotes workaholism, we can overcome it and not live in drivenness, constantly trying to measure up to someone else’s standard. God knows what we need and will provide everything we need, if only we remember to ask.
What’s your experience with drivenness? Post your comments below.
This book, by Justice St. Rain of Baha’i Resources, is now available on Amazon. Click the book title for more information!
I’m a workaholic and adrenaline junkie and my life has become unmanageable due to burnout and adrenal fatigue caused by drivenness, compulsive caretaking and approval seeking.
For the past several months, I’ve been attending five different 12 step programs over the phone (Workaholics Anonymous, Underearners Anonymous, Debtors Anonymous, Adult Children of Alcoholics Anonymous and Survivors of Incest Anonymous ). I’ve got a sponsor and am actively working the 12 steps in Workaholics Anonymous.
As I completed Step 2, my sponsor asked me to identify the qualities of God I wanted to help me with my addictions and recovery. I thought this was a great idea, as I had already written 2 blog postings which could help:
Understanding the Power in the Long Healing Prayer
Using the Names of God for Healing
I chose these 12 as my most important, and share them with you in case you’d like to do something similar in your own recovery:
- My only Hope
- The Healer
- The Helper
- The Forgiver
- The Loving
- The Inspirer
- The Unfolder, Unfastener and Uprooter
- The Comforter
- The Best Lover
- The Restorer
- The Satisfier
- The Bringer of Delight
Here’s how I elaborated on each one.
My only Hope:
I started with this one because it’s so true. It’s the basis of everything. God is the All-Knowing, the All-Seeing, the All-Wise and the Well-informed. He is a huge, immense, vast, large, abundant, boundless, enormous, omnipotent, unknowable God. He can do anything!
He has a greater vision of what’s going on with me than anyone else can, (including me), so He knows where and how to apply His healing remedy. I’ve tried everything I knew to try and I still had a problem with drivenness, perfectionism, compulsive caretaking, people pleasing and approval seeking.
It’s nice to know that God has no equal and is the best there is, so I can trust Him with my problems and my healing and stop looking for second class help. He’s become the security blanket I don’t want to let go of, the cord I cling to at all times and under all conditions. He’s the life force that keeps me going.
Of all the things I can remember, His absolute, unconditional love for me and His continual presence in my life is the greatest of them all. That’s why it’s so important for me to continually call Him to mind. I can trust Him to keep my issues confidential.
I can trust His advice and guidance. He is the most sympathetic, empathetic, gentle, kind-hearted listener I will ever find, the one who can get at the root of any of my problems and solve them. He has a quick grasp of reality, comprehends, perceives, understands and is able to figure out problems I can’t solve by myself. He has the cure, the medicine, the therapy and the treatment I need to recover, restore, refresh, regenerate, rebuild, repair and recuperate.
He’s all I need to restore me back to health. He is there to guard, shield, defend, protect and act as my bodyguard. He’s able to offer, provide and give generously whatever I need from His hidden storehouses. He’s concerned, sympathetic, empathetic, gentle, caring and considerate. He’s eager to be understanding and forgiving. In short, He’s got it all and He’s my only hope.
God is my Divine Physician and He has the remedy for all my ills. I trust Him to heal me. In WA, I’m learning that healing involves so much more than my puny mind can conceive. When I give my will over to the care of God, He can help me get at the root of my problems, where on my own I would just focus on the symptoms. His medicine is effective and quick acting, as long as I remember to listen for and apply His remedy.
This is the aspect of God who brings aid, assistance and comfort. He relieves the pain, supports and rescues me. He gives me a helping hand where one is needed. He steps in and takes care of the practical details. I almost always feel like I have to do everything myself. Sometimes it’s even easier that way.
Delegating can be exhausting and time consuming, so it’s nice to know I can ask the Helper to send the help I need. Sometimes I need practical help. Often I can’t even imagine what I need. Neighbors and friends often say: “if we can do anything to help . . .”, and they really mean it, but often I can’t think of anything and need “The Helper” to figure it out for me, and find the right person to deliver it in the right way, at the right time.
Although many people call on The Helper, He’s never too busy to help me too. He has no limits or boundaries. He’s free and unencumbered by anything or anyone. He’s not restricted or regulated. He is the one who can find solutions where none seem to exist. I can trust that whatever solutions He has in mind for me will help me beyond my wildest imagination.
He stands ready to forgive me for my unhealthy attachments and can help me forgive everyone behind my fear of abandonment. God is Merciful and not punishing. Nowhere in the Writings of any religion, do we see God referred to as the All-Punishing or the All-Condemning.
He’s the one I want to root out and extinguish all of my character defects and sins. We all do things that are not pleasing to God. We have all done things we think are unforgiveable, and yet, God shows everyone, including me, His mercy, favor, kindness and leniency. This is the aspect of God I most need to relieve me of my shame and humiliation. He grants His forgiveness, mercy, compassion, understanding, tolerance, pardon, pity and reconciliation to everyone who asks, so I know I can rely on His forgiveness and mercy.
God’s love for me brought me into being. He’s provided me with the foundation and basis for life. He’s the loving parent I need when life is falling apart. He has an endless supply of resources and knows where to find the help I need. He’s a loving friend who is with me “at all times and under all conditions”. He gives a helping hand where one is needed. He steps in and takes care of the practical details. He is the one I can count on when all others have gone home. He’s the one I want to curl up beside and share all of my woes, knowing He’s got a listening, non-judgmental and compassionate ear.
I know I can ask God for anything, but like any loving parent, sometimes He has to say no for reasons I may not understand till later. Sometimes He knows that the kind of healing I want isn’t what’s best for me right now. Sometimes it may seem that He’s withholding His help, especially if I’m expecting a certain outcome. His answer may come in ways I find hard to recognize. I can trust that He loves me so much that nothing is too much trouble and He always has time for me.
God has eagle-eye vision. He knows every aspect of my life and my place in the world. He notices things I may have long forgotten. He sees everything I’ve ever done or ever will do and He’s able to remind me of my strengths, and show me which path is best for me to go down at this time.
He is single, unattached and free to give me His full attention as He inspires, uplifts, moves me and helps me transcend my problems. All I have to do is listen for His guidance, so that I can align with His will. In the past, I’ve turned to everyone else for help, but God’s knowledge is infinitely higher. He can steer me to the right people when I remember to ask His advice. I’m learning that I’m not unique. My problems aren’t unsolvable. With God’s inspiration, I’ve got a limitless storehouse of solutions to draw on.
The Unfolder, Unfastener and Uprooter:
These are the aspects of God who seem to destroy, ruin and wreck things. God knows when things aren’t working anymore and need to be broken so something new can come in its place. He helps me burn away my satanic self in order to purify and cleanse me, in order to draw closer to Him.
These are my least favorite aspects of God, because I don’t like change. I frequently pray for healing so I can go back to life the way it was before starting into recovery, but when I ponder these attribute, I realize that maybe God has something better planned for me. He has to unfasten me from my old way of being, so I can be the person He created me to be.
In any given day and depending on my level of attachment to the old “me”, this can be as painful as ripping Velcro, or as easy as unzipping a coat. He knows when it’s time to move me from a shady spot to a sunnier one; from gravel to a loamy soil.
I don’t know what’s in my best interest, but the Uprooter does, and He’s not afraid to prune me and replant me somewhere better.
Every time the Unfastener has been at work in my life, it’s felt like Velcro ripping apart, or like a Band-Aid pulling hair out of my skin when it’s ripped off. It HURTS! The pain of each of these tests is excruciating, whether He’s been unfastening me from people I love, jobs I’m attached to, or locations I’ve been living in!
When I meditate on the meaning of the “Unfastener” as a name of God here for my healing, I realize God is helping me to let go of something or someone I thought I needed in my life and the best way to heal is to recognize I need to detach, forgive and move on to something better.
The “Unfolder” needs to be active in my life because I’ve folded myself up to protect against hurt or pain, and my muscles have atrophied from curling in on myself. I need to be unfolded, so I can heal and live the life God has in store for me.
This aspect of God is meek, mild, gentle, warm, soft – all comforting words. This is the aspect of God most likely to bring me a metaphysical cup of tea, exactly when I need it or gift me with someone whose kindness is quietly given at exactly the time I need it the most.
The Best Lover:
God has “unfastened” me, so that I could draw closer to Him and make Him my “Best Lover”. The actions I need to take include letting go of my excessive worry and self-pity, blame, hurt and self-hatred, trusting that He’s not going anywhere, and is everything I need and more.
Most of us look to our spouses to be our “best lover” and wonder where the love goes when it fades away. Humans were never meant to take this on. God wants me all to Himself. When I put Him as my Best Lover, calling on Him day and night; serving Him; mentioning His name, He’ll never leave me.
He’s with me always; permanent, steadfast, unshakable. He’s with me long after everyone else leaves. People have come and gone in my life. Sometimes it was the ones I most counted on who suddenly, abruptly and with no warning, disappeared from my life in times of crisis, but I’ve come to appreciate that God’s love and presence in my life has been constant, endless, unceasing, unbroken, steady and invariable, even when I thought He had abandoned me. I know I can count on Him even when I can’t count on anyone else.
God is the only one who can restore me to sanity. He’s is in my life for the long haul. He doesn’t leave when His shift is over. He works weekends and never takes holidays. He’s there to support and nourish and hold me up, even when my resolve is flagging and I’m exhausted. He’s the one who can give me the energy to carry on with the next right action. He’s all I need to nurse and restore me back to health.
I used to hope that God would restore me to the same level of health I enjoyed prior to my burnout and adrenal exhaustion but that may not be as quick and easy as I would like. I’ve noticed that there are 125 separate names or attributes of God embedded into the “Long Healing Prayer”. Now when I say it, I imagine each one as a separate entity, able to assist with a specific area of healing, so that by the time the prayer is finished, I’ve humbly asked God in all His manifest attribute to restore me to sanity so I can better serve His Cause and His servants.
I’m learning that nothing can satisfy me but God. He satisfies my thirst in ways my addictions never could. He is pleased and satisfied with me and wants to satisfy my every desire. I don’t have to do anything to earn His love. It’s unconditional.
I can trust Him with my problems more than anyone else because His love is never going to change. He is generous, giving, open-handed and makes sure I have plenty of what I need. He’s caring, sympathetic, gentle, thoughtful, compassionate, kind-hearted and humane.
He’ll see that things are handled well for everyone around me, so I can let go of any need to compulsively-caretake or people-please.
God can speed things up, accelerate solutions and help move things forward at a quicker pace. His “yes” might not look like the “yes” I was expecting, but I can always count on it to be the right “yes” for me, at this time and in this place.
When I call on the Satisfier, I’m asking God to heal not only me, but everyone dealing with disease, poverty, pain, distress, ordeals, tests, hardships, anguish, grief, mourning, worry, stress, trouble, danger, difficulties, misfortunes, burdens, regrets, disappointments and torments, knowing He can satisfy everyone in just the right way.
The Bringer of Delight:
It’s hard to imagine that in the middle of my darkness there can be any joy, but God wants to bring me joy, happiness, enjoyment, delight and pleasure in the little things, so I can live in the present and appreciate, relish, enjoy and savor each moment.
He wants me to be enthralled, captivated, mesmerized, hypnotized, entranced and delighted as He transports me to another place, high above my troubles.
He is the one who shows me everything beautiful in nature, to remind me that there is still beauty to be found, even in the midst of my pain.
He loves to give extravagant presents! His gifts are always over the top, lavish and plentiful. He can bring beauty into even the ugliest of settings, so this is the aspect of God I want when that dark cloud is following me and I want Him to cheer me up and brighten my day.
And I am grateful!
How do you define your “Higher Power” and how does this definition help with your recovery? Post your comments below.
One of my readers asked me to write an article on The Courage to Stop Gambling. He worried that we’ve become obsessed with winning raffles and lotteries; playing games of chance; casinos and online gambling has become a big part of our consumer-driven, materialistic society. Entertainment is so embedded in our psyche that life without it seems dull or boring.
Another reader wrote:
I know it is forbidden and that The Universal House of Justice has decided that for the present time it is the responsibility of each individual to decide for themselves what constitutes gambling.
I was wondering four things:
1) What do the Baha’i writings say should be the legal consequence?
2) According to the Baha’i writings why is it forbidden?
3) Does the Baha’i Faith say anything positive about gambling?*
4) To the best of our knowledge, did Bahá’u’lláh permit any forms of gambling?
So I thought it was time to turn to the Baha’i Writings to see if I could find some answers.
Some shocking statistics to consider:
- about 80 percent of North American adults gamble on a yearly basis
- approximately 6 million American adults are addicted to gambling
- an estimated 50 percent of those affected by gambling problems commit crimes in order to support their addiction (primarily by writing bad cheques or embezzling money from their employers)
- youth between the ages of 20-30 have the highest rates of problem gambling.
- gambling addictions are about a prevalent as those who abuse cocaine or amphetamines.
- families of problem gamblers are more likely to experience child abuse or other forms of domestic violence.
- early onset of problem gambling increases the lifetime risk of suicide
- the most common gaming activities among Canadian adults are lotteries and instant-win tickets
The DSM-5 has re-classified the condition as an addictive disorder, despite the fact that pathological gambling has long been considered by the American Psychiatric Association to be an impulse control disorder rather than an addiction.
I think it’s no surprise that gambling is prohibited. It’s interesting to me that it’s combined with the use of opium, in light of the comments above.
Gambling and the use of opium have been forbidden unto you. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 75)
What is prohibited?
In response to questions about whether lotteries, betting on such things as horse races and football games, bingo, and the like, are included under the prohibition of gambling. (Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 238-239)
Are all games prohibited?
Asked whether the Bahá’í prohibition of gambling applies to game of every description, ‘Abdu’l-Baha replied: —No, some games are innocent, and if pursued for pastime there is no harm. But there is danger that pastime may degenerate into waste of time. Waste of time is not acceptable in the Cause of God. But recreation which may improve the bodily powers, as exercise, is desirable. (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Bahá’u’lláh and the New Era, p. 103)
Is anything NOT prohibited?
As far as individuals are concerned, we have carefully studied the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Baha and Shoghi Effendi on this point and it is apparent that such subsidiary matters are not recorded in the Holy Texts. The Universal House of Justice is not prepared to decide at this time whether the purchase of lottery tickets should be permitted or prohibited. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 357)
When and how is it enforced?
The Universal House of Justice has indicated that this is a matter that will be considered in detail in the future. In the meantime, the Assemblies and individuals are counselled not to make an issue of these matters and to leave it to the conscience of the individual believers. (Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 238-239)
Raising Money for the Funds
The House of Justice has ruled that it is not appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through lotteries, raffles, and games of chance. (Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 238-239)
As to participation in Bingo games by a Local Spiritual Assembly with the intention of contributing to the Fund, we do not feel it is appropriate for funds for the Faith to be raised through games of chance or raffles. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 357)
In reviewing your Minutes for 15 March 1967, we note Item 25-8 in which the Treasurer suggests a lottery as means of disposing of a Persian carpet which has been given to you by one of the believers. We do not feel this is an appropriate way in which to raise funds. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 357)
Reasons for the Injunction
Betting on horse racing is a pernicious disease. It hath been seen in Europe what distress this hath caused. Thousands have become afflicted and distraught. The friends of God must engage in work which is lawful and attracted blessings, so that God’s aid and bounty may always surround them.’ (Translated from the Persian) (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 357)
The trials of man are of two kinds. (a) The consequences of his own actions. If a man eats too much, he ruins his digestion; if he takes poison he becomes ill or dies. If a person gambles he will lose his money; if he drinks too much he will lose his equilibrium. All these sufferings are caused by the man himself, it is quite clear therefore that certain sorrows are the result of our own deeds. (Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 49)
The world’s wealth is, by contrast, the stuff of illusion. Those who lust after it are the followers of evil and, erelong, they shall be plunged into confusion and despair. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 343)
The problem seems to be our materialistic world, where we’re taught to want more and more “things” and even to see consumption as normal.
Baha’u’llah has a different thought about wealth. In the Hidden Words He states:
Thou dost wish for gold and I desire thy freedom from it. Thou thinkest thyself rich in its possession, and I recognize thy wealth in thy sanctity therefrom. By My life! This is My knowledge, and that is thy fancy; how can My way accord with thine? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 56)
The problem with this is that it causes us to turn away from God:
All around us today we see how man surrounds himself with every modern convenience and luxury, and denies nothing to the physical and material side of his nature. But, take heed, lest in thinking too earnestly of the things of the body you forget the things of the soul: for material advantages do not elevate the spirit of a man. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 62-63)
When we gamble, we put all our affairs in someone else’s hands. Since our entire purpose in life is to “know and worship God”, every time we fail to turn to God for our needs, we fail to achieve our purpose.
In God’s eyes, our wealth lies in our love for Him:
The essence of wealth is love for Me; whoso loveth Me is the possessor of all things, and he that loveth Me not is indeed of the poor and needy. This is that which the Finger of Glory and Splendour hath revealed. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 156)
Everything we want from life – happiness, status, pleasure and peace can never be found in material wealth:
The happiness and greatness, the rank and station, the pleasure and peace, of an individual have never consisted in his personal wealth, but rather in his excellent character, his high resolve, the breadth of his learning, and his ability to solve difficult problems. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 23)
Many people see lotteries as a way to improve the lives of their families and friends, but in this new world order we’re creating, the wealthy have an obligation to help the poor.
Good God! is it possible that, seeing one of his fellow-creatures starving, destitute of everything, a man can rest and live comfortably in his luxurious mansion? He who meets another in the greatest misery, can he enjoy his fortune? That is why, in the religion of God, it is prescribed and established that wealthy men each year give over a certain part of their fortune for the maintenance of the poor and unfortunate. That is the foundation of the religion of God, and the most essential of the commandments. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 283-284)
And contributions made to the Right of God are used for charitable purposes:
Furthermore the Huquq will be used for charitable purposes. (Compilations, Huququ’llah 62)
Many people look at quick-fix winning as some magic pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, but it comes with a high price. If you’re unhappy, bad with money and surrounded by people you don’t trust, money will make those problems worse. About 70 percent of people who suddenly receive a windfall of cash will lose it within a few years, either to their own greed or the greed of those around them, all with their hands out looking to share the wealth. Many declare bankruptcy, become divorced and even commit suicide.
Even this earth’s happiness does not depend upon wealth. You will find many of the wealthy exposed to dangers and troubled by difficulties, and in their last moments upon the bed of death there remains the regret that they must be separated from that to which their hearts are so attached. They come into this world naked, and they must go from it naked. All they possess they must leave behind and pass away solitary, alone. Often at the time of death their souls are filled with remorse; and worst of all, their hope in the mercy of God is less than ours. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 33)
God wants us to achieve our wealth through making efforts in our crafts and professions:
Having attained the stage of fulfilment and reached his maturity, man standeth in need of wealth, and such wealth as he acquireth through crafts or professions is commendable and praiseworthy in the estimation of men of wisdom. (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 437)
The legitimacy of wealth depends, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has indicated, on how it is acquired and on how it is expended. In this connection, He has stated that “wealth is praiseworthy in the highest degree, if it is acquired by an individual’s own efforts and the grace of God, in commerce, agriculture, crafts and industry”. (Universal House of Justice message to the Believers in the Cradle of the Faith, 1 April 2010)
The members of the younger generation would do well to ponder the above statement
of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in which He conditions the acquisition of wealth on diligent work and the grace of God. Let them weigh carefully in their hearts and minds the difference between gaining wealth through earnest effort in fields such as agriculture, commerce, the arts, and industry, on the one hand, and, on the other, obtaining it without exertion or through dishonourable means. Let them consider the consequences of each for the spiritual development of the individual, as well as the progress of society, and ask themselves what possibilities exist for generating income and acquiring wealth that will draw down confirmations from on high. It will surely become evident, as they do so, that what will attract God’s blessings and ensure true happiness both in this world and in the next is the development of spiritual qualities, such as honesty, trustworthiness, generosity, justice, and consideration for others, and the recognition that material means are to be expended for the betterment of the world.
(Universal House of Justice, [Authorized Translation from Persian], 2 April 2010, to the Believers in the Cradle of the Faith)
In 2006, Americans lost nearly $91 billion on all forms of gambling combined. According to some economists, the total cost per year to end extreme poverty worldwide in 20 years, would be about $175 billion. So if everyone just stopped gambling and applied that money to eliminating poverty, we’d be half way there!
So what does all of this have to do with overcoming an attachment to gambling?
To stop, we must provide education and training, (which I hope to have done above).
If a soul be ailing and infirm, we must produce remedies; if ignorant, we must provide education; if defective, we must train and perfect that which is lacking; if immature and undeveloped, we must supply the means of attainment to maturity. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 315)
For remedies, many countries have now got helplines available to help people stop. Some of them are listed here
Online programs are available through Gambling Therapy
12 Step programs are often successful and “approved”:
A variety of self-help groups, in addition to Alcoholics Anonymous, may be available in different areas and, as long as they are reasonably in keeping with the principles of the Faith, believers should feel free to use them as needed. One such organization is the Bahá’í Network on AIDS, Sexuality, Addiction and Abuse (BNASAA), sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of Canada. The BNASAA website is www.bnasaa.org (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 6)
In regard to your question about the fifth step in the “A.A. 12-Step Programme”, we have been asked to share with you the following extract from a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice on 26 August 1986 to an individual believer: …there is no objection to Bahá’í being members of Alcoholics Anonymous, which is an association that does a great deal of good in assisting alcoholics to overcome their lamentable condition. The sharing of experience which the members undertake does not conflict with the Bahá’í prohibition on the confession of sins; it is more in the nature of the therapeutic relationship between a patient and a psychiatrist. (The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Feb 7, Issues concerning community functioning)
The Bahá’í community should feel free to call upon such agencies as Alcoholics Anonymous for assistance and upon public agencies who work with the problem, but must realize that the greatest healing of this social and individual disease is God’s Cause which in its fullness will eliminate the causes of alcoholism. (Universal House of Justice, dated August 8, 1979, to a National Spiritual Assembly)
For more on this topic:
Gambling: To Wager or to Work
Baha’i Law on Gambling
Dealing with Addictions
What has been your experience with gambling and how has this helped you understand the issues? Post your comments below.
Recently one of my readers wrote:
One of my current favorite quotes from Gleanings, pp316-317, is “God grant that your desires and unmortified passions may not hinder you from that which hath been ordained for you.” I believe I am stuck in one of these passions and would like help breaking free.
I have been struggling with an eating disorder for over 40 years. I have had a lot of therapy, been to two outpatient treatment centers and been involved in various programs. I have made tremendous progress, but am not free yet and am going through a particularly difficult period with food. My weight is low and I have trouble keeping food in my stomach.
I know what I have to do, set up a food plan that has me eating 4 or 5 times a day in small enough quantities that do not trigger purging. I often eat more than I can keep down and the eating/purging cycle begins. My problem is with quantities and stopping eating at appropriate times.
I think the disorder is driven by habit and addiction. This disorder has cost me dearly in lost time, loss of self-respect, lost opportunities, lost money, and countless known and unknown spiritual costs.
So, my question is, are you willing to help me continue on the road and, hopefully, become free of this consuming addiction, so that I can take more advantage of the gifts Baha’u’llah has given me I odder to become a fuller person and a more effective teacher and servant?
I admit freely right up front that I don’t have any experience in dealing with eating disorders!
The following Baha’is specialize in eating disorders (among other things). I don’t know them personally – just what I’ve read on their websites:
Mahsa Migalski is a Marriage and Family Therapist specializing in individual and couples-work, depression, anxiety, trauma, grief work, eating disorders, and self-injury
Marzi Radpour-Wiley is a Licensed Clinical Psychologist with a special interest in women’s mental health issues specifically related to sexual trauma, adjustment struggles, eating disorders, and personality disorders; adolescents and adults with mood and anxiety problems
I’m sorry to hear that your eating disorder has you “stuck in one of these passions” and admire your sincere desire for help breaking free!
Have you seen this article?
Baha’is with Eating Disorders
- How and when was the food plan successful?
- What stops you from setting up and following a food plan now?
- What is going on at the moment you eat more than you can keep down?
- Who are you with?
- What stressors are you dealing with?
- What thoughts are going through your head?
But even more importantly:
- What spiritual practices are you doing?
- Are you reciting one of the Obligatory Prayers with pure-hearted devotion each day?
- Are you reading the Sacred Scriptures every morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought?
- Are you prayerfully meditating on the teachings, in order to understand them more deeply, fulfil them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others?
- Are you striving every day to bring your behaviour more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings?
- Are you teaching the Cause of God?
- Are you selflessly serving the work of the Cause and in carrying out your trade or profession?
- Are you participating in the core activities?
- Are you sacrificially giving to the Fund?
- Is your Right of God up to date?
Use this as a checklist, and make sure you focus on achieving all of these things.
Are you familiar with this story?
A grandfather is talking with his grandson and he says there are two wolves inside of us which are always at war with each other.
One of them is a good wolf which represents things like kindness, bravery and love. The other is a bad wolf, which represents things like greed, hatred and fear.
The grandson stops and thinks about it for a second then he looks up at his grandfather and says, “Grandfather, which one wins?”
The grandfather quietly replies, the one you feed
My hunch is that this issue has occupied much of your attention for the past 40 years, and all of the treatment programs you’ve been given have focused on “the problem”.
But that’s not how things work in the Faith! We work from “strength to strength”:
Despite the blows leveled at its nascent strength, whether by the wielders of temporal and spiritual authority from without, or by black-hearted foes from within, the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh had, far from breaking or bending, gone from strength to strength, from victory to victory. Indeed its history, if read aright, may be said to resolve itself into a series of pulsations, of alternating crisis and triumphs, leading it ever nearer to its divinely appointed destiny. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 147)
I think that’s probably what’s been going on in your life too: a series of alternating crisis and triumphs. It sounds like you’re in a crisis now, but they are always followed by victory! Here’s something I found on Facebook last night that appealed to me:
Just remember – even your worst days only have 24 hours!
In this Faith we turn our back to the darkness and our faces to God, and we do that through the items listed above:
He urges you to persevere and add up your accomplishments, rather than to dwell on the dark side of things. Everyone’s life has both a dark and bright side. The Master said: turn your back to the darkness and your face to Me. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 457)
Remember, although you probably have a lot of shame around purging, it’s misplaced. This article will explain it better:
Healthy vs. Unhealthy Guilt and Shame
Here are some prayers you could say:
O my Lord! Make Thy beauty to be my food, and Thy presence my drink, and Thy pleasure my hope, and praise of Thee my action, and remembrance of Thee my companion, and the power of Thy sovereignty my succorer, and Thy habitation my home, and my dwelling-place the seat Thou hast sanctified from the limitations imposed upon them who are shut out as by a veil from Thee. Thou art, verily, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Most Powerful. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 261)
O Divine Providence! Bestow Thou in all things purity and cleanliness upon the people of Bahá. Grant that they be freed from all defilement, and released from all addictions. Save them from committing any repugnant act, unbind them from the chains of every evil habit, that they may live pure and free, wholesome and cleanly, worthy to serve at Thy Sacred Threshold and fit to be related to their Lord. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 149-150)
O my Glorious Lord! Help me to refrain from every irregular inclination; to subdue every rebelious passion; to purify the motives of my conduct; to conform myself to that meekness which no provocation can ruffle; to that patience which no affliction can overwhelm; to that integrity which no self-interest can shake; that I may be qualified to serve Thee and to teach Thy Word. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, English Sources and Authenticity of Fifteen Prayers in the Dutch Prayer Book, Bahá’í Gebeden by Universal House of Justice 2001-10-22)
God doesn’t want you to focus on what’s wrong with you, He needs all of your attention focused on serving the Cause. Remember, He has chosen YOU!
For I say unto you that He has chosen you to be His messengers of love throughout the world, to be His bearers of spiritual gifts to man, to be the means of spreading unity and concord on the earth. Thank God with all your hearts that such a privilege has been given unto you. For a life devoted to praise is not too long in which to thank God for such a favour. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 68)
You can’t fulfill this task if you are focused on “the problem” and feeding the wrong wolf.
I have a tendency to wallow in self-pity but when I read in this year’s Ridvan Message:
The sustained effort required will be arduous. But the outcome has the potential to be profoundly significant, even epoch making. Small steps, if they are regular and rapid, add up to a great distance travelled. (Paragraph 4)
In each cycle are vested fleeting opportunities for a stride forward, precious possibilities that will not return. (Paragraph 4)
In society at large, alas, the symptoms of an ever-deepening malaise of the soul multiply and worsen. How striking that, as the peoples of the world suffer for want of the true remedy and turn fitfully from one false hope to another, you are collectedly refining an instrument that connects hearts with the Word of God eternal. How striking that, amid the cacophony of fixed opinions and opposing interests that grows everywhere more fierce, you are focused on drawing people together to build communities that are havens of unity. Far from disheartening you, let the world’s prejudices and hostilities be reminders of how urgently souls all around you need the healing balm that you alone can present to them. (Paragraph 5)
I realized I could no longer wallow. The world “needs the healing balm that only I can present to them” and if my attention is focused on self; then I’m going to miss the “fleeting opportunities that will not return”. All I need to do is realize that “the sustained effort required will be arduous” and “take small steps, regular and rapid”; and if I do, “the outcome could be profoundly significant, even epoch making”.
Those are my marching orders! Are you willing to make them yours?
It seems you’ve tried everything else! 🙂
So that would be the approach I’d take to the problem!
How has this been helpful? Post your comments below!