In this series, we’re looking at fault-finding, blame and criticizing others.
We blame others when we think they have something we think should be ours, whether it’s possessions or fame. These thoughts attack us, causing self-hatred and self-rejection. Every time we accuse, blame or judge someone, it’s like swallowing poison and hoping it will kill the other person.
Participating in fault-finding, blame and accusation is not a good idea, for a couple of reasons:
Our own faults will appear great:
. . . magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 44)
And worse, we’ll be accursed of God:
How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 26)
When we focus on the faults of others, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá calls us “heedless” (which means “careless; thoughtless; unmindful”):
Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)
The solution lies in becoming aware of and educating ourselves about how our lower nature tricks us into blaming others and drawing us further away from God.
The root cause of wrongdoing is ignorance, and we must therefore hold fast to the tools of perception and knowledge. Good character must be taught. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 136)
These judgments arise from our lower nature, to keep us isolated and alone, so we can dwell on our wrongs and descend into bitterness and self-pity. They rob us of our identity, ensure we never feel safe and keep us from knowing who we are.
God gave us life; He created us noble but we have abased ourselves by listening to the lies told to us by ourselves and others: lies that lead us into negativity, fault-finding, blame and accusation. These lies rob us of our life and our peace.
These accusations against ourselves and others are not who we are! They’re just negative thoughts coming from our lower nature, and they are lies.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá says we don’t have to treat liars (including ourselves) kindly, because it encourages them to continue, so recognize these judgments for the lies they are and don’t give them anymore room in your inn!
It is not advisable to show kindness to a person who is a tyrant, a traitor or a thief because kindness encourages him to become worse and does not awaken him. The more kindness you show to a liar the more he is apt to lie, for he thinks that you know not, while you do know, but extreme kindness keeps you from revealing your knowledge. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’I World Faith, p. 412-413)
It’s not easy, as the House of Justice tells us:
Learning not to concern oneself with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for people to master, and that failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Bahá’ís as it is among men and women in general. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)
Some things we can do instead include focusing on our own lives, so we don’t have time or energy to focus on anyone else’s:
1. Know your own shortcomings:
As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. The Blessed Perfection says, “I wonder at the man who does not find his own imperfections.” (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)
2 Look at your own faults and not the faults of others:
If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 66)
3. Plow your own field: When we’re busy focusing on our own affairs, we don’t have time to dwell on the faults of others.
Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will- power and energy. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others’ faults when he is blind to his own? (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)
4. Get rid of our own imperfections:
It is my hope that you may consider this matter, that you may search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244)
Sometimes when someone injures us, we want to lay charges, but this is not advised:
As to thine action against the journal which hath libeled thee: It is not at all best to bring action against them, because there is no profit in doing that; nay, it will lead to more sayings of a similar nature. Under these circumstances silence is best. Thou must not be disappointed, sorry or grieved thereat; God will remove all these difficulties. If thou wilt employ thyself in the service (of the Cause of God) the past losses will be recovered and all the troubles will be settled. This is the manifest truth. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 158-159)
Even in situations as serious as sexual abuse and murder, pressing charges is discouraged.
At this time there appears to be no substantial reason why you should press charges against your adoptive father, grievous as has been his misuse of your childhood. There seems to be little hazard to any other person from this behaviour pattern. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 22 December, 1981)
You enquire whether you should take action to have your parents charged with murder, following the death of your brother. You should ascertain from a competent lawyer what are your legal obligations in this regard, and follow such requirements. If there are no legal obligations, it is left to your discretion to decide on this matter, in light of the circumstances. However, you might well ask yourself, in the course of this decision-making, what beneficial result is to be gained from such an action, more especially if the action occurred some years ago and if legally-acceptable proof is difficult to establish; you should also weigh carefully the effect this might have on yourself, in the process of re-opening the subject, testifying about it in court, and doubtless incurring the antagonism of your parents. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September, 1992)
Leave the judging to God because He promises not to forgive anyone’s injustice:
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 it with My seal of glory. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 64)
We don’t need to spend any time dwelling on injustice, because God has promised that we can complain to Him as much as we like in the next world:
The Maids of Heaven, inmates of the loftiest mansions, will circle around it, and the Prophets of God and His chosen ones will seek its companionship. With them that soul will freely converse, and will recount unto them that which it hath been made to endure in the path of God, the Lord of all worlds. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 155)
Take serious issues to the Institutions (Assemblies or Auxiliary Board Members). God doesn’t want us to be judge and jury. That’s the role of the institutions and once you give them your problem it’s not yours anymore. It belongs to the Institutions.
‘Abdu’l-Bahá does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause. If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)
There is a tendency to mix up the functions of the Administration and try to apply it in individual relationships, which is abortive, because the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the community. But individuals toward each other are governed by love, unity, forgiveness and a sin-covering eye. Once the friends grasp this they will get along much better, but they keep playing Spiritual Assembly to each other and expect the Assembly to behave like an individual…. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 77)
Now that we don’t have to spend time and energy worrying about justice, we can focus it on other things. The first thing to do it to separate the person from the sin, recognizing that their accusation or judgments’ are coming from their lower natures, trying to destroy who God created us to be.
As a devoted believer you are urged to strive to develop forgiveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner, and to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature, whose actions can only lead them deeper into unhappiness and separation from God. By this means, you can liberate yourself from the anger to which you refer in your letter. (From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to this author, 9 September, 1992)
The next is to look towards each other with love and a sin-covering eye. If we fill our hearts with love and ask God to be a channel for His love to the other person, we won’t have any space left for fault-finding, blame and accusation:
But individuals toward each other are governed by love, unity, forgiveness and a sin-covering eye. Once the friends grasp this they will get along much better…. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 77)
The antidote to fault-finding, blame and accusation is to look for the good in others, as we see in the following quotes:
If a man has ten good qualities and one bad one, to look at the ten and forget the one; and if a man has ten bad qualities and one good one, to look at the one and forget the ten. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 83)
It is related that His Holiness Christ . . . one day, accompanied by His apostles, passed by the corpse of a dead animal. One of them said: ‘How putrid has this animal become!’ The other exclaimed: ‘How it is deformed!’ A third cried out: ‘What a stench! How cadaverous looking!’ but His Holiness Christ said: “Look at its teeth! how white they are!’ Consider, that He did not look at all at the defects of that animal; nay, rather, He searched well until He found the beautiful white teeth. He observed only the whiteness of the teeth and overlooked entirely the deformity of the body, the dissolution of its organs and the bad odour. This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and the manner of the real Bahá’ís. I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. IV, No. 11, p. 192)
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
Instead of gossiping about their faults, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us to praise them without distinction:
Never speak disparagingly of others, but praise without distinction. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453)
I think “without distinction” here might mean without saying things like:
- This dinner is great but . . .
- You look beautiful but . . .
And instead of general praise, focus on their virtues saying things like:
- I appreciate your helpfulness.
- Thank you for your generosity.
For more articles in this series:
Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation . . . :