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. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to me, 9 September, 1992)
When I first came out of denial about the extent of abuse I’d experienced as a child at the hands of my parents, I had a lot of confusion about what a “good Bahá’í” was supposed to do. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá told us we must “instantly forgive”; the Bab told us whatever we did for our parents we’d get back a thousand-fold; Bahá’u’lláh told us that if we had a choice between serving Him or serving our parents, we should serve our parents as a path leading us to God. So I thought this meant that I was to look after them in their old age, which felt impossible, since I couldn’t forgive them and I was terrified to be in their presence. I wrote to the House of Justice for their guidance and this quote, is what they told me.
It was so helpful to have 3 criteria I could use in my decision, and this has helped me (and many others who’ve seen this quote) understand the right path for a Bahá’í to take in these situations:
- their degree of remorse
- the extent of their present involvement in practices contrary to Bahá’í Teachings
- the level of vulnerability I perceive within myself to being influenced adversely by them
It was also helpful to know I could consult with therapists about this issue. I didn’t have to try to figure it out myself, or even through prayer. I could consult experts.
I can be prudent in deciding on how contact I need to have with my abusers, 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 Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies