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Greedy for God’s Approval

To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (Words of ‘Abdu’l-Baha recorded by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during his pilgrimage to Haifa in 1905; Star of the West, Vol. VI, No.6, p. 43; Compilation: Lights of Guidance)

 

. . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (Words of Abdu’l-Baha in answer to questions asked by Dr. Edward C. Getsinger during a few brief meetings at Haifa, January 26 to February 5, 1915, and recorded by Dr. Getsinger at the time; Star of the West, vol. 6, no. 6, June 24, 1915)

This morning I was reflecting with some friends on how we look to other people for external validation, to earn people’s love and respect or to prove our worth.  A lot of people I know define their self-worth by how many “likes” they get on a social media posting.  Many of us hang out with people who have similar tastes and compatible opinions in order to have fulfilling relationships and feel loved by friends and family.  We tend to avoid or rebuff criticism or unwanted advice, no matter how well-meaning.   I’m coming to appreciate that creating this false face and trying to please everyone else before myself not only stunts real intimacy, but it makes me an invisible chameleon and drains me of my energy.

Changing my behavior isn’t easy, when I am immersed in a sea of gossip and am greedy for the approval of others.  I know how to get that drug that never satisfies.  I understand all this, but what I don’t understand is how I can get even more greedy for God’s approval and what would it look like if I found it?  How would I recognize it when it comes?

I don’t hear Bahá’ís talk about this much, so I’m baffled about what to look for, so that I can move from my lower nature (looking for the approval of others) to my higher nature (looking for God’s approval).  I took a poll and some people mentioned feeling the quiet satisfaction of a job well done; or having a feeling of peace and serenity at the end of a day; or feeling grounded and in the flow; or being grateful for fresh insights that could only come from God.  Any other ideas?

Finding ways to recognize and become greedy for God’s approval, 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 Getting to Know Your Lower Nature

 

 

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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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Gossip and Criticism

Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)

It’s so true!  It’s a lot easier for me to gossip and criticize.  We live in a climate that encourages gossip and backbiting, and for many years, I got a false sense of intimacy with other people, by falling into this trap to hold onto friendships.

Three ideas helped me put a stop to this behavior:  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá (Lights of Guidance, p. 88) tells us that “the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting”.  In the Iqan (p. 193) Bahá’u’lláh tells us that “Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul”.  In The Hidden Words (Arabic 27), we learned that even breathing the sins of others causes us to be “accursed” by God.

Thankfully, these ideas are helping me get a better handle on staying clear of gossip.  Being around it anymore, feels like immersing myself in poison, so I avoid it like the plague, but criticism is a lot harder for me to let go of.  So much of my life I’ve been disheartened at the way things turned out, that I’ve come to expect to be disappointed.  My default reaction is to see what’s wrong instead of seeing what’s right.  Fortunately Abdu’l-Baha (Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 93) reminds me that “the imperfect eye beholds imperfections.”  When I remember to look to God, and His perfections, I feel more grounded and more able to stay positive and avoid falling into the trap of criticism.

When I remember that everything is perfect just as it is, and my only job is to love, use constructive words and cooperate with others, 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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More on Gossip and Backbiting 

That seeker should, also, regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 265)

It is so easy when we’re angry, to want everyone else to know how badly we’ve been wronged, and we look for someone to listen as we vent our frustration.  Very quickly, this negativity will breed more negativity, until a false sense of intimacy is created.  We’re “in the know.”  We’re on the A list.  We’re one of the crowd.  We belong.

I had a friend like this once.  In retrospect, I think our whole friendship was based on gossip and backbiting, under the guise of “information sharing”.  I didn’t like it but I couldn’t seem to stop engaging.  It had become such a habit I didn’t know what else to talk about.

Our society promotes gossip.  We can’t even go grocery shopping or wait in a dentist’s office, without being immersed in magazines dedicated to spreading gossip and lies.  This is another element of materialism gone wrong, and part of the decline of the old world order.  We’ve been given a gift in this quote and a reason to stop, knowing it quenches the light of the heart and extinguishes the life of the soul.

Knowing the effects that gossip and backbiting has on my life, I can ask God to help me stop, 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 Letting Go of Anger and Bitterness

 

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The Sins of Others 

O SON OF MAN!  Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words Arabic 27)

This is such an important injunction to understand and boy am I struggling with it today!  Someone I’m doing business with wronged me and then lied to me and I want to sully their name on social media.  Someone else is spreading lies and slandering my name and I want to defend myself.  Last night I was at a gathering where there was a lot of gossip and backbiting which would have been so easy to get hooked in, and other people were criticizing our hosts and their business partners.  One of my neighbors was partying too loud and another doesn’t pick up after her dog and I want everyone to know how upset it makes me.  It’s enough to make me run back into my cave and not interact with the world! I’m sure you could easily come up with your own list.

It’s easy to feel wronged and our culture promotes sharing our negativity widely, but in this quote we see we can’t even breathe another person’s sins (which I have done in the paragraph above!).

I’m learning that instead of venting my anger outwardly, I can remember that “hurt people hurt people”.  I can give the situation to God and ask for the strength to let go of my indignation and forgive.  I can talk to the person directly.  I can pray for the person and ask God to intervene in their lives.

Knowing there are other ways avoid criticizing others, thereby avoiding God’s wrath, 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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