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Recently someone asked me:

I’m wondering if you can tell me how to be insensitive?  I’m so sensitive about everything.

It’s a real test to live in this world as a sensitive person!

This is what I’ve found around being sensitive:

What Makes Me So Sensitive? 

We were created that way:

Man is a sensitive being.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 30)

In fact women have a superior disposition to men, they are more receptive, more sensitive, their intuition is more intense.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West , v2)

His Holiness Jesus Christ referring to the prophecy of Isaiah, spoke of those who “having eyes, see not, having ears, hear not, having hearts, understand not,” yet they were to be healed. Therefore it is evident that the bounties of Christ transformed the eye which was blind into a seeing one, rendered the ear which was formerly deaf, attentive, and made the hard, callous heart tender and sensitive.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 105-106)

You are the children of whom Christ has said, “Of such is the kingdom of God”; and according to the words of Bahá’u’lláh you are the very lamps or candles of the world of humanity, for your hearts are exceedingly pure and your spirits most sensitive.  (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 91-92)

The heart of an unlettered soul is extremely sensitive.  (The Universal House of Justice, Messages 1963 to 1986, p. 39)

We are sensitive to the energies around us:

We are instructed to say that although there is every reason to expect that the world will experience travails and testing as never before, we do not know that what form these upheavals will take, when exactly they will come, how severe they will be, nor how long they will last.  The Faith itself as it emerges from obscurity will suffer severe trials. Sensitive souls such as yourself are particularly aware of these impending developments.   (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 127)

We’re being tested:

He was very sorry to hear that you have had so many tests in your Bahá’í life. There is no doubt that many of them are due to our own nature. In other words, if we are very sensitive, or if we are in some way brought up in a different environment from the Bahá’ís amongst whom we live, we naturally see things differently and may feel them more acutely; and the other side of it is that the imperfections of our fellow-Bahá’ís can be a great trial to us.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)

The Positive Aspects of Being Sensitive:

The exercise of wisdom:

The House of Justice agrees that the exercise of wisdom calls for a measure of love and the development of a sensitive conscience.  (The Universal House of Justice, 1998 Feb 08, Materialistic Elements in Academic Scholarship, p. 4)

The Purpose of Being Sensitive:

Leads us towards mutual aid and helpfulness:

In brief, the beings of sensation acquire life from the growing beings and, in turn, the growing things receive life from the sensitive creatures. Therefore, this interchange of forces and intercommunication is continual and uninterrupted.  From this illustration, one can see the base of life is this mutual aid and helpfulness.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West , v2)

What Can I Do with These Sensitive Feelings?

Use them to help people become attentive to God:

Therefore we must investigate the foundation of divine religion, discover its reality, re-establish it and spread its message throughout the world so that it may become the source of illumination and enlightenment to mankind, the spiritually dead become alive, the spiritually blind receive sight and those who are inattentive to God become awakened.  (Abdu’l-Baha, Foundations of World Unity, p. 105-106)

Be glad and joyful for the teachings of Bah’a’u’llah:

Now, you who are spiritual ought to be glad and joyful for the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, who is the founder of spirituality in this age. The teachings of Bahá’u’lláh are only spiritual. One should seek the Truth, which is the cause of the manifestations of the spirit, for the spirit will not make itself felt by the senses, but it will manifest itself by the hidden faculties. Though the human body is sensitive, its spirit is hidden; it is the spirit which commands the body.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, v2)

Use it to support and strengthen the Administrative Order:

However, Bahá’u’lláh has given us the Administrative Order which is the channel through which the spirit and guidance flow to the Bahá’ís and to mankind. The beloved Guardian spent his entire lifetime unfolding and explaining the pattern, and it is this administrative machinery that we should seek to support and strengthen. As weak and fragile as it is in these formative years of the Faith, it is still the haven and protection of the Bahá’ís and of the world. You are therefore encouraged to expend your energies and your many-faceted talents in teaching and consolidating the Bahá’í communities under the direction of the National Spiritual Assembly and its agencies.  (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 127-128)

Look confidently to the Day when the promises of the Prophets shall be fulfilled and the children of men dwell together in brotherhood and peace:

As you wend your way, meditatively, round the crescent of the Colonnade, you will fancy you hear voices  —  voices of the New Day  —  gently but insistently summoning you to that universal love which is eternal. Your hearts will be strangely stirred and will overflow with that love which must create beauty because it is so joyous, so glad to give, so sensitive it cannot tolerate injustice, or misery that can be relieved; and you will yearn to see your fellow-beings released from the bonds of poverty and from the menace of war.  Friends, in view of the discouraging international outlook, you may think such idealism is not translatable into actuality. But let us not despair. Do we not know that portentous changes are destined for this era of awakening? May we not, then, look confidently to the Day when the promises of the Prophets shall be fulfilled and the children of men dwell together in brotherhood and peace?  In that Day, when love which is born of the Infinite shall hold sway, the inhumanities of man shall be swept away, and Justice shall reign supreme upon this earth.  (Baha’i World Volumes, Volume  8, p. 805)

In summary, you can:

  • investigate the foundation of divine religion, discover its reality, re-establish it and spread its message throughout the world
  • be glad and joyful for the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh
  • seek the Truth which will manifest by the hidden faculties
  • support and strengthen the Administrative Order
  • expend your energies and talents in teaching and consolidating the Bahá’í communities under the direction of the National Spiritual Assembly and its agencies
  • let your heart be stirred with love to give to others
  • yearn to see your fellow-beings released from the bonds of poverty and the menace of war
  • don’t despair
  • understand that portentous changes are destined for this era of awakening
  • look confidently to the Day when the promises of the Prophets shall be fulfilled and we’ll all dwell together in brotherhood and peace
  • trust that the inhumanities of man shall be swept away, and Justice shall reign upon this earth

How Can I Protect Myself?

The Bahá’ís, in spite of their self-sacrificing desire to give the last drop of their strength to serving the Cause, must guard against utterly depleting their forces and having breakdowns. For this can sometimes do more harm than good, because they are so bound up in the lives of others…. “There is no doubt that there is vicarious atonement for others, and our sufferings sometimes can be in the nature of a sacrifice accepted for others. But where to draw the line is a mystery. If you take better care of your own health, and build up your reserves, it would certainly be better for you and for your work. Then your sensitive, yearning heart, although you may still often suffer for and with others, will be better able to withstand its trials, and you will not get so exhausted, which is certainly no asset to your work for the Cause.  (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 279)

In one of His Tablets, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá wrote: ‘If you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the ‘Most Great Name’ in your dwelling, wear the ring of the ‘Most Great Name’ on your finger, place the picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in your home and always recite the prayers that I have written. Then you will behold the marvellous effect they produce. Those so-called force will prove but illusions and will be wiped out and exterminated.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 520)

Prayer and supplication are so effective that they inspire one’s heart for the whole day with high ideals and supreme sanctity and calmness. One’s heart must be sensitive to the music of prayer.  (‘Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, v5)

In summary you can:

  • guard against utterly depleting your forces and having breakdowns
  • don’t get so bound up in the lives of others
  • take better care of your own health, and build up your reserves
  • hang the ‘Most Great Name’ in your dwelling
  • wear the ring of the ‘Most Great Name’ on your finger
  • place the picture of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in your home
  • recite the prayers that we’ve been given

Here’s a little article I wrote on protection:

“If you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the Most Great Name in your dwelling, wear the ring of the Most Great Name on your finger, place the picture of ‘Abdul-Bahá in your home and always recite the prayers that I have written; then you will behold the marvelous effect they produce.”  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 520)

When I first disclosed my abuse in therapy and then to my perpetrators, I was feeling very vulnerable.  Would I be killed?  I’d believed that this would be the outcome of giving voice to my experience, all of my life, which is what had kept me silenced for so long, even to myself.  Therefore, I was happy when I discovered this morning’s quote by ‘Abdul-Bahá.  It was something practical I could immediately implement.

I went from looking over my shoulders and not wanting to leave home, to trusting that I would be protected from any recriminations.  And I was!  It was a heady experience!

Later, once my life had stabilized and I was experiencing triggers at work with abusive bosses, I would read that quote again, and realize I was again being protected.  I had choices this time, where I did not as a child.

Even later, when I realized the impact of materialism on my life, and longed for a simpler lifestyle, this quote reminded me that by living on a limited income, I was being protected from the worst of it.

I love discovering deeper layers of meaning in quotes as I grow in faith!

“Reliance on God is indeed the strongest and safest weapon which the Bahá’í teacher can carry. For by its means no earthly power can remain unconquered, and no obstacle become insuperable”.  (Shoghi Effendi, The Compilation of Compilations vol II, p. 221)

Although this is a quote to inspire those who are trying to teach the Faith, it appeals to me, who often feels powerless in the face of abuse.  There were so many times when I was totally powerless against my oppressors.  They were bigger and stronger than I.  But when I found this quote, I realized I wasn’t on my own.  God was with me.  All I had to do was remember to turn to him.

It’s kind of like electricity – it’s always there, but until we plug something in, or flip a switch, we can’t access it.  It’s like that with God.

So now, whenever I’m feeling powerless, no matter what the reason, I turn to God, saying my favorite prayer:  “O God guide me, protect me.”

Here’s a story about Baha’u’llah and His Sensitivity:

The physical susceptibilities of the Blessed Perfection were very great. His sense of smell was very keen indeed, and also his eyesight, and up to the end of his life he read the finest type without the aid of glasses.  The holy divine Manifestations are even superior and distinguished in their physical powers from the rest of mankind! For example, even when the Blessed Perfection was not feeling well, his pulse would beat regularly like the pulse of a young man twenty years old. For the last three years of his life he hardly ate anything. The servants brought the tray before him; he would look at the various dishes, eat a few mouthfuls, and then it was immediately removed; yet the pulse was normal. At that time there was a Greek doctor who regularly called on the family whenever any of us was not feeling well. One day he was allowed to stand in the presence of Bahá’u’lláh. He looked into his face and his eyes, and asked permission to feel his pulse. After due examination, the doctor expressed his astonishment, and said that he had never seen a constitution so highly sensitive as that of Bahá’u’lláh.  (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Diary of Mírzá Sohráb, found in , Star of the West, v5)

You may also find these helpful:

Understanding Our Tests at the Hands of Other Baha’is

Fear into Faith – Overcoming Anxiety

Why I’m Ready to Go on to the Next World

There are a lot of books on highly sensitive people which will look at this issue from a non-Bahá’í perspective

Are you a highly sensitive person?  What has been your experience?  How was this helpful?  Post your comments below!