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Avoiding Temptation

 

Many of us struggle with thoughts and feelings we don’t recognize as coming from our lower nature, so we can’t change them.  But when we know that they are “sins”, and can recognize them as they arise, and ask God for His forgiveness, we can rid ourselves of them.

Here are some quotes you can memorize, to help you recognize the truth, so that when one of these idle thoughts raises their ugly heads, you’ll have some ammunition to conquer them:

Abandonment Out of the essence of knowledge I gave thee being, why seekest thou enlightenment from anyone beside Me? Out of the clay of love I molded thee, how dost thou busy thyself with another? Turn thy sight unto thyself, that thou mayest find Me standing within thee, mighty, powerful and self-subsisting.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)
Anger Anger doth burn the liver: avoid [it] as you would a lion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Antagonism (means rivalry, resentment, ill will) Antagonism and contradiction are unfortunate and always destructive to truth.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 72)
Anxiety O God! I will no longer be full of anxiety, nor will I let trouble harass me. I will not dwell on the unpleasant things of life.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 151)
Apathy (means indifference, boredom, laziness, lack of concern) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Ponder and reflect. Is it thy wish to die upon thy bed, or to shed thy life-blood on the dust, a martyr in My path, and so become the manifestation of My command and the revealer of My light in the highest paradise? Judge thou aright, O servant!  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 46)
Approval Seeking . . . at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
Argue The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.  (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
Attachment to the material world For attachment to the world has become the cause of the bondage of spirits, and this bondage is identical with sin . . . It is because of this attachment that men have been deprived of essential spirituality and exalted position.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 123)
Avarice (Greed) He should be content with little and free from avarice  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 50)
Bitterness When our thoughts are filled with the bitterness of this world, let us turn our eyes to the sweetness of God’s compassion and He will send us heavenly calm!   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)
Boasting The children of God do the works without boasting, obeying His laws . . . This is what the near approach to God requires from you, and this is what I expect of you.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 17)
Contention (means argument, debate, controversy) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . contention . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)The worldwide undertakings on which the Cause of God is embarked are far too significant, the need of the peoples of the world for the Message of Bahá’u’lláh far too urgent, the perils facing mankind far too grave, the progress of events far too swift, to permit His followers to squander their time and efforts in fruitless contention. Now, if ever, is the time for love among the friends, for unity of understanding and endeavor, for self-sacrifice and service by Bahá’ís in every part of the world.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992 Dec 10, Issues Related to Study Compilation)
Corruption But as these people failed to turn wholly unto God, and to hold fast to the hem of His all-pervading mercy at the appearance of the Daystar of Truth, they passed out from under the shadow of guidance and entered the city of error. Thus did they become corrupt and corrupt the people. Thus did they err and lead the people into error. And thus were they recorded among the oppressors in the books of heaven.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 40)
Covetousness Put away all covetousness and seek contentment; for the covetous hath ever been deprived, and the contented hath ever been loved and praised.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 50)
Cruelty The domestic animals do not manifest hatred and cruelty toward each other; that is the attribute of the wild and ferocious beasts. In a flock of one thousand sheep you will witness no bloodshed. Numberless species of birds are peaceful in flocks. Wolves, lions, tigers are ferocious because it is their natural and necessary means for obtaining food. Man has no need of such ferocity; his food is provided in other ways. Therefore it is evident that warfare, cruelty and bloodshed in the kingdom of man are caused by human greed, hatred and selfishness.          (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 24)
Deception (means trickery, fraud, con) Any form of intrigue, deception, collusion and compulsion must be stopped and is forbidden.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 12)
Depression Be thou not unhappy; the tempest of sorrow shall pass; regret will not last; disappointment will vanish; the fire of the love of God will become enkindled, and the thorns and briars of sadness and despondency will be consumed! Be thou happy; rest thou assured upon the favors of Bahá’, so that uncertainty and hesitation may become non-existent and the invisible outpourings descend upon the arena of being!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 557)
Dishonesty Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of dishonesty . . . in carrying out his duties, or unlawfully exact money from the people, be it even a singe penny, or secure private gains for himself, or seek personal benefits, such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)
Dispute Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 279)
Dissension (means opposition, rebellion, conflict) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Would it add to the progress and advancement of a family if dissensions should arise among its members, fighting, pillaging each other, jealous and revengeful of injury, seeking selfish advantage? Nay, this would be the cause of the effacement of progress and advancement. So it is in the great family of nations, for nations are but an aggregate of families. Therefore as strife and dissension destroy a family and prevent its progress, so nations are destroyed and advancement hindered.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 100)
Doubt Know thou of a certainty that thy Lord will come to thine aid with a company of the Concourse on high and hosts of the Abhá Kingdom.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 43)
Envy Know, verily, the heart wherein the least remnant of envy yet lingers, shall never attain My everlasting dominion, nor inhale the sweet savors of holiness breathing from My kingdom of sanctity.(Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 6)
Estrangement (means rift, separation) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . estrangement . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Reflect ye as to other than human forms of life and be ye admonished thereby: those clouds that drift apart cannot produce the bounty of the rain, and are soon lost; a flock of sheep, once scattered, falleth prey to the wolf, and birds that fly alone will be caught fast in the claws of the hawk. What greater demonstration could there be that unity leadeth to flourishing life, while dissension and withdrawing from the others, will lead only to misery; for these are the sure ways to bitter disappointment and ruin.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 278)
Fanaticism (means extremeism) The source of all these catastrophes is racial fanaticism, patriotic fanaticism, religious fanaticism and political fanaticism. The source of these fanaticisms is ancient imitations, religious imitations, racial imitations, patriotic imitations, and political imitations. As long as following such imitations persists, the very foundation of humanity is wrecked and the world of man is in great jeopardy.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Letter to Martha Root)
Fear Let the fear of no one dismay thee. Trust in the Lord, thy God, for He is sufficient unto whosoever trusteth in Him. He, verily, shall protect thee, and in Him shalt thou abide in safety.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 60)
Gluttony In all circumstances they should conduct themselves with moderation; if the meal be only one course this is more pleasing in the sight of God; however, according to their means, they should seek to have this single dish be of good quality.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Lights of Guidance, p. 294)
Gossip I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine Wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding.   (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)
Greed Why, then, exhibit such greed in amassing the treasures of the earth, when your days are numbered and your chance is well-nigh lost? Will ye not, then, O heedless ones, shake off your slumber?  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 127)
Guilt Commit not, O people, that which will bring shame upon you or dishonor the Cause of God in the eyes of men, and be not of the mischief-makers. Approach not the things which your minds condemn. Eschew all manner of wickedness, for such things are forbidden unto you in the Book which none touch except such as God hath cleansed from every taint of guilt, and numbered among the purified.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 277-278)
Hatred I charge you all that each one of you concentrate all the thoughts of your heart on love and unity. When a thought of war comes, oppose it by a stronger thought of peace. A thought of hatred must be destroyed by a more powerful thought of love. Thoughts of war bring destruction to all harmony, well-being, restfulness and content.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 29)
Haughtiness (means conceit, pride, self-importance) Put away the garment of vainglory, and divest yourselves of the attire of haughtiness.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 47)
Holding grudges . . . that 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 Bahá’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)
Hypocrisy It is also essential to abstain from hypocrisy and blind imitation, inasmuch as their foul odour is soon detected by every man of understanding and wisdom.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 1)
Ignorance Man must free himself from the weeds of ignorance, thorns of superstitions and thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible, contention and divergence of religious belief will always remain and mankind, like ferocious wolves will rage and attack each other in hatred and antagonism. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
Imitation Man must free himself from the . . . thistles of imitations, that he may discover reality in the harvests of true knowledge. Otherwise the discovery of reality is impossible.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
Injustice If a man does a great injustice to another in his life, then, after his death, his son will be despised for having had such a father and in some cases the injury might be so serious that the effect would reach to the grandson, etc., or a man may, by wrong living, fall into consumption and give that disease to his children unto the third or fourth generation.  “Both physically and mentally the sins of the fathers may be visited upon the children.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Daily Lessons Received at ‘Akká 1979 ed., pp. 45-46)
Isolation Seclude yourselves in the stronghold of My love. This, verily, is a befitting seclusion, were ye of them that perceive it. He that shutteth himself up in a house is indeed as one dead. It behoveth man to show forth that which will profit all created things, and he that bringeth forth no fruit is fit for fire.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 49)
Jealousy Jealousy consumeth the body . . . avoid [it] as you would a lion.  (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460)
Judgmentalism Therefore, no one should glorify himself over another; no one should manifest pride or superiority toward another; no one should look upon another with scorn and contempt; and no one should deprive or oppress a fellow creature.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 62)
Laxity (means carelessness, sloppiness) Should anyone, God forbid , . . . show laxity . . . in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)All of them, be they men or women, must, at this threatening hour when the lights of religion are fading out, and its restraints are one by one being abolished, pause to examine themselves, scrutinize their conduct, and with characteristic resolution arise to purge the life of their community of every trace of moral laxity that might stain the name, or impair the integrity, of so holy and precious a Faith.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 29)
Loneliness There is no harm in thy loneliness in those regions; for verily, the hosts of confirmation are thy help, thy Glorious Lord is thy protector and the angels of the Kingdom are thy fellow-speakers. Glad-tidings be unto thee for this! Blessed art thou for this!  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 61)
Love of luxury and comfort All physical perfections come to an end; but the divine virtues are infinite. How many kings have flourished in luxury and in a brief moment all has disappeared! Their glory and their honor are forgotten. Where are all these sovereigns now? But those who have been servants of the divine beauty are never forgotten. The result of their works is everywhere visible. What king is there of two thousand years ago whose kingdom has lived in the hearts? But those disciples who were devoted to God – poor people who had neither fortune nor position – are to-day trees bearing fruit. Their banner is raised higher every day.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 137)
Lust Bahá’u’lláh, in the Kitáb-i-Aqdas, has exhorted us not to indulge our passions and in one of His well-known Tablets ‘Abdu’l-Bahá encourage us to keep our “secret thoughts pure”.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 364)
Malice For malice is a grievous malady which depriveth man from recognizing the Great Being, and debarreth him from the splendors of the sun of certitude. We pray and hope that through the grace and mercy of God He may remove this mighty obstacle. He, verily, is the Potent, the All-Subduing, the Almighty.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 96)
Materialism You see all round you proofs of the inadequacy of material things — how joy, comfort, peace and consolation are not to be found in the transitory things of the world. Is it not then foolishness to refuse to seek these treasures where they may be found? The doors of the spiritual Kingdom are open to all, and without is absolute darkness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)
Negativity You certainly have no right to feel negative; you have embraced this glorious Faith and arisen with devotion to serve it, and your labours are greatly appreciated by both the Guardian and your fellow-Bahá’ís. With something as positive as the Faith and all it teaches behind you, you should be a veritable lion of confidence, and he will pray that you may become so.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)
Negligence (careless, inattention) Should anyone, God forbid, manifest one iota of . . . negligence in carrying out his duties . . . such a person will surely be deprived of the blessings of the Almighty.  Beware, beware, lest ye fall short of what hath been set forth in this letter.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Nearness to God, p. ‘Izzat 15)But alas! man is not grateful for this supreme good, but sleeps the sleep of negligence, being careless of the great mercy which God has shown towards him, turning his face away from the light and going on his way in darkness.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 20)
Obstinacy (means stubbornness, pig-headedness, inflexibility) By my life, you are created for love and affection and not for hatred and obstinacy.  (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 190)
Passion (means obsession, rage) We must reach a spiritual plane where God comes first and great human passions are unable to turn us away from Him. All the time we see people who either through the force of hate or the passionate attachment they have to another person, sacrifice principle or bar themselves from the path of God.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 512)
Perfectionism We humans are never going to become perfect, for perfection belongs to a realm we are not destined to enter. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 453)
Prejudice If we allow prejudice of any kind to manifest itself in us, we shall be guilty before God of causing a setback to the progress and real growth of the Faith of Bahá’u’lláh. It is incumbent upon every believer to endeavour with a fierce determination to eliminate this defect from his thoughts and acts.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 529)
Pride As to him who turneth aside, and swelleth with pride, after that the clear tokens have come unto him, from the Revealer of signs, his work shall God bring to naught.   (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 60)
Self desire Verily, those who withhold themselves from the shelter of the Branch are indeed lost in the wilderness of perplexity; and are consumed by the heat of self-desire, and are of those who perish.  (Baha’u’llah, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 205)
Self hatred and self pity O ye roses in the garden of God’s love! O ye bright lamps in the assemblage of His knowledge! May the soft breathings of God pass over you, may the Glory of God illumine the horizon of your hearts. Ye are the waves of the deep sea of knowledge, ye are the massed armies on the plains of certitude, ye are the stars in the skies of God’s compassion, ye are the stones that put the people of perdition to flight, ye are clouds of divine pity over the gardens of life, ye are the abundant grace of God’s oneness that is shed upon the essences of all created things.  On the outspread tablet of this world, ye are the verses of His singleness; and atop lofty palace towers, ye are the banners of the Lord. In His bowers are ye the blossoms and sweet-smelling herbs, in the rose garden of the spirit the nightingales that utter plaintive cries. Ye are the birds that soar upward into the firmament of knowledge, the royal falcons on the wrist of God.  Why then are ye quenched, why silent, why leaden and dull?   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 265)
Selfishness But if he show the slightest taint of selfish desires and self love, his efforts will lead to nothing and he will be destroyed and left hopeless at the last.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 71)
Strife (means conflict, friction, rivalry) Nothing whatsoever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than . . . strife . . . among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifier, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)Gird up the loins of your endeavor, O people of Bahá, that haply the tumult of religious dissension and strife that agitateth the peoples of the earth may be stilled, that every trace of it may be completely obliterated.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 13)
Suspicion Take heed that your words be purged from idle fancies and worldly desires and your deeds be cleansed from craftiness and suspicion.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138)
Tyranny O ignorant one that hath been shut out as by a veil from God. Thou hast clung to tyranny, and cast away justice; whereupon all created things have lamented, and still thou art among the wayward . . . By God! The things thou possessest shall profit thee not, nor what thou hast laid up through thy cruelty. Unto this beareth witness thy Lord, the All-Knowing.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 102)

Resisting Temptation

After I posted my 6 part series on Temptation, I listened to a talk given by my favorite Pastor, Jeremy McClung of Muskoka Community Church.   This material was inspired by his talk.

When we invite God into our lives, he starts to work on us.  We become His Divine Restoration project, as He helps us to start resisting sins, especially those we fall into again and again (perhaps anger, lust, materialism, pride, low self esteem, anxiety, worry, doubt).  We can build on this relationship with Him by asking Him over and over again to release us from these things, andit takes mental discipline to resist temptation.

There are several steps we can take to resist temptation:

1.  Admit we can’t resist it but God can.  We need to admit our powerlessness over temptation, so He can provide an escape route.  Each morning, we can look at the day ahead of us, anticipating the potential temptations that could befall us, and ask God to protect us from both the ones we can foresee and the ones that might blindside us.

2.  Include God in the moment of temptation.  We often forget to ask God for help in the moment or worse, we avoid God because we know we’re going to do something wrong.  By avoiding Him, we cut off our escape route, and even worse, our shame and guilt separates us from God.

3. Resist your lower nature.  Life often conspires against you to lead you off the path.  When we begin to align with the will of God, He’ll send tests to strengthen us.  We often focus our anger at the wrong person.  For example in marriage we often think the other partner is the enemy, but when we stop blaming each other and recognize that our lower natures may be battling with each other, it’s easier to find your way back to unity.  God’s given us a free will, and allows us to make choices.

4.  Identify the lie: Our lower nature lies to us, often in a very convincing way, so the key to battling temptation is to identify the lie.  We’re not in a battle between good and evil but between truth and a lie.  The lie is when we think there are no consequences for going against the things God wants us to do.  Perhaps you’ll recognize some of these:

  • More is better!
  • You can pay it off at the end of the month
  • You can start your diet tomorrow.
  • Next time I’ll do that service project.
  • If nobody sees it’s OK.
  • Everybody else is doing it so it must be OK.
  • I just need to vent.
  • I need this (addiction to TV, alcohol, busywork, shopping)

5.  Understand the lie:  Our lower nature attacks us at our most vulnerable points, often quoting the Writings at us, so it’s important to have many quotes memorized so we can know which one applies to us.  For example, one year I was really sick during the fast, but fasted anyway.  I could recite this quote to prove that I was doing a noble thing and that it was right to be fasting:

In truth, I say that obligatory prayer and fasting occupy an exalted station in the sight of God.

My lower nature prevented me from seeing the rest of the very same quote, and I was forever grateful to the loving soul who brought it to my attention:

It is, however, in a state of health that their virtue can be realized. In time of ill-health it is not permissible to observe these obligations; such hath been the bidding of the Lord, exalted be His glory, at all times. Blessed be such men and women as pay heed, and observe His precepts. All praise be unto God, He who hath sent down the verses and is the Revealer of undoubted proofs!  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 134)

6.  Battle with the lie: We can convince ourselves of the truth as much as we want in our minds, but when we’re in the middle of temptation, everything is out of whack and we no longer think correctly.  It’s easy to change our minds, especially if other people are telling us it’s OK.  Their values aren’t often right!  We need to know a truth we can count on, and that comes from the Writings.  Imagine how different things would be if in the moment of temptation, we had something we could cling to as the one last solid thread; something we know is true.    God gave us His Writings so we’d have the tools we need, but we need to memorize them so we can call on them when we need them the most.

From the texts of the wondrous, heavenly Scriptures they should memorize phrases and passages bearing on various instances, so that in the course of their speech they may recite divine verses whenever the occasion demandeth it, inasmuch as these holy verses are the most potent elixir, the greatest and mightiest talisman.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 200)

We should memorize the Hidden Words, follow the exhortations of the Incomparable Lord, and conduct ourselves in a manner which befitteth our servitude at the threshold of the one true God.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 196)

The next time you fall into temptation, don’t come at it with willpower and resolve, but recognize the lie, come at it with truth and with the quotes you’ve memorized.

What is temptation?

Today we’re starting a 6 part series on Temptation.  Hope you enjoy it!

First of all, we need to realize that we are all tempted and we are all sinners, so this article is for everybody:  those whose sins are invisible to others and those whose sins are punishable from society.  They’re all the same in God’s eyes:

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, pp. 159-160)

According to the dictionary, temptation is “something that tempts, entices, or allures”.  In the Bahá’í Faith, we understand that temptation is initiated through the pathway of thought, arising out of our lower nature, and it often leads us into actions (sin) that creates misunderstanding.  We know we are being tempted, when the thoughts we’re having don’t reflect God’s nature.

For example, let’s say you have a friend who’s just been given a beautiful bracelet, which you think is beautiful and looks really well on her wrist.  But instead of rejoicing in her success (higher nature), envy, jealously and lust take root in your thoughts, and now you don’t like her because she’s got it and you don’t.  Perhaps in your anger and bitterness, you start spreading gossip about her in the community, putting distance between you and your friend.

Or perhaps someone teases you.  Feeling hurt, you take offence, which causes you to withdraw from Bahá’í activities, thinking you are preserving unity in the community.  You ruminate on the comment over and over again, eventually noticing that your friend gets to go to all the Bahá’í functions while you’re missing out.  This leads to resentment, jealousy, bitterness and hatred.  It all started because we believed a lie emanating from our lower nature, which agreed with the hurtful comment.  It’s that subtle, and that common.

We’re often tempted by our thoughts.  When we get a thought, it creates an impression inside of us, then a feeling and then we take action, thinking it’s what we need to do, without asking ourselves the origin of the thought.

The strength in temptation is real – the feelings, thoughts, desires are all very strong passions, and distressing to those of us who know God.  We wonder what that means about our faith.  Haji Mirza Haydar-‘Ali tells an interesting story of his own spiritual awakening and struggles.  He talks about going from excitement about learning about the Faith, to doubt, to torment, to steadfastness and back into torment.  In this case, the temptation was to doubt what he knew to be true.  Perhaps you can identify with it:

In the early days of the Faith in Isfahan, when I began to study the Tablets and Writings of the Báb, and listen to the explanations of the friends, I found the proofs of His Revelation convincing and conclusive and the testimonies supremely sound and perfect. So I was assured in myself that this Cause was the Cause of God and the Manifestation of His Grandeur, the dawning of the Day-Star of Truth promised to be revealed by the Almighty. But when I was alone with no one to talk to, I was often overtaken with doubts. The idle fancies of my past life, and the whisperings of the evil one were tempting me… God knows how much I wept and how many nights I stayed awake till morning. There were days when I forgot to eat because I was so immersed in my thoughts. I tried by every means to relieve myself of these doubts. Several times I became steadfast in the Cause and believed, but later I would waver and become perplexed and dismayed.  (Adib Taherzadeh, Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh, v2, p. 197)

God gives us a standard to reach for:

And were they to pass through a valley of pure gold and mines of precious silver, they should regard them as wholly unworthy of their attention.  (Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 59-60)

But it’s hard to get there, because avoiding temptation is often hard to bear:

It is easy to approach the Kingdom of Heaven, but hard to stand firm and staunch within it, for the tests are rigorous, and heavy to bear.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 274)

Especially when the standards of the world are at variance with the laws of God:

As you point out, it is particularly difficult to follow the laws of Bahá’u’lláh in present-day society whose accepted practice is so at variance with the standards of the Faith.   (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)

Fortunately the House of Justice understands how difficult it can be and gives us a new way of thinking about our struggle:

The Universal House of Justice understands the concern you feel upon discovering that the Faith includes teachings . . . which differ so markedly from your own views. This discovery may best be regarded not as a challenge to your faith in Bahá’u’lláh but rather as an opportunity for you to acquire a deeper understanding of the Bahá’í teachings and their implications.  (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)

Bahá’u’lláh tells us that we were created to bear and endure:

Thou wert created to bear and endure, O Patience of the worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablet of Ahmad, Baha’i Prayers, p. 218)

Though it often feels like we’re at the breaking point, God has promised never to give us more than we can handle:

But we are aware of the assurance which Bahá’u’lláh Himself has given the believers that they will never be called upon to meet a test greater than their capacity to endure.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

And we can take some comfort when we realize that only those whose faith has been tested can bear it:

Our Cause is sorely trying, highly perplexing; none can bear it except a favorite of heaven, or an inspired Prophet, or he whose faith God hath tested.  (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 82)

There’s no room for compromise:

It can tolerate no compromise with the theories, the standards, the habits, and the excesses of a decadent age.  (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)

To none is given the right to question their words or disparage their conduct, for they [the Prophets of God] are the only ones who can claim to have understood the patient and to have correctly diagnosed its ailments . . .  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 80-81)

Sometimes avoiding temptation can impose hardships.  For example, I was once in a relationship with a person I wasn’t married to, and we owned a house together.  As I was trying to extricate myself from the relationship, I needed to sell my interest in the house at a time when the market had dropped.  I lost $40,000 . . .

Obedience to the Laws of Bahá’u’lláh will necessarily impose hardships in individual cases. No one should expect, upon becoming a Bahá’í, that faith will not be tested, and to our finite understanding of such matters these tests may occasionally seem unbearable. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 341)

. . . AND I’ve never had to face that particular test again!

Sometimes we even get angry with God for putting temptation into our heads.  We don’t want these idle thoughts, but we don’t know how to rid ourselves of them.  Thinking we can do it by ourselves, only leads to arrogance and pride.  Only God can help us.  He understands how we turn away from Him, and He reminds us that He is the only one who can protect us:

This is the Day of mutual deceit; whither do ye flee? The mountains have passed away, and the heavens have been folded together, and the whole earth is held within His grasp, could ye but understand it. Who is it that can protect you? None, by Him Who is the All-Merciful! None, except God, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Benefi­cent.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 45-46).

Since we’re already mad at God, and questioning our faith and even the validity of His laws, it’s easy to see how we think we might as well act on it.  Separation from God makes it easier to do things we don’t want to do.  But we know that “turning from God inevitably brings disaster, and turning to God as inevitably brings blessings.”  (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 95)

Sometimes it’s easy to trick yourself into believing that you aren’t tempted to do any of the “big” sins, so temptation doesn’t apply to you.  You don’t want to fall into this trap and flee into denial because it only leads to perversity:

Whatever in days gone by hath been the cause of the denial . . . hath now led to the perversity of the people of this age.   (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, pp. 17-18).

For example during World War 2, the Nazis measured the nose and eyes to show that the Jews were a different people.  In Rwanda when they were killing Tutsis they did the same thing. In this case, their denial of the oneness of humanity, led to the genocide that followed.

Instead we want to look temptation in the face, acknowledge its existence and turn towards God:

Shall we not flee from the face of denial, and seek the sheltering shadow of certitude?  Shall we not free ourselves from the horror of satanic gloom, and hasten towards the rising light of the heavenly Beauty?   (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 38)

Because there are rewards for doing so:

Please God, that we avoid the land of denial, and advance into the ocean of acceptance, so that we may perceive, with an eye purged from all conflicting elements, the worlds of unity and diversity, of variation and oneness, of limitation and detachment, and wing our flight unto the highest and innermost sanctuary of the inner meaning of the Word of God.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Kitáb-i-Íqán, p. 160)

I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.

 

In part 2, we look atThe Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin

In part 3, we look at The Ways in Which we are Tempted

In part 4, we look at Why We are Tempted

In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted

In part 6, we look at:  The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It

The Six Ways in Which We are Tempted

This is part 3 of a 6 part series on Temptation.  If you’ve missed the first two, scroll down to the bottom of the article for the links.

Here are 6 ways in which we are tempted.  There may be others, and if you can think of them, please add your comments!

1  Separation from God:  God is there inside of you, closer than your life vein, and he will help you through your temptation.  But we don’t always feel His presence.  In the midst of our temptation, we may feel as though God has deserted us, especially if we’ve prayed for him to remove the temptation and it doesn’t go away, but this is simply not true.  He tells us:

At all times I am near unto thee, but thou art ever far from Me.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)

God hath revealed, that “We are closer to man than his life-vein” (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)

Meditate on what the poet hath written: “Wonder not, if my Best-Beloved be closer to me than mine own self; wonder at this, that I, despite such nearness, should still be so far from Him.”  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 185)

He understands how far we are from Him in this moment, and He wants us to come back to Him:

The sword of thy rebellion hath felled the tree of thy hope . . . While there is yet time, return, and lose not thy chance.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 21)

When we seek God and follow His ways, He always provides us with an escape from temptation.  For example, people tell me that I need to set boundaries around my time but when I try to live a life of service and overbook my schedule, something always gets cancelled, or God stretches time.  One time I had to grab something to eat before attending a meeting in another town.  I had 45 minutes to accomplish what would normally take an hour, but I yielded to God, did what I needed to do, kept praying, and I arrived at the meeting on time.  This has happened so frequently, that whenever I’m running late, I always ask God to stretch time for me, and He always does!  And even better, it’s spiritually sound:

An individual must center his whole heart and mind on ser­vice to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh.  When this is done, the Hosts of the Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.  (Shoghi Effendi, Living the Life, p. 20)

2.  Thinking it’s God’s way of teaching us something:  Sometimes we justify it by thinking that either the temptation or the sin is God’s way of teaching us something but this is not true.  Nowhere in the Writings does it suggest this.  God can’t be tempted by evil and neither does He tempt us.  We’re tempted when we’re drawn away by our own lust.

3.  Blaming others:  Sometimes we blame other people for our temptations, when in fact, we alone are responsible.    Shoghi Effendi tells us that no one can affect our minds:

You should not be afraid anyone can affect your mind. Even when we want to catch the thoughts of those we love most we cannot do so, how much less other people succeed in penetrating our minds.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 518)

For example, for a long time I blamed my parents for setting me up for the anxiety and depression arising from years of childhood abuse.  Now that my inner eyes have been opened, and I can see that as an adult, whose parents are dead and no longer able to hurt me, I’m responsible for continuing to believe in fear that isn’t real.  I alone can change my thoughts and cast away fear.

The fears and agitation which the revelation of this [God’s] law provokes in men’s hearts should indeed be likened to the cries of the suckling babe weaned from his mother’s milk, if ye be of them that perceive. Were men to discover the motivating purpose of God’s Revelation, they would assuredly cast away their fears, and, with hearts filled with gratitude, rejoice with exceeding gladness.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 175)

4.  It attacks our weakest spots:  Don’t underestimate the power of temptation.  It attacks us in our point of weakness and can cause us to change our minds when we least expect it.  For example, we can be the best Bahá’í we know how to be all of our Bahá’í lives and then at the moment of death, when we’re tempted by fear of the unknown, or full of self-pity and feeling rejected and abandoned by everyone, including God, we can turn away:

By the righteousness of Him Who hath called thee into being and unto Whom ere long thou shalt return, if thou remainest, at the moment of death, a disbeliever in the signs of thy Lord thou shalt surely enter the gates of hell, and none of the deeds thy hands have wrought will profit thee, nor shalt thou find a patron nor anyone to plead for thee. (The Báb, Selections from the Writings of the Bab, p. 19)

. . . which is why steadfastness is so important.  With steadfastness, our faith will be unshaken:

Such must be thy steadfastness in the Cause of God, that no earthly thing whatsoever will have the power to deter thee from thy duty.  Though the powers of earth be leagued against thee, though all men dispute with thee, thou must remain unshaken.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 339)

And we’ll be blessed, assisted and rendered victorious:

Today is the day for steadfastness and constancy. Blessed are they that stand firm and immovable as the rock and brave the storm and stress of this tempestuous hour.  They, verily, shall be the recipients of God’s grace; they, verily, shall receive His divine assistance, and shall be truly victorious.  They shall shine amidst mankind with a radiance which the dwellers of the Pavilion of Glory laud and magnify.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 17-18)

And will make us rich, filled with joy and assured of the perfections of heaven:

Steadfastness is a treasure that makes a man so rich as to have no need of the world or any person or any thing that is therein.  Constancy is a special joy, that leads us mortals on to lofty heights, great progress, and the winning of the perfections of Heaven.  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahíyyih Khánum, p. 148)

5.  Through our egos: Temptation has defeated many people who were supposedly highly spiritually developed.  Mason Remy and those closest to Bahá’u’lláh who became covenant breakers came to mind.

6.  Through mutual deceit: Sometimes the temptation in one person hooks up with the temptation in another, so both people fall into sin together.  Our lower natures are masterful at organizing these dynamics.  For example, one spouse yells at another, and the other spouse yells back.  When two people argue, both are wrong:

The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.  (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)

I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.

In part 1, we look at What is Temptation?

In part 2, we look at The Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin

In part 4, we look at Why We are Tempted

In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted

In part 6, we look at:  The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It

The Consequences of Temptation and How to Prevent It

This is part 6 of a 6 part series.  If you’ve missed the rest of the articles, scroll down to the bottom of the page for the links.

Unrepented sin always has a spiritual consequence.

It could be through torment:

. . . indifference to God is itself a torment . . . Certainly for an intelligent man death is better than sin . . . But for the people of God separation from God is the greatest torment of all.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 265)

Or trials:

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).

Or disease:

But man hath perversely continued to serve his lustful appetites . . . With this, and with the perpetrating of vile and ignoble acts, his attention was engrossed, and he abandoned the temperance and moderation of a natural way of life. The result was the engendering of diseases both violent and diverse.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp. 152-153).

Or administrative sanctions:

The general basis for the deprivation of voting rights is of course gross immorality and open opposition to the administrative functions of the Faith, and disregard for the laws of personal status . . . if a person is deprived of his voting rights, he may not contribute to the Local or National Funds; he may not attend Nineteen Day Feasts.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, pp. 50-51)

Once sin has entered your life, it becomes part of who you are.  Perhaps it doesn’t show on the outside, but God sees it very clearly and He doesn’t like what He sees:

O Ye Seeming Fair Yet Inwardly Foul! Ye are like clear but bitter water, which to outward seeming is crystal pure but of which, when tested by the divine Assayer, not a drop is accepted. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 25)

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

Unless you recognize it, ask God for forgiveness and cast it out of your life, it will continually tempt you, defeat you and cause you to sin in that area of your life time after time.

But God is merciful and has shown us a way out:

If you are sincerely intent on overcoming your problem, you must yourself determine to resist wayward impulses each time they arise and the House of Justice feels that there is no better way than to turn to the Writings to divert our thoughts into spiritual channels, perhaps to concentrate on what we may do to help others along the way to discovering the Bahá’í Faith. The more we occupy ourselves with teaching the Cause and serving our fellowman in this way, the stronger we become in resisting that which is abhorrent to our spiritual selves. (Letters of The Universal House of Justice, 1993 Jun 05, Homosexuality)

It’s when you face your problems you’ll overcome them.  That’s your victory.  That’s your peace.  In the following quote, Shoghi Effendi shows us what your attitude should be:

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 in­justice. 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.  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, Unfolding Destiny, pp. 449-450).

How can we prevent temptation?

Here are a couple of ways.  Can you think of others?

Strong Marriages: God has made marriage as a fortress for well being and salvation (Baha’u’llah, The Kitáb-i-Aqdas, p. 205)  According to the dictionary, salvation means the act of saving or protecting from harm, risk, loss, destruction, etc., but it also is used in theology to mean deliverance from the power and penalty of sin; redemption.  So strong marriages help deliver us from temptation.

The Lord, peerless is He, hath made woman and man to abide with each other in the closest companionship, and to be even as a single soul. They are two helpmates, two intimate friends, who should be concerned about the welfare of each other. “If they live thus, they will pass through this world with perfect contentment, bliss, and peace of heart, and become the object of Divine grace and favour in the Kingdom of heaven. But if they do other than this, they will live out their lives in great bitterness, longing at every moment for death, and will be shamefaced in the heavenly realm. “Strive, then, to abide, heart and soul, with each other as two doves in the nest, for this is to be blessed in both worlds.”  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 226)

2.  Drawing closer together:

The condition of the world is such today that it is like a great negative undertow trying to pull down all but the strongest and most firmly rooted. The friends should realize this and draw closer to each other, knowing that they form one spiritual family, closer to each other, in the sight of God, than those united by ties of blood.  (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 8 May, 1948, Source Unknown).

I hope you’ll let me know what you think of these ideas, and then continue on to the next few articles, as I explore this topic more fully.

In part 1, we look at What is Temptation?

In part 2, we look at The Steps of Temptation Leading to Sin

In part 3, we look at The Ways in Which we are Tempted

In part 4, we look at Why We are Tempted

In part 5, we look at Things We Can Do When We are Tempted