Continuing on the theme of recovery from low self-esteem, I think there are two more things we need to pay attention to – one is looking at how God sees us and understanding how much He loves us, just the way we are.
First of all, He created us because He loved us:
Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of my essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 3)
His love is inside of us:
My love is in thee, know it, that thou mayest find Me near unto thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 10)
His love for us cannot be concealed:
My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 20)
He’s with us always:
With all my soul and spirit, I am thy companion at all moments. Know thou this of a certainty! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Vol. 3, pp.557-558)
Know thou that God is with thee under all conditions, and that He guardeth thee from the changes and chances of this world. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.122)
No matter what we might think of ourselves, the way He created us was perfect:
With the hands of power I made thee and with the fingers of strength I created thee; and within thee have I placed the essence of My light. Be thou content with it and seek naught else, for My work is perfect and My command is binding. Question it not, nor have a doubt thereof. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 12)
He knows us better than we know ourselves, so we can trust Him when He tells us who we really are:
Ye are better known to the inmates of the Kingdom on high than ye are known to your own selves. Think ye these words to be vain and empty? Would that ye had the power to perceive the things your Lord, the All-Merciful, doth see–things that attest the excellence of your rank, that bear witness to the greatness of your worth, that proclaim the sublimity of your station! (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 316-317)
He sees the entire universe enfolded within us:
Do thou reckon thyself only a puny form when within thee the universe is folded? (Bahá’u’lláh, Seven Valleys, p.34)
He sees us as a “mine rich in gems”:
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.260)
He’s given us the capacity to exercise a particular influence and given each of us a distinct virtue:
It is therefore important to appreciate that God in His bounty has endowed every created thing, however humble, ‘with the capacity to exercise a particular influence, and been made to possess a distinct virtue’. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 2 December, 1985)
Our station is so glorious that if we wanted to see it, we’d never be able to live in this world:
Such is the station ordained for the true believer that if to an extent smaller than a needle’s eye the glory of that station were to be unveiled to mankind, every beholder would be consumed away in his longing to attain it. For this reason it hath been decreed that in this earthly life the full measure of the glory of his own station should remain concealed from the eyes of such a believer… If the veil be lifted and the full glory of the station of those who have turned wholly towards God, and in their love for Him renounced the world, be made manifest, the entire creation would be dumbfounded. (Bahá’u’lláh, The World Order of Bahá’u’lláh, pp.110-111)
God understands our low self-esteem:
Thou art even as a finely tempered sword concealed in the darkness of its sheath and its value hidden from the artificer’s knowledge. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 72)
I created thee rich, why dost thou bring thyself down to poverty? Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)
Here’s my favorite rendition of this quote, by Nabil and Karim.
God understands how looking at our failures affects us:
Each one of us, if we look into our failures, is sure to feel unworthy and despondent, and this feeling only frustrates our constructive efforts and wastes time. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)
He shows us how to overcome it:
Remembrance of Me cleanseth all things from defilement, could ye but perceive it. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p.294)
Forget yourself. God’s help will surely come! When you call on the Mercy of God waiting to reinforce you, your strength will be tenfold. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p.38)
Rise then unto that for which thou wast created. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 22)
Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 13)
Wherefore come forth from the sheath of self and desire that thy worth may be made resplendent and manifest unto all the world. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Arabic 72)
The thing for us to focus on is the glory of the Cause and the Power of Bahá’u’lláh which can make of a mere drop a surging sea! (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)
He wants us to eat from His heavenly table:
…the gate of boundless grace is opened wide, the heavenly table is set, the servants of the Merciful and His handmaids are present at the Feast. Strive ye to receive your share of this eternal food, so that ye shall be loved and cherished in this world and the next. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p.77)
Shoghi Effendi has no patience with our self-indulgence:
You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá’ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, page 447)
Finally, we are promised:
Now I say unto you, bear this on your hearts and in your minds. Verily your light shall illumine the whole world, your spirituality shall affect the heart of things. You shall in truth become the lighted torches of the globe. Fear not, neither be dismayed, for your light shall penetrate the densest darkness. This is the promise of God, which I give unto you. Rise! and serve the Power of God! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris TaIks, p.168)
Knowing all of this should bring us delight and happiness, gladness and joy:
By thy life, O my beloved! if thou didst know what God had ordained for thee, thou wouldst fly with delight and happiness, gladness and joy would increase every hour. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í World Faith, p.363)
And if this wasn’t enough, Bahá’u’lláh has given us one of the most comforting passages here:
Rejoice thou with great joy that We have remembered thee both now and in the past. Indeed the sweet savours of this remembrance shall endure and shall not change throughout the eternity of the Names of God, the Lord of mankind.
We have graciously accepted thy devotions, thy praise, thy teaching work and the services thou hast rendered for the sake of this mighty Announcement. We have also hearkened unto that which thy tongue hath uttered at the meetings and gatherings. Verily thy Lord heareth and observeth all things.
We have attired thee with the vesture of My good-pleasure in My heavenly Kingdom… At this moment We call to remembrance Our loved ones and bring them the joyous tidings of God’s unfailing grace and of the things that have been provided for them in My lucid Book.
Ye have tolerated the censure of the enemies for the sake of My love and have steadfastly endured in My Path the grievous cruelties which the ungodly have inflicted upon you. Unto this I Myself bear witness, and I am the All-Knowing. How vast the number of places that have been ennobled with your blood for the sake of God.
How numerous the cities wherein the voice of your lamentation hath been raised and the wailing of your anguish uplifted. How many the prisons into which ye have been cast by the hosts of tyranny. Know ye of a certainty that He will render you victorious, will exalt you among the peoples of the world and will demonstrate your high rank before the gaze of all nations. Surely He will not suffer the reward of His favoured ones to be lost. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p.245)
My claim on thee is great, it cannot be forgotten. My grace to thee is plenteous, it cannot be veiled. My love has made in thee its home, it cannot be concealed. My light is manifest to thee, it cannot be obscured. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 20)
Recently one of my readers asked this question and wanting to know the answer myself, I turned to the Baha’i Writings to find out.
She was referring to this Hidden Word of Baha’u’llah:
Treasure the companionship of the righteous and eschew all fellowship with the ungodly. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 3)
‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us:
He said, “Verily, shun those who are shaken in the Covenant. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382)
And Shoghi Effendi tells us:
. . . if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 403)
I came across this quote which seemed to answer the question about who are the ungodly:
In the passage ‘eschew all fellowship with the ungodly, ‘Bahá’u’lláh means that we should shun the company of those who disbelieve in God and are wayward. The word ‘ungodly’ is a reference to such perverse people. The words ‘Be thou as a flame of fire to My enemies and a river of life eternal to My loved ones’, should flee from the enemies of God and instead seek the fellowship of His lovers. (Shoghi Effendi: Dawn of a New Day, p. 200)
But what about the atheists?
Who are they?
For they who turn away from their Lord in this day are in truth accounted amongst the dead, though to outward seeming they may walk upon the earth, amongst the deaf, though they may hear, and amongst the blind, though they may see, as hath been clearly stated by Him Who is the Lord of the Day of Reckoning: “Hearts have they with which they understand not, and eyes have they with which they see not….” They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss. They partake not of the billows of this surging and treasure-laden Ocean, but disport themselves with their own idle words. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 48-49)
They abandon God, the Most Exalted—He before Whose revelation of a single verse, all the Scriptures of the past and of more recent times pale into lowliness and insignificance—and set their hearts on lying tales and follow empty words. (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 240)
They that have disbelieved in God and rebelled against His sovereignty are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires. These shall return to their abode in the fire of hell: wretched is the abode of the deniers! (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 284)
What happens to them?
By their own statements they are captives of nature, unconscious of the spiritual world, uninformed of the divine Kingdom and unaware of heavenly bestowals. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 235)
He said, “Whosoever believes in Him is acceptable in the estimation of God, and whosoever shuns Him or any of the prophets is rejected of God. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 409)
If thou remainest, at the moment of death, a disbeliever in the signs of thy Lord thou shalt surely enter the gates of hell, and none of the deeds thy hands have wrought will profit thee, nor shalt thou find a patron nor anyone to plead for thee. (The Bab, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 19)
As for those who believe not in the signs of God, or that they shall ever attain His Presence, these of My mercy shall despair, and these doth a grievous chastisement await. (Bahá’u’lláh, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 115)
The gates of Hell have opened wide to receive thee, O thou who hast turned away from thy Lord, the Unconstrained! Repair unto its fire, for it yearneth after thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 178)
They that have disbelieved in God and rebelled against His sovereignty are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires. These shall return to their abode in the fire of hell: wretched is the abode of the deniers! (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 284-285)
Question.—It is said in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas “…whoso is deprived thereof, hath gone astray, though he be the author of every righteous deed.” What is the meaning of this verse?
Answer.—This blessed verse means that the foundation of success and salvation is the knowledge of God, and that the results of the knowledge of God are the good actions which are the fruits of faith. If man has not this knowledge, he will be separated from God, and when this separation exists, good actions have not complete effect. This verse does not mean that the souls separated from God are equal, whether they perform good or bad actions. It signifies only that the foundation is to know God, and the good actions result from this knowledge. Nevertheless, it is certain that between the good, the sinners and the wicked who are veiled from God there is a difference. For the veiled one who has good principles and character deserves the pardon of God, while he who is a sinner, and has bad qualities and character, is deprived of the bounties and blessings of God. Herein lies the difference. Therefore, the blessed verse means that good actions alone, without the knowledge of God, cannot be the cause of eternal salvation, everlasting success, and prosperity, and entrance into the Kingdom of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 237)
And whatsoever people turneth its heart away from this Divine Love—the revelation of the Merciful—shall err grievously, shall fall into despair, and be utterly destroyed. That people shall be denied all refuge, shall become even as the vilest creatures of the earth, victims of degradation and shame. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 27)
As they gradually strayed from the path of their Ideal Leader and Master, as they turned away from the Light of God and corrupted the principle of His Divine unity, and as they increasingly centered their attention upon them who were only the revealers of the potency of His Word, their power was turned into weakness, their glory into shame, their courage into fear. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 69)
Why shouldn’t we associate with them?
Shun them whose hearts are turned away from thee, and place not thy confidence in them, and entrust them not with thine affairs and the affairs of such as profess thy faith. Beware that thou allow not the wolf to become the shepherd of God’s flock, and surrender not the fate of His loved ones to the mercy of the malicious. Expect not that they who violate the ordinances of God will be trustworthy or sincere in the faith they profess. Avoid them, and preserve strict guard over thyself, lest their devices and mischief hurt thee. Turn away from them, and fix thy gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 233)
Know thou for a certainty that whoso disbelieveth in God is neither trustworthy nor truthful. This, indeed, is the truth, the undoubted truth … Nothing whatever can deter such a man from evil, nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor, nothing can induce him to walk uprightly. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 232-233)
Many people whoso believe in God may be truthful and honest in a normal situation. But the real criterion of a man’s truthfulness and honesty is his attitude at the time of temptation. When severe tests and trials descend upon man, the only thing which keeps him truthful is his faith in God. If he does not believe in God, there is no motivation within him to resist temptation. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh v 2, p. 314)
Many utterances are directed against the violators of the Covenant, the purpose being that no dissension should arise in the blessed Cause; that no one should say, “My opinion is this”; and that all may know Who is the authoritative expounder and whatsoever He says is correct. Bahá’u’lláh has not left any possible room for dissension. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382)
The purpose is to ward off dissension and differences among His followers . . . Whenever they sense the least violation from anyone, they should say, “Begone! You shall not associate with us. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 382-383)
Thou hast asked some questions; that why the blessed and spiritual souls, who are firm and steadfast, shun the company of degenerate persons. This is because, that just as the bodily diseases like consumption and cancer are contagious, likewise the spiritual diseases are also infectious. If a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumptions. But when this consumptive associates with those thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons. This is a clear and self-evident question. (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Lights of Guidance, p. 183)
Regarding Mr. … question about the Covenant-breakers, Bahá’u’lláh and the Master in many places and very emphatically have told us to shun entirely all Covenant-breakers as they are afflicted with what we might try and define as a contagious spiritual disease; they have also told us, however, to pray for them. These souls are not lost forever. In the Aqdas, Bahá’u’lláh says that God will forgive Mirza Yahya if he repents. It follows, therefore, that God will forgive any soul if he repents. Most of them don’t want to repent, unfortunately. If the leaders can be forgiven it goes without saying that their followers can also be forgiven. “Also, it has nothing to do with unity in the Cause; if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism. On the contrary, what was once a part of him has so radically changed as to have become a poison. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 184)
We know absence of light is darkness, but no one would assert darkness was not a fact. It exists even though it is only the absence of something else. So evil exists too, and we cannot close our eyes to it, even though it is a negative existence. We must seek to supplant it by good, and if we see an evil person is not influenceable by us, then we should shun his company for it is unhealthy. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 403)
Why we don’t feel sorry for them:
Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God, the Most Great. By Him Who is the Eternal Truth! The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them. He, verily, is the Omnipotent, the All-Subduing, the Most Powerful. He shall cleanse the earth from the defilement of their corruption, and shall give it for an heritage unto such of His servants as are nigh unto Him. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 207)
To be the enemy of the enemies of God is a good characteristic. We are not against them personally, just as any intelligent man is not personally against a man who has a dangerous contagious disease. But he carefully isolates the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread. So we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 187)
So if I was to summarize what I’ve learned through these quotes, I would say:
The ungodly are
those who disbelieve in God
those whose hearts are turned away from God
They have the following characteristics:
they are captives of nature
they are unconscious of the spiritual world
they are uninformed of the divine Kingdom
they are unaware of heavenly bestowals
they set their hearts on lying tales
they follow empty words
they don’t partake of the billows of God’s surging and treasure-laden Ocean
they are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires
they are wayward and perverse
they disport themselves with their own idle words
they are the helpless victims of their corrupt inclinations and desires
they are neither trustworthy nor truthful
nothing can deter them from evil
nothing can hinder him from betraying his neighbor
nothing can induce him to walk uprightly
there is no motivation within them to resist temptation
most of them don’t want to repent
Why is this dangerous?
They walk the edge of a treacherous bank and tread the brink of a fiery abyss
How does God see them?
they are the enemies of God
they are accounted among the dead
they are rejected of God
What happens to them?
they are separated from God
they shall surely enter the gates of hell
none of the deeds they have done will profit them
they shall not find a patron or anyone to plead for them
they shall never attain God’s Presence
a grievous chastisement awaits them
their good actions will not have complete effect
they are deprived of the bounties and blessings of God
they err grievously
they will fall into despair
they will be utterly destroyed
they will be denied all refuge
they will become the most vile creatures of the earth
they will become the victims of degradation and shame
their power will be turned into weakness
their glory will be turned into shame
their courage will be turned into fear
the wrathful anger of the Almighty will take hold of them
Why shouldn’t we associate with them?
to ward off dissension and differences among the followers
just as bodily diseases like consumption and cancer are contagious, spiritual diseases are also infectious
if a consumptive should associate with a thousand safe and healthy persons, the safety and health of these thousand persons would not affect the consumptive and would not cure him of his consumptions. But when this consumptive associates with those thousand souls, in a short time the disease of consumption will infect a number of those healthy persons
if a man cuts a cancer out of his body to preserve his health and very life, no one would suggest that for the sake of unity it should be reintroduced into the otherwise healthy organism
we carefully isolate the sick individual so that the contagion will not spread
What should we do instead?
don’t place any confidence in them
don’t trust your affairs to them
don’t expect them to be trustworthy
don’t expect them to be sincere in the faith they profess
we shun the spiritually sick, wishing for their cure, but keeping clear of them
guard yourself so their devices and mischief can’t hurt you
turn away from them
say, “Begone! You shall not associate with us”
pray for them.
fix your gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful
seek the fellowship of God’s lovers instead
In terms of how we are to treat them though, these might be helpful:
It’s not for us to judge others, though. Have you seen this book on Letting Go of Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation? It helps us to understand how we’re not to criticize others. You can download it here.
How does this answer the question? What are your thoughts? Post your comments below.
Of my understanding of the Faith, I believe in a God who is Compassionate, All-Merciful, All-Loving, a God who wants to be our Best-Lover, who embraces us, liberates us and uplifts our spirits and wants for our hearts to be vivified with love for Him and love for all, despite our imperfections, that we are striving day by day, making each morrow better than the morn. I believe this version of God to be more true than one that is all-punishing, all-shaming and an exposer of our lowest deeds and natures, wanting our debasement before others.
It is easy for others to make me feel ashamed of my choices in the past or current, and I assure you, any shame that others point out, I have felt 1000 times magnified on myself.
I attribute these failings of conduct to myself and my own short comings and the absence of certain virtues and I struggle and have struggled. I hold no one else to blame for this or accountable for my actions.
Despite my past and all of the impurities and inadequacies that it encompasses, I still believe in the transforming power of the Creative Word and it melts my heart, and I am so humbled to feel that despite a less than perfect, less than spotless past life, that if there is a real hunger, longing, search and actions are taken, that a transformation of the inner life of a person is possible and new capacities and insights and heavenly reflections revealed.
I was attracted to the Faith for the empowerment of the individual to take charge of their own spiritual destiny and contribute to the betterment of the world, regardless of when this awakening occurs, regardless of their occupation, regardless of race, nation or creed, I believe it is possible and I believe that one of the aims of the Faith is to help revolutionise the souls of men to this very end.
So yes it is true, I was an ocean of imperfections at the time of finding the Faith and I have climbed and tripped, and climbed up again and through only what I believe to be the grace of Baha’u’llah have been able to turn a life of inward looking, self, passion and materialism to a vision that is world-embracing, a channel of love, conscious of a spiritual reality and wanting to be a part of the global movement in which the mother-principle is unity, peace and love for all mankind.
And yes, of recent I have most particularly had the deepest fall, and have struggled and been the furthest from the Faith that I have ever been. It has crossed my mind many times that I should unenroll, to prevent any heart from the potential to recognise Baha’u’llah due to my actions is unforgivable. Hurting my own spiritual progress is one thing, but to cloud the name of the Faith is grievous for which I wish to take full responsibility. At the end of the day however, and after much searching and reflecting, at this point in time I cannot bring myself to denounce Baha’u’llah as the Manifestation of God for this day, and so until that time comes, I am taking day by day, step by step to bring my actions back into line with the standards set forth, to take actions to draw me nearer to God, in ways that I believe re-enkindles the spirit, including continuing to tutor Book 1, however inadequate I currently may be to render this service.
I will acknowledge as many of my failings as I can, and I also believe it is important to acknowledge steps towards positivity as well. I’m sure with prayers and guidance of the ABMs and the LSA during this process, this can only attract light upon light and that healing can take place in the future.