If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honor of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 230-231)
In today’s quote on the evils of backbiting, we learn two important things:
- Backbiting not only dampens the zeal, but is also the leading cause among the friends to withdraw and become indifferent. How many Baha’is in your community have withdrawn and become indifferent? It seems to be an epidemic. Now we know what the problem is we can look at how backbiting has played a role and where we might need to adjust our behavior.
- When I hear backbiting, I know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to get caught up in it, because our culture is so steeped in it. ‘Abdu’l-Baha knows this and tells us what we can say to stop it in a spiritual and friendly manner:
- would this comment serve any useful purpose?
- Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
- Would it contribute to the lasting honor of the friends?
- Would it promote the holy Faith
- Would it support the Covenant?
- Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?
These questions might be easier to ask another Baha’i, who has recognized Baha’u’llah and accepted the Covenant, but the same principle applies with those who haven’t. Instead we can ask:
- Is it true?
- Is it helpful?
- Is it inspiring?
- Is it necessary?
- Is it kind?
Knowing how to respond when I hear backbiting, I am grateful!
What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help? 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