…[L]aughter should not . . . be indulged in at the expense of the feelings of others. What one says or does in a humorous vein should not give rise to prejudice of any kind. You may recall ‘Abdu’l-Baha’s caution ‘Beware lest ye offend the feelings of anyone, or sadden the heart of any person . . . (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Baha, v1, p.45, quoted on behalf of the Universal House of Justice in a memorandum “The Humorist” 12 July 1997)
When I was a teenager, I remember reading a book by Robert Heinlein, in which he made the point that all laughter is put-downs at someone else’s expense and I decided in that moment, that I would never tell a joke or put down anyone, ever. I also stopped laughing and started taking life very seriously. It was one of those defining moments in my life.
When I came into the Faith, one of the first books I read was “God Loves Laughter” by William Sears, and found many stories of how much ‘Abdu’l-Baha loved laughter and when he was in prison, asked everyone to think of the funniest thing that happened during the day, and He’d laugh until the tears rolled down His face. I often wonder about the content of those jokes. I wish I could have been a fly on the wall, to see what some of the jokes were. But maybe I don’t need to worry so much about being perfect. Maybe I can just ask God to help me take life less seriously and lighten up, trusting that my sensitive heart would still recoil at offending or saddening anyone.
Knowing that I have permission to find the humor in things, and laugh about them, 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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I’ve had several clients in my Bahá’í-inspired life coaching practice, hurt by comments made by other Bahá’í friends and family members. In my role as their life coach, I’ve pointed out some spiritual principles which can help govern their behaviour. I’ve compiled a list of their questions, comment and concerns, and quotes from the Bahá’í Writings which address them. Hope it gives you a perspective to help you deal with these issues, which are no doubt occurring in your lives too.
Something in my voice is setting off alarms in people and they have melt downs. What do I do?
- The members . . . must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancour. They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another. Bahá’í consultation is not an easy process. It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility. Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member’s statements. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179)
Why do friends criticize and put me down?
- Perhaps the greatest test Bahá’ís are ever subjected to is from each other. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601.)
- . . . if we are very sensitive, or if we are in some way brought up in a different environment from the Bahá’ís amongst whom we live, we naturally see things differently and may feel them more acutely; and the other side of it is that the imperfec¬tions of our fellow-Bahá’ís can be a great trial to us. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 604.)
- Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p.454.)
How can I behave towards them when they hurt me?
- . . . if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Baha’. (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v2, p. 436)
- . . . for the sake of the Master they should be ever ready to overlook each other’s mistakes, apologize for harsh words they have uttered, forgive and forget. He strongly recommends to you this course of action. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601.)
- . . . often our severest tests come from each other . . . and if they happen, remedy them through love. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 454.)
- You should not allow the remarks made by the Bahá’ís to hurt or depress you, but should forget the personalities, and arise to do all you can, yourself, to teach the Faith. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 462.)
- . . . if you close your eyes to the failings of others, and fix your love and prayers upon Bahá’u’lláh, you will have the strength to weather this storm, and will be much better for it in the end, spiritually. Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow Bahá’ís and your children. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 604.)
- . . . turning a sin-covering eye to the faults of others, and striv¬ing in our own inmost selves to purify our lives in accordance with the divine teachings. (From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, July 22, 1981.)
- Great love and patience are needed towards new believers, especially those who have come from very troubled backgrounds. (From a letter written by the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer July 22, 1981.)
- Concerning the attitude of some Bahá’ís, who seem at times to be insensitive and unsupportive, all we can do is to try to follow the patient example of the Master, bearing in mind that each believer is but one of the servants of the Almighty who must strive to learn and grow. The absence of spiritual qualities, like darkness, has no exist¬ence in itself. As the light of spirituality penetrates deep into the hearts, this darkness gradually dissipates and is replaced by virtue. Under¬standing this, and that the believers are encouraged to be loving and patient with one another, it will be clear that you too are called upon to exercise patience with the friends who demonstrate immaturity, and to have faith that the power of the Word of God will gradually effect a transformation in individual believers and in the Bahá’í community as a whole. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 23 October, 1994)
What can I do when it’s the Assembly who has reacted negatively?
- Your letters have been read with great sympathy by the House of Justice. You have written eloquently about the pain and isolation felt by yourself and other believers, particularly women, when faced with a lack of response from those very Assemblies which Bahá’u’lláh has asked us to consider as loving parents. From such bodies, one longs for understanding and, beyond that, for encouragement and love. When we feel that this is missing, our own reactions may include feelings of disillusionment and alienation. In addition, there are other issues which arise within our communities which cannot be dealt with through a decision per se but which require, for their resolution, growth and changes of attitude on the part of the friends. When progress is slow or appears to be blocked, we may feel the urge to distance ourselves from the friends and the institutions, and despite our best inten¬tions we may find ourselves almost involuntarily withdrawing into non-responsive, non-encouraging modes of our own. We must struggle with such promptings from within, setting our sights on the lofty ex¬ample set by the Greatest Holy Leaf who, throughout a life replete with severe tests, chose not to take offence at the actions or lack of actions of other souls and, with full and radiant heart, continued to bestow on them love and encouragement. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, 25 October, 1994.)
- As you know, there can be many reasons for Assemblies not to respond to the believers. Undoubtedly, in some cases, it is because the friends and the Assemblies are struggling with issues on the fron¬tier of their spiritual growth. Such a process can lead to tremendous development on both the individual and the collective levels. Sometimes we can facilitate this process of spiritual growth for individuals, and of maturation for Local and National Assemblies, by viewing these situations not as a problem but as opportunities for development. Tak¬ing part in this process should be a source of joy to us since we are, in effect, helping to build the kingdom of God on Earth. Nevertheless, patience is needed, particularly when it involves a subject that is close to our hearts, and when it seems that progress on the matter is lagging or has ceased entirely. We must maintain our confidence that the divinely ordained administrative system given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, and the inspiration of the Creative Word, will enable us to rise to these challenges. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994.)
Not sure how you can apply these quotes from the Bahá’í Writings to your own life? Coaching can help! Contact me to arrange for a free 30 minute session.
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