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I was talking to someone the other day, about a problem she was having with her husband.  She felt that she was married to 2 different men, who she called Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.  You could tell that she loved Mr. Hyde very much, but when he switched into Dr. Jekyll she was afraid of him, and didn’t know what to do.

Her therapist was explaining the “cycle of abuse”, characterized by a predictable repetitious pattern of abuse, whether emotional, psychological or physical, with psychological abuse nearly always preceding and accompanying physical abuse.   We know that sustained periods of living in such a cycle may lead to learned helplessness and battered person syndrome.  So far, her marriage hadn’t reached this stage, and she had taken very creative steps to keep herself safe.  She was reaching the end of her resources, though, and wondered what she could do.

Originally I responded (as follows) to her situation, which still had hope.  Several of my readers wrote to point out that this looked like I was condoning abuse by suggesting she remain with an abuser.  I apologize for the misperception!  The Bahá’í Faith is very clear on this matter!

The National Spiritual Assembly will not tolerate domestic violence and condemns its existence. Violent acts are forbidden. The Universal House of Justice has said: “Acts of violence might properly be regarded as a negation of the persistent emphasis on concord, understanding and unity which are at the heart of the Bahá’í Teachings.” (Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to a National Spiritual Assembly, 22 September, 1983)

In that light, I have decided to write this article in two parts:

  • When there is still hope (below)
  • When it becomes abusive  (click here)

Only you can know which perspective is right for you.  If your marriage is abusive, please get help to leave, right away!

When There is Still Hope:

The abuse recovery model and the Bahá’í model can look very different.  On the one hand, both models agree that this is intolerable.  The Bahá’í Writings say:

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 has pointed out in response to questions addressed to it that, in a marriage relationship, neither husband nor wife should ever unjustly dominate the other, and that there are times when the husband and the wife should defer to the wishes of the other, if agreement cannot be reached through consultation; each couple should determine exactly under what circumstances such deference is to take place.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

Where the Bahá’í Faith differs, relates to transformation:

As you know, the principle of the oneness of mankind is de­scribed in the Bahá’í Writings as the pivot round which all the Teach­ings of Bahá’u’lláh revolve. It has widespread implications which affect and remold all dimensions of human activity. It calls for a fundamental change in the manner in which people relate to each other, and the eradication of those age old practices which deny the intrinsic hu­man right of every individual to be treated with consideration and respect.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual, 24 January, 1993)

But what is the “fundamental change in the manner in which people relate to each other”?  It’s easy to identify virtues such as love and forgiveness, but the more difficult ones of patience, resignation and long-suffering are not on most therapists’ radar.

On the one hand, the Bahá’í Writings clearly say:

Hold thy husband dear and always show forth an amiable temper towards him, no matter how ill tempered he may be. Even if thy kindness maketh him more bitter, manifest thou more kindliness, more tenderness, be more loving and tolerate his cruel actions and ill-treatment.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 226)

Now that you realize that your husband is ill, you should be able to reconcile yourself to the difficulties you have faced with him emotionally, and not take an unforgiving attitude, however much you may suffer.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 227)

We also know that when there is spousal abuse in the marriage, the feelings of one partner – maybe both – break. Those broken feelings destroy the trust and eat away at the foundations of the fortress.  If we look at abuse as a beast, this quote shows us what it does:

It is said, “The beast made war against these two witnesses” — that is to say, a spiritual war, meaning that the beast would act in entire opposition to the teachings, customs and institutions of these two witnesses, to such an extent that the virtues and perfections which were diffused by the power of those two witnesses among the peoples and tribes would be entirely dispelled, and the animal nature and carnal desires would conquer. Therefore, this beast making war against them would gain the victory — meaning that the darkness of error coming from this beast was to have ascendency over the horizons of the world, and kill those two witnesses — in other words, that it would destroy the spiritual life which they spread abroad in the midst of the nation, and entirely remove the divine laws and teachings, treading under foot the Religion of God. Nothing would thereafter remain but a lifeless body without spirit.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 51)

This may be a rather confusing passage, but I think what ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is saying is that when one partner acts in ways that are against the Bahá’í laws, the virtues possible in the marriage are dispelled, and the abuser’s lower nature kills the marriage and destroys the spiritual life of both, causing nothing to remain of the marriage but a “lifeless body without spirit”.

Can a marriage be saved if it’s a “lifeless body without spirit”?  Here is where the abuse model and the Bahá’í Faith differ.  The abuse model would say “no” and “get out now for your own sanity.”  And it would be right.

The Bahá’í Faith would say that when the emotional abuse in a marriage gets to be intolerable, you have 2 choices:  start a year of patience, during which time your spouse can work on his/her anger issues so that you can trust him/her again (or vice versa); or stay in the marriage and work on developing the virtues which will help you in the next world.

Obviously this decision will be between the individual and God and between the two partners, but here are some quotes to consider for both decisions.

On the one hand, the Bahá’í Writings say:

It is a great pity that two believers, united in this glorious Cause, and blessed with a family, should not be able to live together really harmoniously, and he feels you should take constructive action and not allow the situation to get worse. When the shadow of separation hangs over a husband and wife they should leave no stone unturned in their effort to avert its becoming a reality.  He urges you both to devote more of your time to teaching the Cause and to pray together that Bahá’u’lláh may give you a real and lasting love for each other.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 451)

But what if one partner wants to obey the spirit of this injunction and the other one doesn’t?  Is it possible for the marriage to continue?  The answer is yes.  The only grounds for divorce in the Bahá’í Faith is irreconcilable antipathy, so as long as that point hasn’t been reached, there is still hope.

I was in that situation in my own marriage – I was willing to do everything in my power to avoid divorce, and my husband didn’t see anything wrong in the marriage.  I tried everything in my power to save it.  At the end, I knew that there was one thing I needed to hear, to help me stay, and when every therapist I consulted recommended divorce, I slipped into hopelessness and despair, and called it irreconcilable antipathy.  I carefully studied the meanings of antipathy:

1.  a natural, basic, or habitual repugnance; aversion.

2. an instinctive contrariety or opposition in feeling.

3. an object of natural aversion or habitual dislike.

The situation certainly felt irreconcilable to me, and I certainly had an aversion in his presence.  When a Bahá’í I trusted suggested that it might be God’s will for me to divorce, I finally consulted the Local Spiritual Assembly for a year of patience, and the marriage ultimately ended in divorce.  Years later, I heard the one thing that might have kept me in my marriage.  It was the idea that marriage is like the seasons.  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá describes it well:

At one time it is the season of spring; at another it is the season of autumn; and again it is the season of summer or the season of winter.  In the spring there are the clouds which send down the precious rain, the musk-scented breezes and life-giving zephyrs; the air is perfectly temperate, the rain falls, the sun shines, the fecundating wind wafts the clouds, the world is renewed, and the breath of life appears in plants, in animals and in men. Earthly beings pass from one condition to another. All things are clothed in new garments, and the black earth is covered with herbage; mountains and plains are adorned with verdure; trees bear leaves and blossoms; gardens bring forth flowers and fragrant herbs. The world becomes another world, and it attains to a life-giving spirit. The earth was a lifeless body; it finds a new spirit, and produces endless beauty, grace and freshness. Thus the spring is the cause of new life and infuses a new spirit.  Afterward comes the summer, when the heat increases, and growth and development attain their greatest power. The energy of life in the vegetable kingdom reaches to the degree of perfection, the fruit appears, and the time of harvest ripens; a seed has become a sheaf, and the food is stored for winter. Afterward comes tumultuous autumn when unwholesome and sterile winds blow; it is the season of sickness, when all things are withered, and the balmy air is vitiated. The breezes of spring are changed to autumn winds; the fertile green trees have become withered and bare; flowers and fragrant herbs fade away; the beautiful garden becomes a dustheap. Following this comes the season of winter, with cold and tempests. It snows, rains, hails, storms, thunders and lightens, freezes and congeals; all plants die, and animals languish and are wretched.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 73-74)

This is where my marriage ended.  It was clearly winter and everything was dead and lifeless.  I don’t think I’m alone here!  Who wants to stay in such a cold and bleak environment, when it looks like there is no hope?  Most of us (myself included), forget that:

When this state is reached, again a new life-giving spring returns, and the cycle is renewed. The season of spring with its hosts of freshness and beauty spreads its tent on the plains and mountains with great pomp and magnificence. A second time the form of the creatures is renewed, and the creation of beings begins afresh; bodies grow and develop, the plains and wildernesses become green and fertile, trees bring forth blossoms, and the spring of last year returns in the utmost fullness and glory. Such is, and such ought to be, the cycle and succession of existence. Such is the cycle and revolution of the material world.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 73-74)

Another thing to remember is that the transition from winter to spring is also very ugly – as the snow melts and everything becomes muddy, it’s hard to remember that new life is soon to come.

I think that staying in a marriage through this time helps us develop many virtues, including:

Patience:

Were it not for calamity, how would the sun of Thy patience shine, O Light of the worlds?  Lament not because of the wicked. Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire Tablet, Baha’i Prayers, p. 217)

He, verily, rewardeth beyond measure them that endure with patience.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 71)

I think what Baha’u’llah is telling us here is that he created us to “bear and endure” and when we endure whatever life throws at us with patience, our rewards will be immense.  Short-term pain for long-term gain!

‘Abdu’l-Bahá understands how difficult it might be for some of us to have patience, particularly when we’ve been raised with poor role models ourselves:

For example, you see that children born from a weak and feeble father and mother will naturally have a feeble constitution and weak nerves; they will be afflicted, and will have neither patience, nor endurance, nor resolution, nor perseverance, and will be hasty; for the children inherit the weakness and debility of their parents.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 319)

This isn’t a justification for not having patience, but a way to be patient with ourselves when we haven’t been patient in the past, and something to overcome now that we know it.

Long Suffering:

The concept of “long suffering” is not one that is currently popular in our society, or in the abuse recovery field, so here are some quotes you might not have seen:

Bahá’u’lláh has clearly said in His Tablets that if you have an enemy, consider him not as an enemy. Do not simply be long-suffering; nay, rather, love him. Your treatment of him should be that which is becoming to lovers. Do not even say that he is your enemy. Do not see any enemies. Though he be your murderer, see no enemy. Look upon him with the eye of friendship.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267)

If you’re looking for a role model of long-suffering you might want to read about the life of Bahiyyih Khanum.  The Universal House of Justice tells us:

Her meekness, her unassuming nature, the purity of her soul, the sensitivity of her heart, the calmness of her demeanour, her patience and long-suffering in trials, and above all, her unshakeable faith, her tenderness and love, and the spirit of self-renunciation which she evinced throughout her blessed life, are outstanding characteristics that we can well emulate.  (Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 557)

Here’s a prayer you can say to help acquire the virtues of patience and long-suffering:

I beseech Thee, O my Lord, by the sighs of Thy lovers throughout the world, and by their lamentation in their remoteness from the court of Thy presence, and by the blood that hath been shed for love of Thee, and by the hearts that have melted in Thy path, to protect Thy loved ones from the cruelty of such as have remained unaware of the mysteries of Thy Name, the Unconstrained. Assist them, O my Lord, by Thy power that hath prevailed over all things, and aid them to be patient and long-suffering.   Thou art the All-Powerful, the Almighty, the All-Bountiful. No God is there but Thee, the Generous, the Lord of grace abounding.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 35-36)

Tolerance:

Be mindful that you do not consider him as an enemy and simply tolerate him, for that is but stratagem and hypocrisy. To consider a man your enemy and love him is hypocrisy. This is not becoming of any soul. You must behold him as a friend. You must treat him well. This is right.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267)

Resignation:

Resignation is another virtue which is not very popular in today’s society but helps strengthen marriages.  Here are some quotes you may not have seen:

Such hath been the patience, the calm, the resignation and contentment of this people that they have become the exponents of justice, and so great hath been their forbearance, that they have suffered themselves to be killed rather than kill, and this notwithstanding that these whom the world hath wronged have endured tribulations the like of which the history of the world hath never recorded, nor the eyes of any nation witnessed. What is it that could have induced them to reconcile themselves to these grievous trials, and to refuse to put forth a hand to repel them? What could have caused such resignation and serenity? The true cause is to be found in the ban which the Pen of Glory hath, day and night, chosen to impose, and in Our assumption of the reins of authority, through the power and might of Him Who is the Lord of all mankind.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 74-75)

They that yearn for the abode of the Beloved, they that circle round the sanctuary of the Desired One, are not apprehensive of trials and adversities, nor do they flee away from that which is ordained by God. They receive their portion from the ocean of resignation and drink their fill from the soft-flowing stream of His mercy. They would not surrender the good-pleasure of the Friend in exchange for the kingdom of both worlds, nor would they barter that which the Well-Beloved hath decreed in return for dominion over the realms of the infinite. They would eagerly drink the venom of woe as if it were the water of life and would drain deadly poison to its bitter dregs just as a sweet and life-giving draught. In the arid wastes of desolation they are stirred with enthusiasm through the remembrance of the Friend, and in the dreary wilds of adversity they are eager and impatient to offer themselves as a sacrifice. Unhesitatingly have they renounced their lives and directed their steps towards the abode of the Best Beloved. They have closed their eyes to the world and fixed their gaze upon the beauteous countenance of the Friend, cherishing no desire but the presence of the loved One and seeking no attainment save reunion with Him. They fly with the feathers of trust in God and soar with the wings of adherence unto His Will. In their estimation a blood-shedding blade is more desirable than finest silk and a piercing dart more acceptable than mother’s milk.  (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 11)

The abuse recovery model suggests that there is something wrong with spouses who fall back into love, forgiveness and mercy, after every one of their husband’s outbursts, as though it was part of the problem.  Unfortunately this is where they differ from the standards of the Faith.  Here are some quotes which might help you think of it differently:

All these purified hearts and sanctified souls hastened with perfect resignation to the call of destiny. During occasions of complaint, nothing proceeded from them except thanksgiving, and in time of affliction, only submission was visible. It is an evident fact how much hatred, animosity and enmity the people of the earth entertained toward these companions, for they considered tormenting and oppressing these holy ideal countenances conducive to prosperity, salvation and everlasting success and gain . . . Notwithstanding all their sufferings and injuries, they became the objects of the curses of the people and the subject of censure by all the servants. It seemed as if patience originated in the world of existence from their self-restraint, and faithfulness appeared in the regions of the earth from their actions.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 61)

This suggests that no matter what happens to us, we need to be resigned and not complain; we need to thank God and submit to His decree; we need to realize that if we can acquire these virtues, it will lead to prosperity, salvation and everlasting gain.

The following quote gives us some practical tools we can use:

Those, however, who have been trained and educated in the school of God, even when coming to such a pass, are resignation itself, and to the brutal aggressor they are as the living waters of Heaven. They are rivers of pure mercy and peace. Though powerful and well able to defend themselves, they never raise a hand to strike, nor do they open their lips to protest. They confront the others’ taunts and curses with prayers that God will forgive them, and their reply to the wounds of bullet and sword is to offer milk and honey. They kiss the murderer’s hand; as intoxicated lovers, they drain the martyr’s cup.  (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 165)

They give us a standard to work towards:

They that yearn for the abode of the Beloved, they that circle round the sanctuary of the Desired One, are not apprehensive of trials and adversities, nor do they flee away from that which is ordained by God. They receive their portion from the ocean of resignation and drink their fill from the soft-flowing stream of His mercy. They would not surrender the good-pleasure of the Friend in exchange for the kingdom of both worlds, nor would they barter that which the Well-Beloved hath decreed in return for dominion over the realms of the infinite. They would eagerly drink the venom of woe as if it were the water of life and would drain deadly poison to its bitter dregs just as a sweet and life-giving draught. In the arid wastes of desolation they are stirred with enthusiasm through the remembrance of the Friend, and in the dreary wilds of adversity they are eager and impatient to offer themselves as a sacrifice. Unhesitatingly have they renounced their lives and directed their steps towards the abode of the Best Beloved. They have closed their eyes to the world and fixed their gaze upon the beauteous countenance of the Friend, cherishing no desire but the presence of the loved One and seeking no attainment save reunion with Him. They fly with the feathers of trust in God, and soar with the wings of adherence unto His Will. In their estimation a blood-shedding blade is more desirable than finest silk and a piercing dart more acceptable than mother’s milk.  (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 11)

This is a tough standard, indeed!  It suggests even if your life is being poisoned by someone’s behaviour; even if your marriage is desolate; even if the abuse hurts as much as a piercing dart, God still wants us to change our attitude to one of resignation, offering up our pain as a sacrifice, and looking to God for mercy.

Even in moments of catastrophe, we are to attain patience, resignation and submission:

O ye Cohorts of God! In the moment of catastrophe, find ye patience, resignation and submission.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

God wants us to be patient, and to not complain about our suffering.

Blessed are the steadfastly enduring, they that are patient under ills and hardships, who lament not over anything that befalleth them, and who tread the path of resignation.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 129)

We are to submit ourselves without complaining, so that others won’t even know that anything is wrong:

However, relying upon God, we conducted ourselves with the utmost patience and submission, resignation and calmness; so much that if one did not know anything about these matters, he would have thought that we were in perfect ease of soul, enjoying the tranquility of heart mind, and were engaged in happiness and felicity.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 45)

He wants us to detach ourselves from others, to resign ourselves to whatever happens without talking about our pain; without exalting ourselves over the person who is hurting us.

That seeker must, at all times, put his trust in God, must renounce the peoples of the earth, must detach himself from the world of dust, and cleave unto Him Who is the Lord of Lords. He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vain-glory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence and refrain from idle talk.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 264-265)

He wants us to thank Him for our tests, and submit ourselves to them.

All these stainless hearts and sanctified souls have, with absolute resignation, responded to the summons of His decree. Instead of complaining, they rendered thanks unto God, and amidst the darkness of their anguish they revealed naught but radiant acquiescence to His will.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 234)

His purpose in all of this is for us to acquire a saintly character, adorned with holy and goodly deeds.

The purpose of the one true God in manifesting Himself is to summon all mankind to . . . resignation and submissiveness to the Will of God, to forbearance and kindliness . . . His object is to array every man with the mantle of a saintly character, and to adorn him with the ornament of holy and goodly deeds.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 298)

He promises that if we learn how to trust His decrees, no one’s bad behaviour will ever depress his spirits, his inner life will be revived and the pain will entirely subside.

In truth were man to attain the stage of certitude in his spiritual development, no affliction could ever depress his spirits, though he would undoubtedly be influenced by reason of his human susceptibilities. Nevertheless, man’s inner being will be so revived by the breeze of divinely-ordained woes and trials that the dust of wailing and lamentation will entirely subside and the light of submissive resignation unto His Will shall shine forth like unto a radiant morn.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Fire and Light, p. 25)

Look at the lives of the martyrs for inspiration.  Many of them died at the hands of their oppressors, and accepted death willingly.  That’s the spirit we are called to attain:

In physical strength and fortitude one of these Bahá’ís could have withstood many of their enemies, but they accepted martyrdom in the spirit of complete resignation and nonresistance. Many of them died, crying out, “O Lord! Forgive them; they know not what they do. If they knew, they would not commit this wrong.” In the throes of martyrdom they willingly offered all they possessed in this life.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 384)

Again we see Bahiyyih Khanum as a role model for resignation:

That heavenly being [Bahiyyih Khanum] displayed throughout her life such evidence of glory and dignity, such manifestations of majesty and greatness, such a degree of patience and resignation as bewildered the minds and souls. In the midst of trials her radiant face bore the likeness of a sweet rose and in moments of sore tribulation she was resplendent as a brilliant candle.  (Compilations, Bahiyyih Khanum, p. 84)

Here’s an affirmation you can use to help strengthen your resignation:

Thine is the command at all times, O Thou Who art the Lord of all names; and mine is resignation and willing submission to Thy will, O Creator of the heavens!  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 95)

The standards set by the Faith are very high, but so are the rewards:

They that yearn for the abode of the Beloved, they that circle round the sanctuary of the Desired One, are not apprehensive of trials and adversities, nor do they flee away from that which is ordained by God. They receive their portion from the ocean of resignation and drink their fill from the soft-flowing stream of His mercy. They would not surrender the good-pleasure of the Friend in exchange for the kingdom of both worlds, nor would they barter that which the Well-Beloved hath decreed in return for dominion over the realms of the infinite. They would eagerly drink the venom of woe as if it were the water of life and would drain deadly poison to its bitter dregs just as a sweet and life-giving draught. In the arid wastes of desolation they are stirred with enthusiasm through the remembrance of the Friend, and in the dreary wilds of adversity they are eager and impatient to offer themselves as a sacrifice. Unhesitatingly have they renounced their lives and directed their steps towards the abode of the Best Beloved. They have closed their eyes to the world and fixed their gaze upon the beauteous countenance of the Friend, cherishing no desire but the presence of the loved One and seeking no attainment save reunion with Him. They fly with the feathers of trust in God. and soar with the wings of adherence unto His Will. In their estimation a blood-shedding blade is more desirable than finest silk and a piercing dart more acceptable than mother’s milk.  (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 11)

In order to preserve a marriage to Dr. Jekyll, so that it lasts through all the worlds of God, the virtues needed the most (in addition to love and forgiveness) might include patience, resignation and long-suffering.

On the other hand, the Bahá’í Writings also say:

If a Bahá’í woman suffers abuse or is subjected to rape by her husband, she has the right to turn to the assembly for assistance and counsel, or to seek legal protection.  Such an abuse would gravely jeopardize the continuation of the marriage, and could well lead to a condition of irreconcilable antipathy.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 24 January, 1993)

At present the prevailing method, within the Australian community, of treating domestic violence, is to advise the couple to sepa­rate and to seek treatment from professional counseling services. It is suggested that Assemblies follow this method of treating domestic violence also. If, alternatively, the couple is counseled to remain to­gether to try and reconcile their differences, there can be no guarantee that the violence will not recur, in which case the Assembly could appear, inadvertently, to be condoning it. If the couple separate, how­ever, the role of the Assembly can then become that of providing an independent forum within which the couple can come together and try to resolve their differences.  (National Spiritual Assembly of Australia’s Policy Regarding Domestic Violence, From Australian Bahá’í Bulletin, July 1990.)

Perhaps it’s time for a year of patience.  The purpose of it is to:

During the year the couple have the responsibility of attempting to reconcile their difference, and the Assembly has the duty to help them and encourage them. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 390)

Unfortunately most couples enter into it too late – when they have no intention of working on the marriage or the issues which led up to it falling apart.

Conclusion:

As we know, there are many seeming contradictions in the Writings. Examining them can lead to greater depth of insight and the understanding that reality is complex; some of these statements refer to different kinds of situations, or must be applied in combination. The juxtaposition of these seeming contradictions prevents us from turning the Writings into a “cookbook” with a simple recipe for every situation. These contradictions force us to engage our own minds and exercise judgment.

This quote says it nicely:

The personal transformation required for true equality will undoubtedly be difficult for men and women alike. Both must relinquish all attachment to guilt and blame and courageously assume responsibility for their own part in transforming the societies in which they live.  (Baha’i International Community, 1995 Sept 13, Role of Religion in Promoting Advancement of Women)

I’m not sure it’s the individual’s job to look for justice in a marriage, as these quotes suggest:

It should be realized that there is a distinction drawn in the Faith between the attitudes which should characterize individuals in their relationship to other people, namely, loving forgiveness, forbearance, and concern with one’s own sins, not the sins of others, and those attitudes which should be shown by the Spiritual Assemblies, whose duty is to administer the law of God with Justice.  (Universal House of Justice, Messages from the Universal House of Justice 1968-1973, p. 110)

Love is the standard which must govern the conduct of one believer towards another. The administrative order does not change this, but unfortunately sometimes the friends confuse the two, and try to be a whole spiritual assembly,  —  with the discipline and justice and impartiality that body must show,  —  to each other, instead of being forgiving, loving and patient to each other as individuals.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 403)

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. 41-42)

Is there hope for this marriage?  I think there is.  As Shoghi Effendi said:

Marriage problems are often very involved and subtle, and we Bahá’ís, being enlightened and progressive people, should not hesitate, if it seems necessary or desirable, to turn to science for help in such matters. If you and your husband talked over your problems — together or separately — with a good physician you might find that you can cure your own husband, or at least try to do so. (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 451)

By studying, understanding and applying the guidance in this posting, I think there’s hope!  What do you think?  Post your comments here:

 To See Part 2, When Marriage Becomes Abusive, please click here