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When I began to speak about the abuse that happened in our family, I wrote to the House of Justice about how much contact I should have with them and they suggested:

Such an attitude (forgiveness and insight into their actions) does not preclude your being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents. In reaching your decision you should be guided by such factors as their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past, the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings, and the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them. In the process of reaching a decision, you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist.  (Universal House of Justice to me, 9 September, 1992)

Based on this, I wrote letters to my parents, asking them to take responsibility for their actions by paying for my therapy and assuring me that my son would never be subjected to the same thing.  They tried to have me declared crazy and have my son taken away.  When that didn’t work, I was shunned by my parents and siblings, and no matter what efforts I made to overcome it, my parents passed away still estranged and my brothers have shown no desire to heal the rift between us.

For more information, you might want to look at:

Should I Send a Confrontation Letter?

As someone working to bring unity to the world, the fact that I could not have unity within my own family has been a considerable source of pain for most of my adult life.

As I look around though, I realize that there has always been estrangement in families.  I’m not as unique as I once believed.  It seems we were created that way:

Souls are inclined toward estrangement. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)

‘Abdu’l-Baha tells us:

The love of family is limited; the tie of blood relationship is not the strongest bond. Frequently members of the same family disagree, and even hate each other.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

How often it happens that in a family, love and agreement are changed into enmity and antagonism.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 79-80)

In Ruhi Book 1 we spent much time discussing the 5 things that inflict the greatest harm on the Cause, estrangement being one of the five:

Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)

The Baha’i standard would have us love each other so much we’d spend our money and give up our own desires for each other:

Cause them to love one another so as to sacrifice their spirits, expend their money and give up their desires for each other’s sake!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 263)

That’s a hard standard to live up to!

What are the Causes?

Misunderstandings:

This hatred and enmity, this bigotry and intolerance are outcomes of misunderstandings . . . This is the real cause of enmity, hatred and bloodshed in the world; the reason of alienation and estrangement among mankind.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 96)

Selfish purposes:

Everything which conduces to separation and estrangement is satanic because it emanates from the purposes of self. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 207)

Effects of Estrangement:

Stress:

This “Most Great Separation”, as Bahá’u’lláh referred to the severing of the relationship [between Himself and Mírzá Yahyá], perplexed and confused believers who were unfamiliar with Mírzá Yahyá’s conduct … The anguish it brought upon Bahá’u’lláh is reflected in the term He used to refer to this period – Ayyám-i-Shidád, the “Days of Stress”.  (Geoffrey W. Marks, Call to Remembrance, p. 132)

Death and Dissolution:

Consider how clearly it is shown in creation that the cause of existence is unity and cohesion and the cause of nonexistence is separation and dissension. By a divine power of creation the elements assemble together in affinity, and the result is a composite being. Certain of these elements have united, and man has come into existence . . . But when these elements separate, when their affinity and cohesion are overcome, death and dissolution of the body they have built inevitably follow. Therefore, affinity and unity among even these material elements mean life in the body of man, and their discord and disagreement mean death. Throughout all creation, in all the kingdoms, this law is written: that love and affinity are the cause of life, and discord and separation are the cause of death.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 207)

‘Abdu’l-Baha becomes overwhelmed by grief:

I swear this by the beauty of the Lord: whensoever I hear good of the friends, my heart filleth up with joy; but whensoever I find even a hint that they are on bad terms one with another, I am overwhelmed by grief. Such is the condition of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. Then judge from this where your duty lieth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 231)

How to Prevent Estrangement:

Through love, respect and courtesy:

Where love, respect and courtesy are genuinely and mutually expressed, estrangement finds no accommodation and problems become soluble challenges.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1994 May 19, response to US NSA)

Through consultation:

You have asked, however, for specific rules of conduct to govern the relationships of husbands and wives … If, God forbid, they fail to agree, and their disagreement leads to estrangement, they should seek counsel from those they trust and in whose sincerity and sound judgement they have confidence, in order to preserve and strengthen their ties as a united family.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 456)

How to Live with Estrangement:

You may have to sever your ties:

Although Bahá’u’lláh tried to conceal Mírzá Yahyá’s attempt on his life from His companions, further acts of treachery and betrayal forced Him to sever all ties with His younger half brother.  (Geoffrey W. Marks, Call to Remembrance, p. 132)

Show kindness:

Steps should first be taken to do away with this estrangement, for only then will the Word take effect. If a believer showeth kindness to one of the neglectful, and, with great love, gradually leadeth him to an understanding of the validity of the Holy Cause, so that he may come to know the fundamentals of God’s Faith and the implications thereof—such a one will certainly be transformed. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)

Ways to Overcome Estrangement:

Through the powers of the Holy Spirit:

It is clear that limited material ties are insufficient to adequately express the universal love … No worldly power can accomplish the universal love … the Holy Spirit will give to man greater powers than these, if only he will strive after the things of the spirit and endeavour to attune his heart to the Divine infinite love.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

Prayer:

Bring them together again, O Lord, by the Power of Thy Covenant, and gather their dispersion by the Might of Thy Promise, and unite their hearts by the dominion of Thy Love! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Scriptures, p. 263)

Make every effort to remove any feelings of estrangement:

The people of the world are carefully watching the Bahá’ís today, and minutely observing them. The believers must make every effort, and take the utmost care to ward off and remove any feelings of estrangement.  (Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 207)

Fix your gaze on unity:

Shut your eyes to estrangement, then fix your gaze upon unity.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 67)

Love each other in God and for God:

When you love a member of your family or a compatriot, let it be with a ray of the Infinite Love! Let it be in God, and for God! Wherever you find the attributes of God love that person, whether he be of your family or of another. Shed the light of a boundless love on every human being whom you meet.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

Through truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness:

Consort with all the peoples, kindreds and religions of the world with the utmost truthfulness, uprightness, faithfulness, kindliness, good-will and friendliness; that all the world of being may be filled with the holy ecstasy of the grace of Bahá, that ignorance, enmity, hate and rancor may vanish from the world and the darkness of estrangement amidst the peoples and kindreds of the world may give way to the Light of Unity.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 445)

Through love, patience, resignation, forgiveness, friendship and reconciliation:

If the friends and relatives are keeping themselves at a distance from thee, be thou not sad, for God is near to thee. Associate thou, as much as thou canst, with the relatives and strangers; display thou loving kindness; show thou forth the utmost patience and resignation. The more they oppose thee, shower thou upon them the greater justice and equity; the more they show hatred and opposition toward thee, challenge thou them with great truthfulness, friendship and reconciliation.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 557-558)

Promote amity and concord and secure an active and whole-hearted cooperation:

They must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 38)

Benefits of Overcoming Estrangement:

Heaven will support you:

Heaven will support you while you work in this in-gathering of the scattered peoples of the world … You will be servants of God, who are dwelling near to Him, His divine helpers in the service, ministering to all Humanity. All Humanity! Every human being! Never forget this!  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 36)

The Grace of the Holy Spirit will be given and we will become the centre of the Divine blessings:

In short, whatsoever thing is arranged in harmony and with love and purity of motive, its result is light, and should the least trace of estrangement prevail the result shall be darkness upon darkness…. If this be so regarded, that assembly shall be of God, but otherwise it shall lead to coolness and alienation that proceed from the Evil One…. Should they endeavour to fulfil these conditions the Grace of the Holy Spirit shall be vouchsafed unto them, and that assembly shall become the centre of the Divine blessings, the hosts of Divine confirmation shall come to their aid, and they shall day by day receive a new effusion of Spirit.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88-89)

Here’s a book you might find helpful:

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