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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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Gossip and Criticism

Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

It’s so true!  It’s a lot easier for me to gossip and criticize.  We live in a climate that encourages gossip and backbiting, and for many years, I got a false sense of intimacy with other people, by falling into this trap to hold onto friendships.

Three ideas helped me put a stop to this behavior:  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Lights of Guidance, p. 88) tells us that “the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting”.  In the Iqan (p. 193) Bahá’u’lláh tells us that “Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”.  In The Hidden Words (Arabic 27), we learned that even breathing the sins of others causes us to be “accursed” by God.

Thankfully, these ideas are helping me get a better handle on staying clear of gossip.  Being around it anymore, feels like immersing myself in poison, so I avoid it like the plague, but criticism is a lot harder for me to let go of.  So much of my life I’ve been disheartened at the way things turned out, that I’ve come to expect to be disappointed.  My default reaction is to see what’s wrong instead of seeing what’s right.  Fortunately Abdu’l-Baha (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93) reminds me that “the imperfect eye beholds imperfections.”  When I remember to look to God, and His perfections, I feel more grounded and more able to stay positive and avoid falling into the trap of criticism.

When I remember that everything is perfect just as it is, and my only job is to love, use constructive words and cooperate with others, 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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More on Gossip and Backbiting 

That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 265)

It is so easy when we’re angry, to want everyone else to know how badly we’ve been wronged, and we look for someone to listen as we vent our frustration.  Very quickly, this negativity will breed more negativity, until a false sense of intimacy is created.  We’re “in the know.”  We’re on the A list.  We’re one of the crowd.  We belong.

I had a friend like this once.  In retrospect, I think our whole friendship was based on gossip and backbiting, under the guise of “information sharing”.  I didn’t like it but I couldn’t seem to stop engaging.  It had become such a habit I didn’t know what else to talk about.

Our society promotes gossip.  We can’t even go grocery shopping or wait in a dentist’s office, without being immersed in magazines dedicated to spreading gossip and lies.  This is another element of materialism gone wrong, and part of the decline of the old world order.  We’ve been given a gift in this quote and a reason to stop, knowing it quenches the light of the heart and extinguishes the life of the soul.

Knowing the effects that gossip and backbiting has on my life, I can ask God to help me stop, 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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Choosing Love and Mercy 

The attributes of God are love and mercy; the attribute of Satan is hate. Therefore, he who is merciful and kind to his fellowmen is manifesting the divine attribute, and he who is hating and hostile toward a fellow creature is satanic.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 40)

This quote seems clear – our job is to be loving and forgiving, especially when the world wants us to be hating and hostile.  Sometimes easier said than done!  I’m going through a situation now that I’m trying to deal with in the right way and some of the people around me are so angry at what’s happened that they are taking sides and drawing swords and ready to do battle on my behalf.  I’ve had to talk some of them back from the edge, and do it without gossiping or backbiting at a time when I am hurting from the sting of what happened.  It’s been a day-by-day decision to apply the attributes of God.

When I remember the slogan “hurt people hurt people”, it helps me to be more compassionate and understanding.  When I remember that I can give the problem to God and pray for the one who hurt me, I can love her for the sake of God and not be hypocritical.  In addition to extending love and mercy to others, I also need to remember to show it to myself.

Knowing I have a choice to be loving and merciful to myself and others, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

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Letting Go of Backbiting

I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbit­ing is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No.11, p. 192)

I’ve written before on the topic of backbiting but it’s not surprising that there are so many quotes dealing with this issue, since it is considered the “most-great sin”.  In today’s quote we’re reminded again why we don’t do it – because it causes Divine wrath and makes me dishonored among everyone in the world.  I don’t know about you, but I certainly don’t want God to be angry at me.  I imagine Him angry at me for things I haven’t done, at times when I’m sure He’s more likely to be the “all-forgiving” and “ever-compassionate” and “all-merciful” but this is one time when He really is the “all-wrathful”.  That alone is enough to make me want to stop!  So I love this quote because it tells me what to do instead.

I can:

  • Overlook people’s shortcomings and faults
  • Praise people cordially
  • Expose their praiseworthy characteristics
  • Speak only of their virtues and not their defects

Our society is so immersed in gossip and backbiting that it’s easy to fall into it.  When the House of Justice asks us to engage in “elevated discourse”, this is an easy way to do it.  Now when I find myself with people who are engaging in backbiting, I can turn to Him and ask for help to remember to take these actions.

Knowing what to do instead of backbiting, 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

 

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