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The first reaction of those whose lives have been touched by trauma is to find someone to blame.  They want to know that somehow, justice will prevail.  Often it’s not present in the “justice system” so it’s comforting to know that God will take care of the justice.  Let’s look at what the Baha’i Writings have to teach us.

What is Justice?

While the dictionary defines justice one way:

  • The administering of deserved punishment or reward
  • The administration of what is just by law
  • Judgment of persons or causes by judicial process

The Baha’i Writings defines it very differently.

Justice is the best beloved of all things:

The best beloved of all things in My sight is Justice; turn not away therefrom if thou desirest Me, and neglect it not that I may confide in thee. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 2)

Justice is God’s gift to us:

Verily justice is My gift to thee and the sign of My loving-kindness. Set it then before thine eyes.  (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 2)

Justice helps everyone to know things for themselves:

By its aid thou shalt see with thine own eyes and not through the eyes of others, and shalt know of thine own knowledge and not through the knowledge of thy neighbor. Ponder this in thy heart; how it behooveth thee to be. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 2)

Justice has a mighty force at its command:

Justice hath a mighty force at its command. It is none other than reward and punishment for the deeds of men. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164)

This force allows order to be established and causes the wicked to restrain their natures:

By the power of this force the tabernacle of order is established throughout the world, causing the wicked to restrain their natures for fear of punishment.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 164)

Justice is giving what is deserved:

Bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)

Justice is universal, carried out in all classes:

Justice is not limited, it is a universal quality. Its operation must be carried out in all classes, from the highest to the lowest. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)

Justice must be sacred and consider the rights of everyone:

Justice must be sacred, and the rights of all the people must be considered. Desire for others only that which you desire for yourselves. Then shall we rejoice in the Sun of Justice, which shines from the Horizon of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159-160)

Is Forgiveness a Part of Justice?

The canopy of existence and the life of mankind depend on justice, not forgiveness:

The canopy of existence . . . resteth upon the pole of justice, and not of forgiveness, and the life of mankind dependeth on justice and not on forgiveness.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 28)

If we were to forgive and return good for evil, evil would continue:

If the community and the inheritors of the murdered one were to forgive and return good for evil, the cruel would be continually ill-treating others, and assassinations would continually occur. Vicious people, like wolves, would destroy the sheep of God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)

What is the Purpose of Punishment?

The communities must punish so as to warn and restrain others from committing like crimes:

The communities must punish the oppressor, the murderer, the malefactor, so as to warn and restrain others from committing like crimes.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p.268)

Some people need to see punishment as a deterrent:

Some people are like bloodthirsty wolves: if they see no punishment forthcoming, they will kill men merely for pleasure and diversion.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 270)

Punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities:

But if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities . . . (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 268)

Society punishes for the protection and safety of others:

The community has no hatred nor animosity for the murderer: it imprisons or punishes him merely for the protection and security of others. It is not for the purpose of taking vengeance upon the murderer, but for the purpose of inflicting a punishment by which the community will be protected  . . . The community has no ill-will and rancor in the infliction of punishment, and it does not desire to appease the anger of the heart; its purpose is by punishment to protect others so that no atrocious actions may be committed.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 269)

If we sympathize with them we only fortify their perversity and waywardness:

The only way we can prove to such people that they are wrong is to censure their conduct; if we sympathize with them we only fortify their perversity and waywardness.   (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 185)

Even if the abuser has been abused earlier in life, to excuse his misconduct is to perpetuate the problem into the following generations:

While one may have enormous sympathy for how destructive patterns of behavior originate and that they are often due to the abuser having been abused earlier in life, such compassionate understanding should never be used to excuse or justify misconduct, or to bestow undue sympathy for its consequences, as that only perpetuates the problem and may extend it into the following generation.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 107)

Who Deserves Justice?

We all do, because every one of us is a sinner!

We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)

A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant:

Each man has been placed in a post of honour, which he must not desert. A humble workman who commits an injustice is as much to blame as a renowned tyrant. Thus we all have our choice between justice and injustice.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 159)

Each one of us is assessed in terms of the efforts we have made:

Is it not an evidence of the justice of God that each of us, irrespective of family background, is assessed in terms of the efforts we have made to seize whatever opportunities existed in our lives, to develop and use our allotted talent, be it large or small? “Each shall receive his share from the Lord”, is Bahá’u’lláh’s assurance.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

How does God Exercise Justice?

God sees all the misdeeds done to us:

Think not the deeds ye have committed have been blotted from My sight . . . All your doings hath My pen graven with open characters upon tablets of chrysolite.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 63)

He has pledged never to forgive any man’s injustice:

O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH!  Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal.  (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Persian 64)

The rod with which God can chastise the wicked is grievous, and the fierceness of His anger against them terrible:

O heedless ones! Though the wonders of My mercy have encompassed all created things, both visible and invisible, and though the revelations of My grace and bounty have permeated every atom of the universe, yet the rod with which I can chastise the wicked is grievous, and the fierceness of Mine anger against them terrible.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 325)

Those that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed:

It is clear and evident that all men shall, after their physical death, estimate the worth of their deeds, and realize all that their hands have wrought. I swear by the Day Star that shineth above the horizon of Divine power! They that are the followers of the one true God shall, the moment they depart out of this life, experience such joy and gladness as would be impossible to describe, while they that live in error shall be seized with such fear and trembling, and shall be filled with such consternation, as nothing can exceed.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 171)

Sometimes it Seems that Abusers “Get Away with It”

The greatest punishments and tortures are to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties; to be characterized with dark qualities, such as falsehood, tyranny, cruelty, attachment to the affairs of the world, and being immersed in satanic ideas:

In the same way they consider that the spiritual punishment, that is to say the torture and punishment of existence, is to be subjected to the world of nature, to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties; to be characterized with dark qualities, such as falsehood, tyranny, cruelty, attachment to the affairs of the world, and being immersed in satanic ideas; for them, these are the greatest punishments and tortures.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 324)

Ordeals for the punishment of deeds are God’s severe retribution:

Know thou that ordeals are of two kinds.  One is for tests, and the other for punishment of misdeeds . . . that which is for punishment of deeds is sever retribution.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Art of Living, p. 85)

God has promised that the day will come when tormenting trials will surround them:

I swear by God!  The promised day is come, the day when tormenting trials will have surged above your heads, and beneath your feet, saying: Taste ye what your hands have wrought! (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68)

And that the day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will take hold of them:

Grieve thou not over those that have busied themselves with the things of this world, and have forgotten the remembrance of God . . . The day is approaching when the wrathful anger of the Almighty will have taken hold of them (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)

One way God punishes is to test them with the benefits of this world and of the next so that they might become preoccupied with them and forget to remember God:

Shouldst Thou ordain evil for a servant by reason of that which his hands have unjustly wrought before Thy face, Thou wouldst test him with the benefits of this world and of the next that he might become preoccupied therewith and forget Thy remembrance.   (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Báb, p. 192)

He causes them to become entangled with the affairs of the world:

He hath, however, caused you to be entangled with (the) affairs (of the world) , in return for what your hands have wrought in His Cause.  This, indeed, is a chastisement which ye, of your own will, have inflicted upon yourselves, could ye but perceive it. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 209)

There is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound:

. . . see for themselves beyond any doubt that there is no fiercer hell, no more fiery abyss, than to possess a character that is evil and unsound; no more darksome pit nor loathsome torment than to show forth qualities which deserve to be condemned.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 136)

Separation from God is the greatest torment of all

But for the people of God separation from God is the greatest torment of all.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)

Should Individuals Press Charges?

The overarching principle seems to be:  Don’t complain before the magistrate:

If one of thy relations oppress thee, complain not against him before the magistrate; rather manifest magnificent patience during every calamity and hardship. Verily thy Master is the Lord of Faithfulness! Forgive and overlook the shortcomings which have appeared in that one, for the sake of love and affection.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 374-375)

Unless there is any hazard to others:

At this time there appears to be no substantial reason why you should press charges against your adoptive father, grievous as has been his misuse of your childhood. There seems to be little hazard to any other person from this behaviour pattern.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 December 1981)

Ask yourself, what beneficial result is to be gained from such an action:

You enquire whether you should take action to have your parents charged with murder, following the death of your brother. You should ascertain from a competent lawyer what are your legal obligations in this regard, and follow such requirements. If there are no legal obligations, it is left to your discretion to decide on this matter, in light of the circumstances. However, you might well ask yourself, in the course of this decision-making, what beneficial result is to be gained from such an action, more especially if the action occurred some years ago and if legally-acceptable proof is difficult to establish; you should also weigh carefully the effect this might have on yourself, in the process of re-opening the subject, testifying about it in court, and doubtless incurring the antagonism of your parents.  ( Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September 1992)

Certain acts may be grounds for civil suits:

Certain acts may be grounds for civil suits filed by the abused or their families for award of monetary damages.   (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 27)

When someone is the victim of rape, she is free to initiate action against the perpetrator under the law of the land should she wish to do so:

One of the most heinous of sexual offenses is the crime of rape. When a believer is a victim, she is entitled to the loving aid and support of the members of her community, and she is free to initiate action against the perpetrator under the law of the land should she wish to do so. If she becomes pregnant as a consequence of this assault, no pressure should be brought upon her by the Bahá’í institutions to marry. As to whether she should continue or terminate the pregnancy, it is for her to decide on the course of action she should follow, taking into consideration medical and other relevant factors, and in the light of the Bahá’í Teachings. If she gives birth to a child as a result of the rape, it is left to her discretion whether to seek financial support for the maintenance of the child from the father; however, his claim to any parental rights would, under Bahá’í law, be called into question in view of the circumstances.  (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 24 January, 1993)

 What role do the Institutions play?

The role of individuals is to be loving and forgiving; the role of the Assembly is to administer justice:

The greatest need it seems everywhere inside the Cause is to impress upon the friends the need for love among them. There is a tendency to mix up the functions of the Administration and try to apply it in individual relationships, which is abortive, because the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the Community. But individuals towards each other are governed by love, unity, forgiveness and a sin-covering eye. Once the friends grasp this they will get along much better, but they keep playing Spiritual Assembly to each other and expect the Assembly to behave like an individual.  (Shoghi Effendi, Directives from the Guardian, p. 41)

There may be some believers whose behaviour necessitates that they be treated in a firm and uncompromising manner:

Such an attitude of forbearance, restraint, and patience toward believers who are striving to change practices and attitudes acquired in the years before they entered the sanctuary of the Cause of God should not blind a National Assembly to the fact that, at this stage in the development of the Faith, there may well be some believers in the community whose behaviour necessitates that they be treated in a firm and uncompromising manner…   (Universal House of Justice, to a National Spiritual Assembly, 9 December, 1991)

Cases involving abuse are always distressing and sometimes polarizing within the the Assembly:

Cases involving abuse are always distressing and sometimes polarizing within the membership of the Assembly itself. The Assembly must conserve its detachment and sense of justice to meet its responsibility to assist with the protection and spiritual development of all the souls under its jurisdiction, regardless of their attainments or shortcomings.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.68)

Assemblies must be both loving shepherds and administrators of justice:

In coming to decisions concerning any situation of domestic violence brought to its attention, an Assembly should bear in mind that it is required to serve as a loving shepherd and also to administrator justice. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.68)

They are responsible for protecting the abused, and addressing the spiritual condition and behavior of the offender:

While its first responsibility is to protect the abused, it must also seek to address the spiritual condition and behavior of the offender.  (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p.68)

The institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness:

It is inevitable that this community will, at times, be subject to delinquent behaviour of members whose actions do not conform to the standards of the Teachings. At such times, the institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness in full confidence that this Divine Law is the means for the true happiness of all concerned.  (Universal House of Justice, to a National Spiritual Assembly, 24 January, 1993)

Assemblies apply the laws with justice and consistency, and avoid any compromise:

At the same time, the Assemblies are called upon to apply these laws with justice and consistency, and to avoid any compromise which could weaken respect for the law or could gradually erode that sense of discipline which should distinguish the Bahá’í community at a time when the rule of law is being discredited and disdained in the wider society.  (Universal House of Justice 11 Sept, 1991)

A Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge:

In caring for its community, a Spiritual Assembly should act as a loving father rather than as a stern judge in such matters.  Nevertheless, if a believer’s behaviour is blatantly and flagrantly immoral and, therefore, is harmful to the good name of the Faith, the Assembly must counsel him (or her), urge him to reform his conduct, warn him of the consequences if he does not mend his ways and, ultimately, if the believer persists in misbehaviour, the Assembly must deprive him of his administrative rights.  This deprivation remains in force until such time as the believer repents of his actions and is able to satisfy the Spiritual Assembly that he has rectified his behaviour.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 363)

Apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness:

It is inevitable that this community will, at times, be subject to delinquent behaviour of members whose actions do not conform to the standards of the Teachings. At such times, the institutions of the Faith will not hesitate to apply Bahá’í law with justice and fairness in full confidence that the Divine Law is the means for the true happiness of all concerned.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)

Provide understanding, guidance and assistance:

While the Assembly should always be concerned about matters which might affect the good name of the Faith, it should be remembered that a believer involved in such matters is entitled to the understanding of the Assembly and may need its guidance and assistance both before and after any decision regarding sanctions is made.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 57)

The Assembly does not have the professional training necessary to help someone change their behaviour, nor the legal authority to ensure that its counsel is enforced:

An Assembly is responsible to give spiritual counsel to believers who may be violating the standards or principles of the Faith but an Assembly does not have the kind of professional training that is proven to be necessary to help someone change such behaviour, nor does it have legal authority to ensure that its counsel is enforced.  (Universal House of Justice, to a National Spiritual Assembly, 9 December, 1991)

Does Society have a Responsibility to Punish People in this World?

Someone once asked ‘Abdu’l-Baha: Should a criminal be punished, or forgiven and his crime overlooked?

His Answer:

There are two sorts of retributory punishments. One is vengeance, the other, chastisement. Man has not the right to take vengeance, but the community has the right to punish the criminal; and this punishment is intended to warn and to prevent so that no other person will dare to commit a like crime. This punishment is for the protection of man’s rights, but it is not vengeance; vengeance appeases the anger of the heart by opposing one evil to another. This is not allowable, for man has not the right to take vengeance. But if criminals were entirely forgiven, the order of the world would be upset. So punishment is one of the essential necessities for the safety of communities, but he who is oppressed by a transgressor has not the right to take vengeance. On the contrary, he should forgive and pardon, for this is worthy of the world of man.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 268)

We can provide penalties, imprisonment, beating, expulsion and banishment:

The other kind of torment is gross — such as penalties, imprisonment, beating, expulsion and banishment. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)

But penal institutions, houses of detention and places of torture only increase depravity and the desired aim can’t be achieved:

Observe how many penal institutions, houses of detention and places of torture are made ready to receive the sons of men, the purpose being to prevent them, by punitive measures, from committing terrible crimes — whereas this very torment and punishment only increaseth depravity, and by such means the desired aim cannot be properly achieved.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 262)

If someone is punished in this World, God Won’t Punish Him in the Next

As to the question regarding the soul of a murderer, and what his punishment would be, the answer given was that the murderer must expiate his crime: that is, if they put the murderer to death, his death is his atonement for his crime, and following the death, God in His justice will impose no second penalty upon him, for divine justice would not allow this.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 178)

What compensation is there for the victim?  

The earth will be given as a heritage:

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, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 68-9)

Every good thing will be revealed to us:

Let not the happenings of the world sadden you. I swear by God! The sea of joy yearneth to attain your presence, for every good thing hath been created for you, and will, according to the needs of the times, be revealed unto you.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 69)

Days of blissful joy are in store for us:

O my servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will no doubt attain.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 69)

The rewards are better than all the treasures of the earth:

So great are the things ordained for the steadfast that were they, so much as the eye of a needle, to be disclosed, all who are in heaven and on earth would be dumbfounded, except such as God, the Lord of all worlds, hath willed to exempt . . . I swear by God! That which hath been destined for him who aideth My Cause excelleth the treasures of the earth.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 71)

We’ll be able to recount all we’ve been made to endure with the Prophets of God and His chosen ones:

With them [the Prophets of God and His chosen ones] that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings From the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 156).

We’ll see a glorious future of peace and unity:

The friends must not feel too crushed by the sufferings that are so piteously afflicting humanity. They must realize that the hotter the fire the more malleable the metal becomes, and take hope that out of the agony of the present the future will be born – the glorious future of peace and unity amongst the sons of men.  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, 26 March, 1942)

God will compensate us for our earthly suffering in the next world:

In addition, we know from the Bahá’í writings that man’s soul ‘is independent of all infirmities of body or mind’, and not only continues to exist ‘after departing from this mortal world’, but progresses ‘through the bounty and grace of the Lord’. Therefore, an evaluation of man’s material existence and achievements cannot ignore the potential spiritual development stimulated by the individual’s desire to manifest the attributes of God and his response to the exigencies of his life, nor can it exclude the possibility of the operations of God’s mercy in terms of compensation for earthly suffering, in the next life.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 662)

The babes, infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors will see that God’s mercy is far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world:

As to the subject of babes and infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors: this contains great wisdom and this subject is of paramount importance. In brief, for those souls there is a recompense in another world and many details are connected with this matter. For those souls that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world and the growth and development of this place of mortality. If it be the will of God, when thou shalt be present this will be explained in detail by word of mouth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 372)

For children ‘who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor’, their reward is ‘preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts’:

On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are heart-rending trials of the innocent . . . With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of chil-dren ‘who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor’, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls ‘the afflictions that they bear in life become a cause for them of . . . an outpouring of divine mercy and bestowal’, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is ‘preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts’, and He promised that ‘in the world to come a mighty recompense awaiteth such souls’. Much, indeed, might be said upon this theme, and upon how the af-flictions that they bear in life become the cause for them of such an outpouring of Divine mercy and bestowal as is preferable to a hun-dred thousand comforts and to a world of growth and development in this transitory abode.  (Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)

What is the Attitude of the One Being Punished?

We can repent before God, admit we have some fault of character and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon:

Bahá’u’lláh prohibits confession to, and seeking absolution of one’s sins from, a human being, and enjoins the sinner, when alone, to repent before God, for it is He Who forgives. In this connection the Guardian’s secretary wrote on his behalf to an individual believer: “We are forbidden to confess to any person, as do the Catholics to their priests, our sins and shortcomings, or to do so in public, as some religious sects do. However, if we spontaneously desire to acknowledge we have been wrong in something, or that we have some fault of character, and ask another person’s forgiveness or pardon, we are quite free to do so.”     (Baha’u’llah, Synopsis and Codification of the Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 64)

We aren’t obliged to do so:

The Guardian wants to point out, however, that we are not obliged to do so.  It rests entirely with the individual.   (From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 19 March 1973)

As they have broken the laws they will have to stand up like a man; take their punishment and not become bitter:

You have already, through at last facing yourself and acknowledging that you have both failed and erred in managing your life so far, set your feet on the right path. But now this new and spiritual condition in you is going to be proved – and the proving, the testing, will surely consist of the way you determine to take your punishment. Life is based on laws: physical, man-made, and spiritual. As you have broken the laws of the society in which you live, you will have to stand up like a man and take your punishment. The spirit in which you do this is the most important thing, and constitutes a great opportunity for you . . . at present, until your sentence is up, you must live within yourself in a way not to spoil the new future awaiting you. You must not become bitter – for after all you are only reaping what you planted. Bahá’u’lláh and ‘Abdu’l-Bahá through no crime of their own, spent the better part of their lives in exile and imprisoned, but they never became embittered although they were the victims of in-justice. You, on the other hand, are the victim of injustice which you have inflicted on yourself – therefore you certainly have no right to be bitter towards the world.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)

See the past as a way of enriching your life in the future:

He urges you to grasp firmly the teachings of our Faith, the love of your family and many Bahá’í friends, to put the past behind entirely, realizing that it can do you no more harm; on the contrary, through changing you and making you spiritually aware, this very past can be a means of enriching your life in the future!  (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 449)

Are there Any Prayers Which the Abuser can Use to Turn his Life Around?  

  • O Lord! I have fled from Thy justice, and have sought Thy grace, have turned from thy wrath and implored Thy pardon.  I beseech Thee, by Thy power, Thy sovereignty, Thy glory and Thy favour to illumine mankind with the light of thy knowledge, that all things may show Thy handiwork, may unfold the mysteries of thy power, and may reveal the light of Thy knowledge.  Thou art the One that hath caused all things to be made manifest and hath shone upon them with the light of Thy care and Thy providence.  (Bahá’í Prayers (UK), p. 32-4)

 

  • I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors. (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)

 

  • Forgive me, O my Lord, my sins which have hindered me from walking in the ways of Thy good-pleasure, and from attaining the shores of the ocean of Thy oneness. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 29)

 

  • O God, my God! My back is bowed by the burden of my sins, and my heedlessness hath destroyed me. Whenever I ponder my evil doings and Thy benevolence, my heart melteth within me, and my blood boileth in my veins. By Thy Beauty, O Thou the Desire of the world! I blush to lift up my face to Thee, and my longing hands are ashamed to stretch forth toward the heaven of Thy bounty. Thou seest, O my God, how my tears prevent me from remembering Thee and from extolling Thy virtues, O Thou the Lord of the Throne on high and of earth below! I implore Thee by the signs of Thy Kingdom and the mysteries of Thy Dominion to do with Thy loved ones as becometh Thy bounty, O Lord of all being, and is worthy of Thy grace, O King of the seen and the unseen! (Baha’u’llah, Long Obligatory Prayer, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 322)

 

  • O Thou forgiving Lord! Thou art the shelter of all these Thy servants. Thou knowest the secrets and art aware of all things. We are all helpless, and Thou art the Mighty, the Omnipotent. We are all sinners, and Thou art the Forgiver of sins, the Merciful, the Compassionate. O Lord! Look not at our shortcomings. Deal with us according to Thy grace and bounty. Our shortcomings are many, but the ocean of Thy forgiveness is boundless. Our weakness is grievous, but the evidences of Thine aid and assistance are clear. Therefore, confirm and strengthen us. Enable us to do that which is worthy of Thy holy Threshold. Illumine our hearts, grant us discerning eyes and attentive ears. Resuscitate the dead and heal the sick. Bestow wealth upon the poor and give peace and security to the fearful. Accept us in Thy kingdom and illumine us with the light of guidance. Thou art the Powerful and the Omnipotent. Thou art the Generous. Thou art the Clement. Thou art the Kind. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 176)

Conclusion

God is the Keeper of His pledge.  This is His promise to us:

The penalties for wounding or striking a person depend upon the severity of the injury; for each degree the Lord of Judgement hath prescribed a certain indemnity. He is, in truth, the Ordainer, the Mighty, the Most Exalted. We shall, if it be Our Will, set forth these payments in their just degrees — this is a promise on Our part, and He, verily, is the Keeper of His pledge, the Knower of all things.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 39)

Even though we may, at times want revenge, we can pray for the progress of those who have hurt us, so that they can progress:

It is even possible that the condition of those who have died in sin and unbelief may become changed — that is to say, they may become the object of pardon through the bounty of God, not through His justice — for bounty is giving without desert, and justice is giving what is deserved. As we have power to pray for these souls here, so likewise we shall possess the same power in the other world, which is the Kingdom of God. Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 231)

The ultimate solution lies in spiritual education and illumination:

However, it should be recognized that the ultimate solution to the problems of humanity lies not in penalties and punishments, but rather in spiritual education and illumination. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá  has written: ”It is incumbent upon human society to expend all its forces on the education of the people, and to copiously enter men’s hearts with the sacred streams that pour down from the Realm of the All-Merciful, and to teach them the manners of Heaven and spiritual ways of life, until every member of the community of man will be schooled, refined, and exalted to such a degree of perfection that the very committing of a shameful act will seem  in itself the direst infliction and most agonizing of punishments, and man will fly in terror and seek refuge in his God from the very idea of crime, as something far harsher and more grievous than the punishment assigned to it.   (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January 1993)

How has this helped you understand this topic better?  Post your comments below!