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It’s OK to Feel Anxiety and Grief

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. The lives of the Founders of our Faith clearly show that to be fundamentally assured does not mean that we live without anxieties, nor does being happy mean that there are not periods of deep grief when, like the Guardian, we wrap ourselves in a blanket, pray and supplicate, and give ourselves time for healing in preparation for the next great effort. (Shoghi Effendi, Quickeners of Mankind, p. 117)

In my meditation this morning, I was reminded of this quote, which is exactly the healing remedy I need for today.  Living with anxiety means I often feel guilty and judge myself harshly when I just read the first part of quotes like these.  Because it’s in the Writings, I make it black or white and live with a lot of guilt when I can’t reach the standards.  Not only do I have to rise above my disappointments, obstacles, and pain but I have to be happy and confident in doing it.  Either I’m doing it this way all the time, and I’m good or I’m falling short even once and I’m bad.

It’s so easy for me to beat myself up as being a “bad Bahá’í” especially when I start worrying about everyday concerns, or need to take time for healing, and I’m trying to stop this form of abasement.  This quote reminds me that if the Founders of our Faith can live with anxieties and grief, then so too can this lowly servant.  If even these people with superpowers I’ll never have also had moments where they felt the weight of their lives and needed time to recover their strength after some great disappointment, then it’s OK for me too.  If God didn’t punish them, then surely He isn’t going to punish me either!

Letting go of my need to be perfect, 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 Fear into Faith:  Overcoming Anxiety

 

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Molding the World and Being Affected By It

We cannot segregate the human heart from the environment outside us and say that once one of these is reformed everything will be improved.  Man is organic with the world.  His inner life molds the environment and is itself also deeply affected by it . . . Through them [the Baha’i teachings] will the human heart be changed, and also our social environment provides the atmosphere in which we can grow spiritually and reflect in full the light of God.  (on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, V1, #3.3)

I had to read this quote several times before I thought I might understand what Shoghi Effendi is saying.  Starting from the end and moving backwards, it reminds me that my social environment provides the atmosphere in which I can grow spiritually, but it also deeply affects my inner life.

As a highly sensitive introvert, I can only be out in the world a short time before the world’s negativity draws me under like an undertow and I need to isolate myself for awhile before I can regain my equilibrium and go out into the world again.  I’m like a cell phone that’s near the end of its life, unable to hold a charge for very long without needing to be plugged in again.

I used to compare myself to others, and to other Writings which urge us to be more and do more, which fed my addiction to beating myself up.  Now I’m more gentle with myself, forgiving myself, understanding that God created me as an introvert, and gave me unique tests to shape my character.  He knows my weakness and frailties and yet, He chose me to be part of His army of light, so it’s OK to need time to recharge my battery.

Now that I’m conscious of my own motives and God’s mercy and forgiveness, there’s no need to beat myself up, 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  Learning How to Forgive

 

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God’s Forgiveness of Sinners

It is even possible for those who have died in sin and unbelief to be transformed, that is, to become the object of divine forgiveness. This is through the grace of God and not through His justice, for grace is to bestow without desert, and justice is to give that which is deserved. As we have the power to pray for those souls here, so too will we have the same power in the next world, the world of the Kingdom. Are not all the creatures in that world the creation of God? They must therefore be able to progress in that world as well. And just as they can seek illumination here through supplication, so too can they plead there for forgiveness and seek illumination through prayer and supplication. Thus, as souls can progress in this world through their entreaties and supplications, or through the prayers of holy souls, so too after death can they progress through their own prayers and supplications, particularly if they become the object of the intercession of the holy Manifestations.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 62)

I used to think I was perfect and the people who abused me were monsters.  As I’ve studied the Baha’i Writings and become more enlightened, I realize that we are all sinners, me included.  In the grand scheme of sins, surely lying (“the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil”) and gossip and backbiting (the most great sins; “accursed wouldst thou be”; “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”) are the two most important, even before sexual sins.  I think if we would all work on these two sins, the rest would be easy in comparison.

With that in mind, I can approach this prayer with gratitude, knowing that the people who turned away from God and abused me can still be forgiven by God and transformed.  I can pray for them; they can pray for themselves; and best of all, the Manifestations of God can pray for them and they will be forgiven.  I can leave the justice to God and focus on my own sins, hopefully recognizing them in this life and accepting God’s forgiveness and even if I mess up, I know that there are people and Manifestations who can pray for me and I can also pray for myself.  It takes a lot of pressure off trying to be perfect!

Knowing there are many ways to be forgiven even in the next world, I can relax 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

 

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A New Way to Look at Forgiveness

The peerless example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá merits close scrutiny in your quest for a sense of forgiveness; His abiding love for humanity, despite its wayward­ness and perversity, enabled Him to manifest sincere compassion and magnanimity to those who had brought Him distress and hardship.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September, 1992)

This quote was from a letter written to me, at a time when I couldn’t forgive my parents for the abuse perpetrated on me as a child, yet wanting to “get it right” as a “good Baha’i”.  As a result, I researched many stories about how ‘Abdu’l-Baha forgave, which you can read in an earlier posting.

To sum up, He forgave with compassion and magnanimity; He forgave without wanting others to speak about it; He forgave by looking at situations with love; He forgave with kindness; He forgave through generosity; He forgave by giving gifts and He forgave by spending time with them.  On the other hand, there were times when He too, ran out of patience.  The idea that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá could run out of patience was very reassuring!  We’re held to this standard, but He too had His limits.

Knowing different ways on how to forgive, 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

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Beyond Forgiveness

We ought to show something more than forgiveness in meeting with the cruelties and strictures of our own lives. To be hurt and to forgive is saintly, but far beyond that is the power to comprehend and not be hurt. This power we may have ‑ acceptance without complaint, and it should become associated with our name ‑ we ought never be known to complain or lament. It is not that we would “make the best of things” but that we may find in everything, even in calamity itself, the germ of enduring wisdom.  (Bahiyyih Khánum, Bahá’í World, vol. 5, p.185)

While this quote is not authoritative, it comes from a source I admire and respect, as Bahiyyih Khánum exemplified every standard she asks us to reach.   For many years I couldn’t even forgive.  The best I could do is to ask God to forgive those who hurt me.  Later, I was able to forgive and let go of all the resentment and hurt I was carrying.  I made a practice of becoming conscious of every resentment and deal with it as it came up and I thought that was good, but in this quote we see that there are several additional things she wants us to consider:

  • to comprehend and not be hurt
  • to be known as someone who accepts without complaint
  • to never be known to complain or lament
  • to find in everything, even in calamity itself, the germ of enduring wisdom

The first and the last have to do with inward adjustments that have to be made.  When I remember that we all have a lower nature and are all sinners, struggling to rise above whatever life has given us, then it’s easier to remember that we are all one.  When I am spiritually strong and remember these things, I can achieve the first and fourth.  The middle two are how we behave in the world.  It seems that it might be possible to complain and lament privately, admitting it to ourselves and taking our complaints to God, asking for Him to transform them so that we can find the germ of enduring wisdom and not be hurt, so that we can face the world with the same radiant acquiescence she was known to have.

Knowing I can strive for something that goes beyond forgiveness, 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 Learning How to Forgive

 

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Appeasing the Anger of the Heart

But the body politic has the right to preserve and to protect. It holds no grudge and harbours no enmity towards the murderer, but chooses to imprison or punish him solely to ensure the protection of others. The purpose is not revenge but a punishment through which the body politic is protected. Otherwise, were both the victim’s heirs and the community to forgive and return good for evil, the wrongdoers would never cease their onslaught and a murder would be committed at every moment—nay, bloodthirsty individuals would, like wolves, entirely destroy the flock of God. The body politic is not prompted by ill will in meting out its punishment; it acts without prejudice and does not seek to gratify a sense of vengeance. Its purpose in inflicting the punishment is to safeguard others and to prevent the future commission of such vile actions.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 77)

To me, this quote is about justice.  In an earlier translation the word “body politic” was “community”, which seems clearer.  What this suggests is that it’s my job as a victim to forgive and return good for evil and the community’s job to imprison and protect.  The community imprisons and punishes evil-doers, not out of revenge or enmity, but to protect others and prevent more wrong-doing.

In the past, grudges were held for centuries and passed down from one generation to another, and punishments given out of revenge and vengeance.  Even today, many employees in penal institutions treat prisoners badly because they don’t deserve to be treated with kindness and respect.  When I remember to leave justice in the hands of the Institutions and trust God to deal with those who have hurt me, I am free to forgive and move on with my life.

Knowing that I’m not responsible for justice, 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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