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Overcome Fear by Focusing on the Virtues

 

One of the purposes of our lives is to acquire the virtues we will need in the next world:

The purpose of the creation of man is the attainment of the supreme virtues of humanity through descent of the heavenly bestowals.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 4)

Bahá’ís believe that human beings are inherently noble, and that the purpose of life is to cultivate such attributes, skills, virtues and qualities as will enable them to contribute their share to the building of an ever-advancing civilization. True education releases capacities, develops analytical abilities, confidence, will, and goal-setting competencies, and instills the vision that will enable them to become self-motivating change agents, serving the best interests of the community.  (Baha’i International Community, 1990 Mar 08, Teacher’s Situation Determining Factor of Quality)

Although it might not make sense now, someday you will need these virtues and thank God you had a chance to develop them so you aren’t handicapped in the next world!

As the child in the womb does not yet know the use of its members, it does not know what its eyes are for, neither its nose, nor ears, nor tongue — so also it is with the soul on earth. It cannot understand here the uses and powers of its spiritual gifts, but directly it enters the eternal kingdom, it will become clearly apparent.  (‘Abdul-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers 9, p. 48)

So it would make sense that we’d want to replace fear with something else that will benefit us more.  These virtues can be found for every social problem, including overcoming anxiety.

There are spiritual principles, or what some call human values, by which solutions can be found for every social problem. Any well-intentioned group can, in a general sense, devise practical solutions to its problems, but good intentions and practical knowledge are usually not enough. The essential merit of spiritual principle is that it not only presents a perspective which harmonizes with the inherent nobility in human nature, it also induces an attitude, a dynamic, a will, an aspiration, which facilitate the discovery and implementation of practical measures.  (Baha’i International Community, 1992 Mar 05, Earth Charter Rio De Janeiro Declaration Oneness of)

Focus on the virtues you’re developing (or the ones that will help you through).  Tenacity, courage, faith and noble exertions are some that help alleviate anxiety and stress:

I wish to reaffirm my deep sense of gratitude and admiration for the splendid manner in which the English believers are discharging their duties and responsibilities in these days of increasing peril, anxiety and stress. Their tenacity, courage, faith and noble exertions will as a magnet attract the undoubted and promised blessing of Bahá’u’lláh.     (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 137)

Often when I’m feeling afraid, I will ask God to take the fear off my shoulders, and transmute it into peacefulness or courage or assertiveness or faith and trust – depending on the situation.  That way I’m letting go of the stress, and using it for my growth and development.

Consultation:

One of the practices in Ruhi Book One is to study a prayer with someone.  Consulting on the meanings together will develop our capacity to meditate and ponder more deeply on the meanings in the prayers.

Consultation allows an open examination of fears and misconceptions, the gathering and presentation of facts, the identification of relevant spiritual principles, and a collective exploration of ways to implement those principles so that unity is preserved and enhanced.  (Baha’i International Community, 1991 Nov 16, Report Rural Poverty Alleviation Efforts)

 Courage:

I find it interesting that courage doesn’t merit a chapter on its own, since conventional wisdom would suggest that courage is what is needed to overcome fear.  Given that there are so many other clues in the Writings about what to do, courage only gets a passing nod here!

Whatever decreaseth fear increaseth courage.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 32)

The most surprising quote on courage for me is this one:

The source of courage and power is the promotion of the Word of God, and steadfastness in His Love.  (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 155)

This suggests to me that if we want to find courage, we need to learn to teach the Faith and find courage there.

Detachment

Let go of worry and let God take care of it.

Tear asunder, O my God, the veil of vain imaginings that hath obscured the vision of Thy people, that all may haste towards Thee, may tread the path of Thy pleasure, and walk in the ways of Thy Faith. We are, O my God, Thy servants and Thy bondsmen. Thou art sufficient unto us so that we can dispense with the world and all that is therein. We are wholly satisfied with all that hath befallen us in Thy path.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 101)

Try to imagine holding up a glass with some water in it.  At first it seems simple enough, but the longer you hold it, the heavier it feels.  If you hold it all day, you’re likely to have your arm go numb and be unable to feel it anymore.  Life’s anxieties are exactly like that.  At first they nibble away at you but it seems manageable.  The more you think about them, they begin to interfere with your life, and the more entrenched they become, the harder it will be to stop the hamster wheel and let go of the worry.    That’s why it’s so important to give the stressors to God every day before going to sleep, so you can sleep well and wake up every day refreshed and ready to take on any challenge that comes your way.

How do you do that?  Some people have a real or symbolic “worry tree” where they hang their problems before entering their house each day.

When I have a problem that has to be solved, I say the prayer for solving problems.  This prayer was revealed by Bahá’u’lláh in Arabic for Jinab-i-Samandar (Shaykh Kazim Samandar), the father of the Hand of the Cause of God Tarazu’llah Samandari, to assist him in making a difficult decision.

In regard to his affairs, let him repeat nineteen times:

O my God! Thou seest me detached from everything save Thee, clinging to Thee, to guide me in my doings in that which benefits me for the Glory of Thy Cause and the Loftiness of the state of Thy servants.

Let him then reflect upon the matter and undertake whatever cometh to mind. This vehement opposition … will indeed give way to supreme prosperity.

I also like to use the 5 Steps of Prayer for Solving Problems:

The below five steps were suggested by the beloved Guardian Shoghi Effendi
to a believer as a means of finding a solution through the use of prayer.
This statement belongs to the category of statements known as “pilgrims
notes”, and as such has no authority, but since it seems to be particularly
helpful and clear it was felt that believers should not be deprived of it.

1st Step: Pray and meditate about it. Use the prayers of the Manifestations
as they have the greatest power. Then remain in the silence of contemplation
for a few minutes.

2nd Step: Arrive at a decision and hold this. This decision is usually born
during the contemplation. It may seem almost impossible of accomplishment
but if it seems to be as answer to a prayer or a way of solving the problem,
then immediately take the next step.

3rd Step: Have determination to carry the decision through. Many fail here.
The decision, budding into determination, is blighted and instead becomes a wish or a vague longing. When determination is born, immediately take the next step.

4th Step: Have faith and confidence that the power will flow through you,
the right way will appear, the door will open, the right thought, the right
message, the right principle, or the right book will be given to you. Have
confidence and the right thing will come to your need. Then, as you rise
from prayer, take at once the 5th step.

5th Step: Act as though it had all been answered. Then act with tireless,
ceaseless energy. And as you act, you, yourself, will become a magnet, which
will attract more power to your being, until you become an unobstructed
channel for the Divine power to flow through you.

Many pray but do not remain for the last half of the first step. Some who
meditate arrive at a decision, but fail to hold it. Few have the determination to carry the decision through, still fewer have the confidence that the right thing will come to their need.  But how many remember to act as though it had all been answered? How true are these words “Greater than the prayer is the spirit in which it is uttered” and greater than the way it is uttered is the spirit in which it is carried out.  (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 91)

Also, if I have a problem that still troubles me, I:

  • Ask God to transmute it into peacefulness and acceptance
  • Pray for detachment and God’s will
  • Forgive the person

Gratitude

If you aren’t grateful for the things God has blessed you with in the past, why would He want to send you any more?  We need to thank God for everything, including our tests and troubles:

As to the calamities and afflictions of Abdul-Bahá: These are not calamities, but bounties; they are not afflictions, but gifts; not hardships, but tranquillity; not trouble, but mercy — and we thank God for this great favor.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 128)

In short, thou shouldst thank God a hundred-thousand times for having been confirmed and strengthened in obtaining such a great gift [servitude]! Know thou the value thereof and consider that its price is highly appraised.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 510)

Happiness and Joy

Happiness and joy don’t come to us by choice.  They require a decision:

I WILL be a happy and joyful being. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 150)

Try saying that out loud, right now, placing emphasis on the word “will” and see if it doesn’t make you smile!

There’s no point in waiting for some other time in the future to be happy when we can change our thinking to let happiness in today:

If we are not happy and joyous at this season, for what other season shall we wait and for what other time shall we look?  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 351)

The Bahá’í Writings seem to suggest that happiness and inner tranquility ultimately hinge on our ability to see purpose and meaning in every moment, even in the midst of agonizing suffering.  Again action is needed.  We need to choose to rise above our suffering in order to find happiness.

Seek ye divine happiness through the hardships and sorrows of this physical world, and behold spiritual well-being in the struggles of this fleeting existence. Distill sugar and honey from the bitter poison of suffering. Recognize the caress of divine favor in the arrows of misfortune. Consider the lowest degree of humiliation in the path of the Blessed Perfection as the highest station of Glory. Know descent to be identical with ascent, and consider death itself the essence of life.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 439)

In the Valley of Wonderment, Bahá’u’lláh wrote of those that have rid themselves of earthly attachments:

At every moment he beholdeth a wondrous world, a new creation, and goeth from astonishment to astonishment, and is lost in awe at the works of the Lord of Oneness.  (Baha’u’llah, Seven Valleys, p. 32)

Wouldn’t you love to get to a place where every day you could say:

O Lord, increase my astonishment at Thee!  (Baha’u’llah, The Seven Valleys, p. 33)

Mindfulness and Living in the Moment:

Many of those who’ve experienced extreme trauma, are stuck in the past.  We can’t get past the terror, horror, betrayal, rejection, bitterness and many other veils that distance us from God.

But God can’t do anything to help as long as we’re living in the past.

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)

He wants us to come into the present:

Pleasant is the realm of being, wert thou to attain thereto . . . Shouldst thou attain this station, thou wouldst be freed from destruction and death, from toil and sin.  (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 70)

And focus on the future.  His teachings are all directing us to a future which encompasses the Most Great Peace (which will benefit us as well as society at large):

Do not allow your minds to dwell on the present, but with eyes of faith look into the future, for in truth the Spirit of God is working in your midst.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 169)

Each day has enough trouble on its own, so you don’t need to borrow trouble from tomorrow. When you think that God’s not able to look after you, have a look at what He did for you yesterday and remind yourself that He’s with you today and will help you tomorrow too, since they’re all the same. 

The past, the present, the future, all, in relation to God, are equal. Yesterday, today, tomorrow do not exist in the sun.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, p. 116)

Once his effort is directed in the proper channel, if he does not succeed today, he will succeed tomorrow. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 8, No. 1, p. 21)

‘Abdu’l-Bahá shows us how easy it is to live in the moment, in the spiritual world:

Let us turn our hearts away from the world of matter and live in the spiritual world! It alone can give us freedom! If we are hemmed in by difficulties we have only to call upon God, and by His great Mercy we shall be helped.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 110)

Let us live in the spiritual realm . . . who wouldn’t want that?  No bills, unconditional love, rest, relaxation . . .

Is it possible to have those things in this world?  It must be, or ‘Abdul-Bahá wouldn’t be suggesting we do it.  I think this quote is talking about living in the present moment.  For most of us, this present moment, right now, as I’m writing this and you’re reading it, we are safe.  We are free from abuse and bills, and in this moment, if we take the time to turn to the spiritual world, we can feel the love that’s there for us, and get the rest and relaxation we need.  We can all go there, right now, because right now, in this very minute, everything is totally OK.  And all we have is this minute we’re living in.

Perhaps our lives in the past were not what we wanted them to be; and we know that our life in the future will be rife with tests, but just now, in this moment, if we turn to the spiritual realm, everything is fine.

Peacefulness:

God wants us to be at peace.  It’s the reason Bahá’u’lláh suffered so much:

His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh endured ordeals and hardships sixty years . . . He willingly endured these difficulties . . . [that] peace and tranquility be realized by all. (Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, p. 230)

He teaches us that we need to know and understand the divine teachings in order to find peace and tranquility.  It goes back to immersing ourselves in the Writings!

Praise be to Him, ye are acquainted with the various laws, institutions and principles of the world; today nothing short of these divine teachings can assure peace and tranquility to mankind. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 249)

God knows what has happened to us, and has given us prayers we can say:

Thou knowest all that is in me, O Lord, but I know not what is in Thee. Have mercy then upon me through Thy loving providence and inspire me with that which shall give peace to my heart during Thy days and tranquillity to my soul through the revelations of Thy sacred presence.  (Compilations, The Importance of Obligatory Prayer and Fasting)

All laud and honor to Thee, O my God! Thou well knowest the things which, for a score of years, have happened in Thy days, and have continued to happen until this hour. No man can reckon, nor can any tongue tell, what hath befallen Thy chosen ones during all this time. They could obtain no shelter, nor find any refuge in which they could abide in safety. Turn, then, O my God, their fear into the evidences of Thy peace and Thy security, and their abasement into the sovereignty of Thy glory, and their poverty into Thine all-sufficient riches, and their distress into the wonders of Thy perfect tranquillity. Vouchsafe unto them the fragrances of Thy might and Thy mercy, and send down upon them, out of Thy marvelous loving-kindness, what will enable them to dispense with all except Thee, and will detach them from aught save Thyself, that the sovereignty of Thy oneness may be revealed and the supremacy of Thy grace and Thy bounty demonstrated.   (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 335)

Trust and detachment:

Baha’u’llah speaks directly to those of us with a fearful heart:

Say to them that are of a fearful heart: be strong, fear not, behold your God . . .  Well is it with him who hath been illumined with the light of trust and detachment.  (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 146)

 Spiritual Radiance:

Spiritual radiance lights our path so we can get rid of the dark cloud caused by our anxiety:

If material anxiety envelops you in a dark cloud, spiritual radiance lightens your path.   If your days on earth are numbered, you know that everlasting life awaits you.   (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 111)

Letting your light shine can have a very powerful effect on the world:

Let your light shine before the eyes of men. Such must be the purity of your character and the degree of your renunciation, that the people of the earth may through you recognize and be drawn closer to the heavenly Father who is the Source of purity and grace. (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 92)

It can be as simple as starting with a smile.  Look at the effect one small gesture can have:

A bright and happy face cheers people on their way. If you are sad, and pass a child who is laughing, the child, seeing your sad face, will cease to laugh, not knowing why. If the day be dark, how much a gleam of sunshine is prized; so let believers wear smiling happy faces, gleaming like sunshine in the darkness. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 124-125)

For More in this Series:

What is Fear? 

What are we Afraid Of?

Reactions to Fear 

Fight, Flight or Freeze

Doubt and Fear  

What is the Purpose of Fear?

What about the Fear of God? 

What Makes us Susceptible to Fear?

Understanding the Link Between Fear and Sin 

Overcoming Fear – Introduction 

Overcoming Fear By Turning to God

Overcoming Fear with Prayer

Overcoming Fear By Reading the Writings

Overcoming Fear Through Love

Overcoming Fear with Faith

Overcoming Fear with Patience

Overcoming Fear through Courage

Overcoming Fear through Teaching and Service

Overcoming Fear By Changing your Thoughts

Overcoming Fear through Forgiveness

Overcoming Fear through Using Role Models

Overcoming Fear through Tests and Difficulties

What Can Others Do, To Help Those Who Are Afraid?

 Prayers to Eliminate Fear

What stood out for you as you read through this?  Post your comments here:

 

How Can Abuse be “for the Sake of God”?

Whatever Hath Befallen You, hath been for the Sake of God

Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God. This is the truth, and in this there is no doubt. You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you.  (Baha’u’llah, Fire and Light, p. 10)

A friend of mine asked how this quote addressed the issues of childhood abuse, particularly when one reads other quotes and the fact that the Universal House of Justice has said that when a parent abuses his rights as a parent, he loses those rights.  How can the abuse that has befallen me, be for the sake of God?

I think there are two issues at stake here:  one is the purpose of tests and difficulties for the individual and the other is the purpose of justice for the perpetrator.

Let’s start with the purpose of tests and difficulties:

Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God:

First of all, there are many quotes which suggest that God will send severe mental tests to the peoples of the West, to purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life:

And yet, how often we seem to forget the clear and repeated warnings of Our beloved Master, Who, in particular during the concluding years of His mission on earth, laid stress on the “severe mental tests” that would inevitably sweep over His loved ones of the West — tests that would purge, purify and prepare them for their noble mission in life.”  (Shoghi Effendi, Bahá’í Administration, p. 50)

So what are the severe mental tests that come out of abuse and violence?  For me, they include all the negative chatter which can easily dominate my thinking:

  • Did it happen or didn’t it?
  • Some things are unforgiveable, and childhood sexual abuse is one of them
  • I was justified in estranging myself from my perpetrators
  • It’s ruined me for life
  • I’m obviously unloved and unloveable . . .

I can maximize the list, but it only abases me so I hope you get the idea!  God doesn’t want me to abase myself, but to recognize and reclaim my nobility:

Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself?  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #13)

Noble have I created thee, yet thou hast abased thyself. Rise then unto that for which thou wast created.  (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words #22)

God doesn’t want me to believe any of the lies on this list.  He wants me to know and worship Him:

I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, Short Obligatory Prayer, p. 3)

He wants me to reclaim my nobility so I can arise to serve His Cause.

Noble I made thee, wherewith dost thou abase thyself? 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)

I think in this quote, He’s telling us how far we stray from His path when we believe that the abuse and violence we’ve experienced as children is the central truth of our lives.  Society tells us this; and therapists reinforce it when we “seekest enlightenment from anyone but Me”.  This is why we need to spend so much time immersing ourselves in the Bahá’í Writings; so that we can discern truth from error.

We “busy ourselves with another” when we focus on our perpetrators, and give them more attention than our “Creator, Friend and Best Lover”.  We can’t draw closer to God when we’re focused on the perpetrator, any more than we can get to Chicago by looking in our rear view mirrors.

How do we “purge, purify and prepare for the next world?  Again we need to look to the Bahá’í Writings for insights.

Purging ourselves of the effects of the abuse involves many things including:

  • Knowing ourselves (and what leads to loftiness or abasement; and how we can escape from the prison of self)
  • Forgiveness (for the perpetrator; for believing the lies of your lower nature which kept you stuck in victimhood; God, for putting you in the position to be hurt by others)
  • Detachment (from the experience and its effects)
  • Learning how to take care of ourselves through better diet; taking care of your health; laughter and music to name a few
  • Teaching and service (so we can have a more outward focus)

By focusing on all these virtues and more, we’re acquiring what we need to prepare us for the next world.  For more ideas, please see my book “Violence and Abuse:  Reasons and Remedies”, which shows a wider range of virtues and how we can apply them to the recovery process.

Second:  There are many other quotes besides this one, which helps us see that God has a plan for our lives (which often is at odds with the life we’d have chosen for ourselves) and that everything that happens to us is part of His Plan:

Know thou for a certainty that the Will of God is not limited by the standards of the people, and God doth not tread in their ways . . . He doeth whatsoever He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 109)

For He doeth whatsoever He willeth and ordaineth whatsoever He pleaseth.  Nor shall He be asked of His doings.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gems of Divine Mysteries, p. 61)

He doeth as He doeth, and what recourse have we? He carrieth out His Will, He ordaineth what He pleaseth. Then better for thee to bow down thy head in submission, and put thy trust in the All-Merciful Lord.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 51)

It seems that from these quotes, we need to accept God’s decree and submit to it, whatever form it might take in our lives, trusting that God’s plan for us is unspeakably glorious.

As to those that have tasted of the fruit of man’s earthly existence, which is the recognition of the one true God … their life hereafter is such as We are unable to describe. The knowledge thereof is with God, alone, the Lord of all worlds.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 345-346)

He promises us a better life, both in this world and in the next:

Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him, in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.  (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 329)

And in case we’re still in doubt about His wisdom in inflicting abuse on children, we learn from the following quotes that it’s the “greatest mercy”;  “preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts”‘ and that there is a “mighty recompense” in the next world:

As to the subject of babes and infants and weak ones who are afflicted by the hands of oppressors: this contains great wisdom and this subject is of paramount importance. In brief, for those souls there is a recompense in another world and many details are connected with this matter. For those souls that suffering is the greatest mercy of God. Verily that mercy of the Lord is far better and preferable to all the comfort of this world and the growth and development of this place of mortality. If it be the will of God, when thou shalt be present this will be explained in detail by word of mouth.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 372).

On this plane of existence, there are many injustices that the human mind cannot fathom. Among these are heart-rending trials of the innocent … With regard to the spiritual significance of the suffering of children ‘who are afflicted at the hands of the oppressor‘, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá not only states that for those souls ‘the afflictions that they bear in life become a cause for them of … an outpouring of divine mercy and bestowal‘, He also explains that to be a recipient of God’s mercy is ‘preferable to a hundred thousand earthly comforts‘, and He promised that ‘in the world to come a mighty recompense awaiteth such souls‘. Much, indeed, might be said upon this theme, and upon how the afflictions that they bear in life become the cause for them of such an outpouring of Divine mercy and bestowal as is preferable to a hundred thousand comforts and to a world of growth and development in this transitory abode … (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 2 December, 1985).

Trusting in God’s plan and His wisdom; trusting that whatever has befallen us has a purpose, we can leave the justice in God’s hands.  As you suggested, one of the ways justice is given in this world is loss of the rights of parenthood:

He (Bahá’u’lláh) has indicated that under certain circumstances, the parents could be deprived of the right of parenthood as a consequence of their actions. The Universal House of Justice has the right to legislate on this matter . . . Such questions could arise, for example, when a parent has committed incest, or when the child was conceived as a consequence of rape, and also when a parent consciously fails to protect the child from flagrant sexual abuse.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1992, Violence and Sexual Abuse of Women and Children)

If there is no justice in this world, though, God has pledged never to forgive another man’s injustice:

O OPPRESSORS ON EARTH! Withdraw your hands from tyranny, for I have pledged Myself not to forgive any man’s injustice. This is My covenant which I have irrevocably decreed in the preserved tablet and sealed with My seal.  (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 64)

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)

The balance of this quote we started with, gives us guidance on what to do when we trust his wisdom and judgement:

You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you.

I’d like to end with this quote, which brings me great comfort:

O thou who art tested with a great calamity!  Be not grieved nor troubled because of the loss which hath befallen thee — a loss which caused the tears to flow, sighs to be produced, sorrow to exist and hearts to burn in great agony; but know, this hath reference only to the physical body, and if thou considerest this matter with a discerning and intelligent eye, thou wilt find that it hath no power whatsoever . . .  Accordingly, thou wilt then be comforted and thank God for His favor upon thee.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 85-86)

For more details on these topics, you can see similar perspectives in previous blog postings:

The Purpose of Tests

You can read two of my favourite stories at:

Why Does Life Have to Hurt so Much

And more of what I’ve written on the purpose of tests at:

My Story

Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

Why do Bad Things Happen to Good People

Suffering through Tests

Justice and Punishment

Justice and Punishment

Justice and Punishment for the Perpetrators of Abuse and Violence

What else comes to mind when you read these quotes?  Post your comments here:

 

 

 

Trusting Memories of Abuse

 

Recently someone asked me:  why do I have such a hard time trusting my abuse memories?  It reminded me of an earlier time in my healing, where I agonized over this very question.  I didn’t want to believe my story, and discounted it as often as I could, wavering back and forth between believing and not wanting to believe.  I never really didn’t believe;  I just wanted to not believe it, and was looking for anything to prove I’d made it up. So I had a very hard time believing my memories.

At first I would read quotes like this, which would throw me into despair:

Know then: that which is in the hands of people, that which they believe, is liable to error. For, in proving or disproving a thing, if a proof is brought forward which is taken from the evidence of our senses, this method, as has become evident, is not perfect; if the proofs are intellectual, the same is true; or if they are traditional, such proofs are also not perfect. Therefore, there is no standard in the hands of people upon which we can rely.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 297-299)

Then I read further:

But the bounty of the Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible and indubitable. This is through the help of the Holy Spirit which comes to man, and this is the condition in which certainty can alone be attained.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Some Answered Questions, pp. 297-299)

Because this quote said the “Holy Spirit gives the true method of comprehension which is infallible”, and because I was so desperate to trust what I remembered, I thought if I wrote to the House of Justice and asked if I could trust what I remembered, then the Holy Spirit would work through them and confirm my memories for me!

They wrote:

Your therapist is also in the best position to assist you to distinguish between those events which have occurred, and any other im­pressions in your memory which may not be based on actual experi­ences.  (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 December, 1992)

Sadly, because at this time, therapists were being accused of planting memories, creating the “false memory” syndrome, I didn’t feel I could trust my therapist’s judgement, so I was happy to find the following quote:

Consequently, it has become evident that the four criteria stan­dards of judgment by which the human mind reaches its conclusions (senses, intellect, traditional or scriptural and inspiration) are faulty and inaccurate. All of them are liable to mistake and error in conclu­sions. But a statement presented to the mind, accompanied by proofs which the senses can perceive to be correct, which the faculty of rea­son can accept, which is in accord with traditional authority and sanc­tioned by the promptings of the heart, can be adjudged and relied upon as perfectly correct, for it has been proved and tested by all the standards of judgment and found to be complete. When we apply but one test, there are possibilities of mistake. This is self-evident and manifest.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 255)

Every time I thought I might be making it up, I went through this process almost as if it were a checklist:

  • Does this memory have proofs that my sight, hearing, touch, taste and smell perceive to be true?  For example, in considering an incident of sexual abuse, I  can see the event in my mind’s eye; and hear what was said echoing in my head.  I can’t have Ivory soap in the house or drink apple juice (the smell and taste are triggering) and I can’t let anyone touch or hug me (because if they touch me, they will have to have sex with me).  So it passes this test.
  • Can my reasoning powers accept that it could be true?  My father was cross-addicted to alcohol and prescription drugs, so it’s possible that he was not in his right mind at the time; also it’s possible that he doesn’t remember either, because he blocked it out; or was in an altered state when he abused me.
  • Is it in accord with traditional understandings?  Statistically there’s a high correlation between alcohol and sexual abuse.
  • Has it been sanctioned by the promptings of the heart?  For this one I imagine someone putting a gun to my head and asking me if it was true – and I always say it was.

So because it passed all these tests, I could feel fairly certain that I could trust this memory.

I also liked this quote, which describes the process by which a memory is made:

Man has also spiritual powers: imagination, which conceives things; thought, which reflects upon realities; comprehension, which comprehends realities, memory, which retains whatever man imagines, thinks, and comprehends . . . For instance, sight is one of the outer powers; it sees and perceives this flower, and conveys this perception to the inner power — the common faculty — which transmits this perception to the power of imagination, which in its turn conceives and forms this image and transmits it to the power of thought; the power of thought reflects, and having grasped the reality, conveys it to the power of comprehension; the comprehension, when it has comprehended it, delivers the image of the object perceived to the memory, and the memory keeps it in its repository.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 317)

Have you ever had trouble trusting your own memories?  How has this helped?  What other tools have helped you?  Post your comments here:

 

 

Things Happen for a Reason

Some people say:  “Man plans and God laughs”, but have you ever wondered about God’s plans for you?  Have you ever thought that the plans you had for yourself were better?  ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:

Can humanity conceive a plan and policy better and superior to that of God? It is certain that no matter how capable man may be in origination of plan and organization of purpose, his efforts will be inadequate when compared with the divine plan and purpose; for the policy of God is perfect. Therefore, we must follow the will and plan of God.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 127)

The following story was sent to me in an email titled:  “The Tablecloth”.  It is supposedly a true story – submitted by Pastor Rob Reid.  Whether it’s true or not, it certainly illustrates that God has a plan and we sometimes don’t see it for many years.  Hope you enjoy it!

The brand new pastor and his wife, newly assigned to their first ministry, to reopen a church in suburban Brooklyn , arrived in early October excited about their opportunities. When they saw their church, it was very run down and needed much work. They set a goal to have everything done in time to have their first service on Christmas Eve. They worked hard, repairing pews, plastering walls, painting, etc, and on December 18 were ahead of schedule and just about finished.

On December 19 a terrible tempest – a driving rainstorm hit the area and lasted for two days. On the 21st, the pastor went over to the church.  His heart sank when he saw that the roof had leaked, causing a large area of plaster about 20 feet by 8 feet to fall off the front wall of the sanctuary just behind the pulpit, beginning about head high.

The pastor cleaned up the mess on the floor, and not knowing what else to do but postpone the Christmas Eve service, headed home. On the way he noticed that a local business was having a flea market type sale for charity, so he stopped in. One of the items was a beautiful, handmade, ivory colored, crocheted tablecloth with exquisite work, fine colors and a Cross embroidered right in the center. It was just the right size to cover the hole in the front wall. He bought it and headed back to the church.

By this time it had started to snow. An older woman running from the opposite direction was trying to catch the bus. She missed it. The pastor invited her to wait in the warm church for the next bus 45 minutes later. She sat in a pew and paid no attention to the pastor while he got a ladder, hangers, etc., to put up the tablecloth as a wall tapestry. The pastor could hardly believe how beautiful it looked and it covered up the entire problem area.

Then he noticed the woman walking down the center aisle. Her face was like a sheet. “Pastor,” she asked, “where did you get that tablecloth?”  The pastor explained. The woman asked him to check the lower right corner to see if the initials, EBG were crocheted into it there. They were. These were the initials of the woman, and she had made this tablecloth 35 years before, in Austria.

The woman could hardly believe it as the pastor told how he had just gotten “The Tablecloth”. The woman explained that before the war she and her husband were well-to-do people in Austria . When the Nazis came, she was forced to leave.  Her husband was going to follow her the next week. He was captured, sent to prison and never saw her husband or her home again.

The pastor wanted to give her the tablecloth; but she made the pastor keep it for the church. The pastor insisted on driving her home. That was the least he could do. She lived on the other side of Staten Island and was only in Brooklyn for the day for a housecleaning job.

What a wonderful service they had on Christmas Eve. The church was almost full. The music and the spirit were great. At the end of the service, the pastor and his wife greeted everyone at the door and many said that they would return.

One older man, whom the pastor recognized from the neighborhood continued to sit in one of the pews and stare, and the pastor wondered why he wasn’t leaving.

The man asked him where he got the tablecloth on the front wall because it was identical to one that his wife had made years ago when they lived in Austria before the war and how could there be two tablecloths so much alike?

He told the pastor how the Nazis came, how he forced his wife to flee for her safety and he was supposed to follow her, but he was arrested andput in a prison. He never saw his wife or his home again all the 35 years between.

The pastor asked him if he would allow him to take him for a little ride. They drove to Staten Island and to the same house where the pastor had taken the woman three days earlier.

He helped the man climb the three flights of stairs to the woman’s apartment, knocked on the door and he saw the greatest Christmas reunion he could ever imagine.

I’d like to end with another quote about our plans and God’s:

The working out of God’s Major Plan proceeds mysteriously in ways directed by Him alone, but the Minor Plan that He has given us to execute, as our part in His grand design for the redemption of mankind, is clearly delineated. It is to this work that we must devote all our energies, for there is no one else to do it. (Universal House of Justice, Wellspring of Guidance, p. 133-34)

Abandoned by God

 

Those who’ve experienced extreme trauma in their lives will know how lonely and desolate it feels when we believe with every fiber of our being that God has abandoned us.

Bahá’u’lláh too felt abandoned by God as we see in this quote:

O Lord my God! Thou beholdest my dwelling-place, and the prison into which I am cast, and the woes I suffer. By Thy might! No pen can recount them, nor can any tongue describe or number them. I know not, O my God, for what purpose Thou hast abandoned me to Thine adversaries. Thy glory beareth me witness! I sorrow not for the vexations I endure for love of Thee, nor feel perturbed by the calamities that overtake me in Thy path. My grief is rather because Thou delayest to fulfill what Thou hast determined in the Tablets of Thy Revelation, and ordained in the books of Thy decree and judgment.  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 10-11)

But He never does:

God, the Vigilant, the Just, the Loving, the All-Wise . . . will [not] be willing to abandon His children to their fate.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 4-5)

Have you ever heard the expression:  When you point a finger at someone, there are three fingers pointing back at you?  This is what is really happening.  Often it’s we who are blaming Him because we don’t understand a particular test, or we aren’t deepened enough in the Writings to know the purpose of tests, or we think that life should go a certain way:

They have abandoned their God, and clung unto their desires. They truly have strayed and are in error. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 134)

Or we think we know what is best for us:

The counterfeit or imitation of true religion has adulterated human belief and the foundations have been lost sight of . . . This is verily the century when these imitations must be forsaken, superstitions abandoned and God alone worshiped. We must look at the reality of the prophets and their teachings in order that we may agree.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 16)

God wants us to trust him, and we can’t do that without faith:

That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God — because he is promised and certain of a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him — will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 96-97)

God wants us to return to Him, and He tells us how:

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)

We need to give up our will and submit to the will of God:

Commit thyself to God; give up thy will and choose that of God; abandon thy desire and lay hold on that of God; that thou mayest be a holy, spiritual and heavenly example among the maid-servants of God.  (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 89-90)

He gives us a prayer we can use to help us return to Him:

I implore Thee, O my God, by Thy mercy that hath surpassed all created things, and to which all that are immersed beneath the oceans of Thy names bear witness, not to abandon me unto my self, for my heart is prone to evil. Guard me, then, within the stronghold of Thy protection and the shelter of Thy care. I am he, O my God, whose only wish is what Thou hast determined by the power of Thy might. All I have chosen for myself is to be assisted by Thy gracious appointments and the ruling of Thy will, and to be aided with the tokens of Thy decree and judgment.  I beseech Thee, O Thou Who art the Beloved of the hearts which long for Thee, by the Manifestations of Thy Cause and the Day-Springs of Thine inspiration, and the Exponents of Thy majesty, and the Treasuries of Thy knowledge, not to suffer me to be deprived of Thy holy Habitation, Thy Fane and Thy Tabernacle. Aid me, O my Lord, to attain His hallowed court, and to circle round His person, and to stand humbly at His door.  Thou art He Whose power is from everlasting to everlasting. Nothing escapeth Thy knowledge. Thou art, verily, the God of power, the God of glory and wisdom.  Praised be God, the Lord of the worlds!  (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations by Baha’u’llah, p. 210-211)

Have you ever felt abandoned by God, and if so, how did you return?