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Showing Our Love by Obedience

On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. If we profess loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh, to our Beloved Master and our dear Guardian, then we must show our love by obedience to these explicit teachings. Deeds not words are what they demand, and no amount of fervour in the use of expressions of loyalty and adulation will compensate for failure to live in the spirit of the teachings. (From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, in Living the Life, pp. 5–7)

During this worldwide pandemic, a lot of people around me, including some of my closest friends, have been taking a lot more risks than I’m comfortable with and I have found myself filled with criticism and judgement, leading to a lot of estrangement between us.  This morning, I find myself wanting to talk to one of them, and am rehearsing in my head what I want to say – mostly centered around the fact that there’s a big difference between being afraid that I might get or give the virus to others, and being obedient to the government.  I want to align with and honor the sacrifices of my Bahá’í brothers and sisters in Iran, or in Germany during the Nazi regime or in South Africa, during apartheid, where Baha’i’s might not approve of the government’s policies, but have steadfastly been obedient at horrific expense to themselves.

Obviously, I can’t make the call when I’m feeling so critical and judgmental.  I don’t want to even reach out to others for support in what to say, because that would be backbiting, which is a sin far worse than the risks they are willing to take in their lack of obedience to the government.  I may not like what others are doing, and I may even feel alone in my decision to adhere to the directives and feel lonely as a result, and even still, I will take a deep breath and give all of it to God, so that I can stop even breathing in the sins of others.

Reading the Writings morning and night and finding exactly the right quote when I need it the most, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Letting Go of Criticizing Others

 

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What to Do Instead of Gossip and Backbiting

If some people come to thee alone complaining against each other, don’t listen to them, don’t let them breathe the faults of others in thy presence. Tell them: “I have not come here to engage my time with these things. I am not a judge. I have come to summon the people to the Kingdom of Abha, to call you to unity and accord, to raise the dead, make mindful those who are unaware, awaken those who are asleep, breathe new life into the mouldering bones and sound the trumpet of resurrection! Friends! . . . You must not listen to anyone speaking about another; because no sooner do you listen to one than you must listen to someone else, and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly. Therefore, say to them: “O friends! Let us come together, forget all our self-thoughts and be in one accord, and cry at the top of our voices, ‘Ya-Baha-El-Abha!’  (Abdu’l-Baha, “Star of the West,” Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)

I often get drawn into other people’s gossip, no matter how much I try to stay clear of it.  In fact, just yesterday, a neighbor was confiding in me some of her concerns about the neighbors in our building, whose actions are attracting the police several times a week.  I too am seriously concerned about this.  I knew she needed to vent, and I knew it was verging on backbiting.  All I could do was pray silently in my head:  “Ya Baha’u’l-Abha!”, over and over again.  Once she’d said her piece, and I acknowledged her concern, without engaging myself, she went on her way, happy to have been heard.  I went away feeling poisoned by the experience, but grateful I at least knew how to pray.

I was at fault for listening to her, knowing she was backbiting, knowing that she would repeat her sad tale to other tenants in the building and keep the story going.  I did try to focus my comments on her and her concerns, rather than the problems of our neighbors.  I did tell her I was systematically praying for the people in our building, which seemed to take her aback, and caused her to give me a big hug, which she has never done before.  Please God, let it be enough!

Knowing there are steps I can take when listening to the faults of others, I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Listening to the Faults of Others

It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbit­ing. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p.  94)

I don’t know about you, but I’m finding it increasingly difficult to be part of conversations where people are complaining about others.  It seems to be happening so often and when I get caught up in it, it feels like I’m sitting in a vat full of poison.  I used to like hanging out in the common room in our apartment building to get to know my neighbors, but despite my best efforts to elevate the level of conversation, it always leaves me drained so now I avoid it entirely.  I used to appreciate eating at the soup kitchen as it really helped keep my food budget down but when I heard people criticizing the organization that fed us, I couldn’t bear it so now I don’t go there either.

Some days I think I’m really withdrawing from the world to avoid the conflict and can easily get caught up in judging myself harshly for it.  This quote gives me some comfort because it doesn’t say I have to stay and make things better, which I used to believe, it says I need to do my utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in my presence.  Avoiding the ungodly is acceptable in God’s eyes!

Knowing it’s OK to prevent others from making accusations or complaints in my presence I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read through today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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God’s Forgiveness of Sinners

It is even possible for those who have died in sin and unbelief to be transformed, that is, to become the object of divine forgiveness. This is through the grace of God and not through His justice, for grace is to bestow without desert, and justice is to give that which is deserved. As we have the power to pray for those souls here, so too will we have the same power in the next world, the world of the Kingdom. Are not all the creatures in that world the creation of God? They must therefore be able to progress in that world as well. And just as they can seek illumination here through supplication, so too can they plead there for forgiveness and seek illumination through prayer and supplication. Thus, as souls can progress in this world through their entreaties and supplications, or through the prayers of holy souls, so too after death can they progress through their own prayers and supplications, particularly if they become the object of the intercession of the holy Manifestations.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, 2014 ed., p. 62)

I used to think I was perfect and the people who abused me were monsters.  As I’ve studied the Baha’i Writings and become more enlightened, I realize that we are all sinners, me included.  In the grand scheme of sins, surely lying (“the worst of qualities and most odious of attributes, which is the foundation of all evil”) and gossip and backbiting (the most great sins; “accursed wouldst thou be”; “quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”) are the two most important, even before sexual sins.  I think if we would all work on these two sins, the rest would be easy in comparison.

With that in mind, I can approach this prayer with gratitude, knowing that the people who turned away from God and abused me can still be forgiven by God and transformed.  I can pray for them; they can pray for themselves; and best of all, the Manifestations of God can pray for them and they will be forgiven.  I can leave the justice to God and focus on my own sins, hopefully recognizing them in this life and accepting God’s forgiveness and even if I mess up, I know that there are people and Manifestations who can pray for me and I can also pray for myself.  It takes a lot of pressure off trying to be perfect!

Knowing there are many ways to be forgiven even in the next world, I can relax and I am grateful!

What jumped out for you as you read today’s meditation?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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Dampening the Zeal of Others

If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detrac­tion serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honor of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá,  pp. 230-231)

In today’s quote on the evils of backbiting, we learn two important things:

  1. Backbiting not only dampens the zeal, but is also the leading cause among the friends to withdraw and become indifferent. How many Baha’is in your community have withdrawn and become indifferent?  It seems to be an epidemic.  Now we know what the problem is we can look at how backbiting has played a role and where we might need to adjust our behavior.
  1. When I hear backbiting, I know it’s wrong, but it’s so easy to get caught up in it, because our culture is so steeped in it. ‘Abdu’l-Baha knows this and tells us what we can say to stop it in a spiritual and friendly manner:
  • would this comment serve any useful purpose?
  • Would it please the Blessed Beauty?
  • Would it contribute to the lasting honor of the friends?
  • Would it promote the holy Faith
  • Would it support the Covenant?
  • Would it be of any possible benefit to any soul?

These questions might be easier to ask another Baha’i, who has recognized Baha’u’llah and accepted the Covenant, but the same principle applies with those who haven’t.  Instead we can ask:

  • Is it true?
  • Is it helpful?
  • Is it inspiring?
  • Is it necessary?
  • Is it kind?

Knowing how to respond when I hear backbiting, I am grateful!

What setback are you experiencing in your life today and how can this process help?  I’d love it if you would share so we can all expand our knowledge of the Writings!

If you liked this meditation, you might also like my book Making Friends with Sin and Temptation

 

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