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Individuals – By Themselves

If you have a decision in front of you, give it the full consideration it deserves:

May the Beloved help you in forming the right decision, and spare you the anxiety and suffering which too hasty action in such matters inevitably produces. You should give this question, which is of such vital concern to your future, the full consideration it deserves, and examine all its aspects carefully and dispassionately.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 446)

You have several options available to you:

  • You can make your own decision after prayer and weighing all the aspects of it in your own mind
  • You can seek the council of individual friends or of professional counsellors such as your doctor or lawyer
  • Where several people are involved, such as a family, you can gather together those who are affected
  • You can ask a group of people to consult together
  • If it is a matter that affects the interests of the Faith you should consult with the appropriate Assembly or Auxiliary Board

When a believer has a problem concerning which he must make a decision, he has several courses open to him. If it is a matter that affects the interests of the Faith he should consult with the appropriate Assembly or committee, but individuals have many problems which are purely personal and there is no obligation upon them to take such problems to the institutions of the Faith; indeed, when the needs of the teaching work are of such urgency it is better if the friends will not burden their assemblies with personal problems that they can solve by themselves. “A Bahá’í who has a problem may wish to make his own decision upon it after prayer and after weighing all the aspects of it in his own mind; he may prefer to seek the council of individual friends or of professional counsellors such as his doctor or lawyer so that he can consider such advice when making his decision; or in a case where several people are involved, such as a family situation, he may want to gather together those who are affected so that they may arrive at a collective decision. There is also no objection whatever to a Bahá’í asking a group of people to consult together on a problem facing him.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)

You should pattern your decision according to the Teachings:

Rather is it the task of the individual believer to determine, according to his own prayerful understanding of the Writings, precisely what his course of conduct should be in relation to situations which he encounters in his daily life. If he is to fulfil his true mission in life as a follower of the Blessed Perfection, he will pattern his life according to the Teachings. The believer cannot attain this objective merely by living according to a set of rigid regulations. When his life is oriented towards service to Bahá’u’lláh, and when every conscious act is performed within this frame of reference, he will not fail to achieve the true purpose of his life.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1988 Jun 05, Detailed Legislation on Moral Issues)

You can write a letter to yourself:

The Master spoke of the many letters He had answered that morning and of the packages still unopened. Mr. Kinney said: “I will write Your letters for You!”  Our Lord: “Very good; very good. Write a letter and answer it yourself. Look into your heart and see the answer. The answer is what is written on the tablet of your heart. That which is written upon paper is subject to corruption and various accidents, such as consumption by fire and moth, but that which is inscribed on the tablet of the heart is imperishable and everlasting. A day will come when all My communications upon paper — all My writing – will be effaced. But that which I have inscribed upon the hearts will not be effaced. There is no end to it. For I write the Word of the Love of God upon the hearts, and the Word of God is eternal.”  (The Diary of Juliet Thompson)

You can pray for assistance to those who have passed on:

In prayer there is a mingling of station, a mingling of condition. Pray for them as they pray for you! When you do not know it, and are in a receptive attitude, they are able to make suggestions to you, if you are in difficulty.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 96)

You can listen to the small voice inside you:

When you wish to reflect upon or consider a matter, you consult something within you. You say, shall I do it, or shall I not do it? Is it better to make this journey or abandon it? Whom do you consult? Who is within you deciding this question? Surely there is a distinct power, an intelligent ego. Were it not distinct from your ego, you would not be consulting it. It is greater than the faculty of thought. It is your spirit which teaches you, which advises and decides upon matters. Who is it that interrogates? Who is it that answers? There is no doubt that it is the spirit.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 242-243)

Before going to bed, you can wash your hands and face, put on clean clothes and pray:

When thou desirest and yearnest for meeting in the world of vision; at the time when thou art in perfect fragrance and spirituality, wash thy hands and face, clothe thyself in clean robes, turn toward the court of the Peerless One, offer prayer to Him and lay thy head upon the pillow. When sleep cometh, the doors of revelation shall be opened and all thy desires shall become revealed.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 104)

You can repeat this prayer nineteen times:

Thou seest me, O my God, detached from all save Thee and cleaving unto Thee. Guide me, then, in all mine affairs unto that which profiteth me for the glory of Thy Cause and the loftiness of the station of thy loved ones.  (Baha’u’llah, Majmú‘iyi-Alvá-i-Mubárakiy-i-arat-i-Bahá’u’lláh (Tihrán: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 132 B.E.), page 9)

And then pay attention to your dreams:

As to your moving to another city: Meditate thou, perform the ablution and pray to God before sleeping; and whatever the Merciful One may inspire unto thee at the time of revelation in a dream, that will be consistent with obtaining thy wishes.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 629-630)

Then reflect on the matter and do whatever comes to your mind:

Let him then reflect upon the matter and undertake whatever cometh to mind.  (Baha’u’llah, Majmú‘iyi-Alvá-i-Mubárakiy-i-arat-i-Bahá’u’lláh (Tihrán: Bahá’í Publishing Trust, 132 B.E.), page 9)

You can also use the 5 Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems:

The below five steps were suggested by the beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi to a believer as a means of finding a solution through the use of prayer.  This statement belongs to the category of statements known as “pilgrims notes”, and as such has no authority, but since it seems to be particularly helpful and clear it was felt that believers should not be deprived of it.

1st Step: Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation for a few minutes.

2nd Step: Arrive at a decision and hold this. This decision is usually born during the contemplation. It may seem almost impossible of accomplishment but if it seems to be as answer to a prayer or a way of solving the problem, then immediately take the next step.

3rd Step: Have determination to carry the decision through. Many fail here.  The decision, budding into determination, is blighted and instead becomes a wish or a vague longing. When determination is born, immediately take the next step.

4th Step: Have faith and confidence that the power will flow through you, the right way will appear, the door will open, the right thought, the right message, the right principle, or the right book will be given to you. Have confidence and the right thing will come to your need. Then, as you rise from prayer, take at once the 5th step.

5th Step: Act as though it had all been answered. Then act with tireless, ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed channel for the Divine power to flow through you.

Many pray but do not remain for the last half of the first step. Some who meditate arrive at a decision, but fail to hold it. Few have the determination to carry the decision through, still fewer have the confidence that the right thing will come to their need.  But how many remember to act as though it had all been answered? How true are these words “Greater than the prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered” and greater than the way it is uttered is the spirit in which it is carried out.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 91).

 Consultation inside Families:

Consultation is not just for the Institutions of the Faith:

Bahá’u’lláh also stressed the importance of consultation. We should not think this worthwhile method of seeking solutions is confined to the administrative institutions of the Cause.   (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

It can also occur within families:

The Local Spiritual Assembly, however, is not the only institution or agency to which the friends may turn for consultation on personal matters. Such consultation could be held with members of one’s family, with friends, or with experts.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 110)

One of the keys to the strengthening family unity is loving consultation:

The relationship between husband and wife must be viewed in the context of the Bahá’í ideal of family life. Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world, and a fundamental unity is that of the family. Therefore, one must believe that the Faith is intended to strengthen the family, not weaken it, and one of the keys to the strengthening of unity is loving consultation. The atmosphere within a Bahá’í family as within the community as a whole should express ‘the keynote of the Cause of God’ which, the beloved Guardian has stated, ‘is not dictatorial authority but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation’  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 220)

Family consultation can be a panacea for domestic conflict, if done this way:

Family consultation employing full and frank discussion, and animated by awareness of the need for moderation and balance, can be the panacea for domestic conflict.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

All family members including children should be included:

It is suggested that you include her and perhaps your younger children in family consultations. As Bahá’ís we understand the importance of the consultative process and we should not feel it is to be used only by the Spiritual Assemblies.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 454)

Consultation should be frank and loving:

The relationship between husband and wife must be viewed in the context of the Bahá’í ideal of family life. Bahá’u’lláh came to bring unity to the world, and a fundamental unity is that of the family. Therefore, one must believe that the Faith is intended to strengthen the family, not weaken it, and one of the keys to the strengthening of unity is loving consultation. The atmosphere within a Bahá’í family as within the community as a whole should express “the keynote of the Cause of God” which, the beloved Guardian has stated, “is not dictatorial authority, but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 413)

There can’t be a majority vote when only two people are consulting:

In any group, however loving the consultation, there are nevertheless points on which, from time to time, agreement cannot be reached. In a Spiritual Assembly this dilemma is resolved by a majority vote. There can, however, be no majority where only two parties are involved, as in the case of a husband and wife.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 415)

In making decisions, neither should dominate the other:

Wives should not attempt to dominate their husbands, nor husbands their wives….  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 383)

When agreement can’t be reached, there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other:

You have asked, however, for specific rules of conduct to govern the relationships of husbands and wives. This the House of Justice does not wish to do, and it feels that there is already adequate guidance included in the compilation on this subject. For example the principle that the rights of each and all in the family unit must be upheld, and the advice that loving consultation should be the keynote, that all matters should be settled in harmony and love, and that there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other. Exactly under what circumstances such deference should take place, is a matter for each couple to determine….         (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 385)

A relationship governed by the principles of consultation should be devoid of the use of force to compel obedience to one’s will:

It is also evident from Bahá’í teachings that no husband should subject his wife to abuse of any kind, and that such a reprehensible action is the antithesis of the relationship of mutual respect and equality enjoined by the Bahá’í writings — a relationship governed by the principles of consultation and devoid of the use of force to compel obedience to one’s will.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 458)

Through consultation men and women learn many skills:

Through consultation, women and men together learn to gather facts, to identify relevant principles, to express their ideas clearly, to listen respectfully to the opinions of others, and to arrive at a decision that everyone can support.  (Baha’i International Community, Report on Rural Poverty Alleviation Efforts in Asia and the Pacific, Focusing on Activities for Disadvantaged Women)

The process is as important as the achievements:

Because this approach to consultation is at the core of any Baha’i project, the process is as important as the achievements; the changes in attitudes as important as the development of skills; the intellectual, spiritual and emotional growth of the trainees as important as the economic growth of the community.  (Baha’i International Community, Report on Rural Poverty Alleviation Efforts in Asia and the Pacific, Focusing on Activities for Disadvantaged Women)

Baha’is men can show the world that aggression and the use of force can be eliminated and replaced by cooperation and consultation:

Bahá’í men have the opportunity to demonstrate to the world around them a new approach to the relationship between the sexes, where aggression and the use of force are eliminated and replaced by cooperation and consultation.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)

The most important thing is unity:

Regarding your other question concerning the strained relationship between you and your mother-in-law and what you can do to alleviate the situation, we feel you should, with the help and consultation of your  husband, persevere in your efforts to achieve unity in the family.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 411)

When unity is present in a family, their affairs are conducted easily, the make progress and prosper.  They enjoy comfort and ranquility and their position is assured:

Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquillity, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all. Such a family but addeth to its stature and its lasting honour, as day succeedeth day.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 278)

If a couple is unable to resolve their problems through consultation, they can turn to their Local Spiritual Assembly and/or marriage counsellors:

When a Bahá’í wife finds herself in such a situation and feels it cannot be resolved through consultation with her husband, she could well turn to the Local Spiritual Assembly for advice and guidance, and might also find it highly advantageous to seek the assistance of competent professional counsellors.  (Universal House of Justice, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 458)

Individuals and Couples – Meeting with a Group

Before the Meeting:

Before each meeting, everyone should agree on the purpose of the consultation, assemble the facts, and decide the questions and points to be discussed:

In advance of each meeting, the Assembly should agree on the purpose of the consultation, should assemble the facts, and decide the questions and points to be discussed or clarified during the meeting. (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

 During the Meeting:

Everyone should examine their roles and assumptions and if a couple, check the accuracy of the views they have of each other:

In attempting to aid parties in resolving disputes not involving allegations of abuse or suspected abuse, Assemblies may find it helpful to suggest that the parties examine separately their own roles and assumptions in the dispute, as well as the accuracy of the views of the other parties. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

They may need assistance to consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears:

The Assembly may also find it helpful to steer thinking away from extreme outcomes, worst-case scenarios or unrealistically optimistic scenarios, as those kinds of thinking tend to escalate apprehension between both parties, exacerbate the current situation, or set them up for future disappointments if they are unrealistically optimistic. It should assist the parties involved to consider moderate views based on facts rather than suppositions, speculation or fears. It may find that either or both parties need assistance in clarifying and separating facts from assumptions and/or opinions. (USA- NSA, Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies, Chapter 14, p. 21)

Finding the Truth:

Everyone should be reminded of the responsibility they bear to speak the truth and of the spiritual consequences of a failure to do so.

Believers called upon to provide information should, if necessary, be reminded of the responsibility they bear to speak the truth and of the spiritual consequences of a failure to do so.   (Universal House of Justice, Removal of Administrative Rights, 1993)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá asserts:

Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.(’Abdu’l-Baha, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 338)

With regards to finding truth, ‘Abdu’l-Baha explains there are 4 kinds of proofs:

Proofs are of four kinds: first, through sense perception; second, through the reasoning faculty; third, from traditional or scriptural authority; fourth, through the medium of inspiration. That is to say, there are four criteria or standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions.

Each of these is faulty and inaccurate, but when combined they are complete:

Consequently, it has become evident that the four criteria or standards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions are faulty and inaccurate. All of them are liable to mistake and error in conclusions. But a statement presented to the mind accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of reason can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanctioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake. This is self-evident and manifest.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 253-255)

Reaching Consensus:

Everyone should be given the opportunity to express themselves fully:

In any case, all members should be given the opportunity to express themselves fully before decisions are made.  (Universal House of Justice, NSA USA – Developing Distinctive Baha’i Communities)

If anyone needs additional facts, take time to gather them:

When it is proposed to put a matter to the vote, a member of the Assembly may feel that there are additional facts or views which must be sought before he can make up his mind and intelligently vote on the proposition. He should express this feeling to the Assembly, and it is for the Assembly to decide whether or not further consultation is needed before voting.  (Universal House of Justice, in Consultation: A Compilation, p. 21)

It’s important to try to understand any dissenting voices, because a thousand people may hold one view and be mistaken, whereas one sagacious person may be right:

Even a majority opinion or consensus may be incorrect. A thousand people may hold to one view and be mistaken, whereas one sagacious person may be right.   (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)

The Vote:

Hopefully a decision will be carried unanimously:

If after discussion, a decision be carried unanimously well and good; but if, the Lord forbid, differences of opinion should arise, a majority of voices must prevail.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 87)

Indeed, it has ever been the cherished desire of our Master, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, that the friends in their councils, local as well as national, should by their candor, their honesty of purpose, their singleness of mind, and the thoroughness of their discussions, achieve unanimity in all things.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 80)

When a unanimous decision is not possible, a vote must be taken:

The ideal of Bahá’í consultation is to arrive at a unanimous decision. When this is not possible a vote must be taken.  (Universal House of Justice, Consultation: A Compilation, p. 21)

If there are differences of opinion, a majority of voices must prevail:

. . .  should differences of opinion arise a majority of voices must prevail, and all must obey and submit to the majority.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 88)

If unanimity is not subsequently achieved, decisions are arrived at by majority vote.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1988 Dec 29, Individual Rights and Freedoms, p. 7)

If we’ve turned to God in prayer, the voice of the majority is the voice of truth:

And, when they are called upon to arrive at a certain decision, they should, after dispassionate, anxious and cordial consultation, turn to God in prayer, and with earnestness and conviction and courage record their vote and abide by the voice of the majority, which we are told by our Master to be the voice of truth.  (Shoghi Effendi, in Consultation: A Compilation, pp. 13-14)

The Decision:

Everyone must agree to support the outcome wholeheartedly:

Once a decision has been reached, all members of the consultative body, having had the opportunity fully to state their views, agree wholeheartedly to support the outcome.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1988 Dec 29, Individual Rights and Freedoms, p. 7)

Even is a mistake has been made, acceptance and harmony are what’s important:

We all have a right to our opinions, we are bound to think differently; but a Bahá’í must accept the majority decision of his Assembly, realizing that acceptance and harmony — even if a mistake has been made — are the really important things.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Local Spiritual Assembly compilation, p. 27)

If we do this, God will right the wrong:

.. . when we serve the Cause properly, in the Bahá’í way, God will right any wrongs done in the end.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Local Spiritual Assembly compilation, p. 27)

If consultation among the first group of people ends in disagreement, new people should be added using this process:

If consultation among the first group of people assembled endeth in disagreement, new people should be added, after which persons to the number of the Greatest Name, or fewer or more, shall be chosen by lot. Whereupon the consultation shall be renewed, and the outcome, whatever it is, shall be obeyed. If, however, there is still disagreement, the same procedure should be repeated once more, and the decision of the majority shall prevail. He, verily, guideth whomsoever He pleaseth to the right way.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 136)

How has this helped you understand the issue differently?  Post your comments below!