What can we do instead?
But how are we told to treat our enemies? Baha’u’llah sets the standard for us, and His standard is very high. We need to know what it is:
They have sympathy even for the enemies and are faithful friends even to the unjust (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 400)
You must consider your enemies as your friends, look upon your evil-wishers as your well-wishers and treat them accordingly. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 453)
Ye have heard that it hath been said, ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor, and thou shalt not vex thine enemy with enmity.’ But I say unto you, love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven: for He maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sendeth down the rain of His mercy on the just and on the unjust. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 81)
Consider the example of ‘Abdul-Bahá, in this story told by Howard Colby Ives:
I remember as though it were yesterday another illustration of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s divine technique. I was not at all well that summer. A relapse was threatening a return of a condition which had necessitated a major operation the year before. My nervous condition made me consider breaking the habit of smoking which had been with me all my adult life. I had always prided myself on the ability to break the habit at any time. In fact I had several times cut off the use of tobacco for a period of many months. But this time to my surprise and chagrin I found my nerves and will in such a condition that after two or three days the craving became too much for me. Finally it occurred to me to ask the assistance of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. I had read His beautiful Tablet beginning: “0 ye pure friends of God!” in which He glorified personal cleanliness and urged the avoidance of anything tending towards habits of self-indulgence. “Surely,” I said to myself, “He will tell me how to overcome this habit.”
So, when I next saw Him I told Him all about it. It was like a child confessing to His mother, and my voice trailed away to embarrassed silence after only the fewest of words. But He understood, indeed much better than I did. Again I was conscious of an embracing, understanding love as He regarded me. After a moment He asked quietly, how much I smoked. I told him. He said He did not think that would hurt me, that the men in the Orient smoked all the time, that their hair and beards and clothing became saturated, and often very offensive. But that I did not do this, and at my age and having been accustomed to it for so many years He did not think that I should let it trouble me at all. His gentle eyes and smile seemed to hold a twinkle that recalled my impression of His enjoyment of a divine joke.
I was somewhat overwhelmed. Not a dissertation on the evils of habit; not an explanation of the bad effects on health; not a summoning of my will power to overcome desire, rather a Charter of Freedom did He present to me. I did not understand but it was a great relief for somehow I knew that this was wise advice. So immediately that inner conflict was stilled and I enjoyed my smoke with no smitings of conscience. But two days after this conversation I found the desire for tobacco had entirely left me and I did not smoke again for seven years. (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, p. 45)
Now that we know how detrimental fault-finding, blame and accusation are; and we know the standard we are striving towards, we can more easily demolish the idols of our own idle fancy, plant the standard of Divine guidance in our hearts, disentangle our minds from the things we believed in the past, and hasten, free and untrammelled, to the shores of eternal salvation.
His beloved Master, called upon him to demolish those idols which his own idle fancy had carved and to plant upon their shattered fragments the standard of Divine guidance. He appealed to him to disentangle his mind from the fettering creeds of the past, and to hasten, free and untrammelled, to the shores of eternal salvation. (Shoghi Effendi, The Dawn-Breakers, p. 266)
We can be set free from fault-finding and blame and regain victory over ourselves if we follow these ten steps:
1. Know that we have a choice:
If we think “he hates me”, the world would tell us to hate him back.
If she hits me, we learn to hit her back.
God wants us to behave differently. Blindly following the example we were taught is imitation and to be avoided at all costs:
If Thou wishest a discerning eye and seekest for a hearing ear, set thou aside that which thou hast heard from fathers and ancestors, for such things are imitation — and then seek for the truth with the utmost attention until the divine confirmation may reach thee and the matter may be properly disclosed unto thee. (Bahá’u’lláh, Baha’i World Faith, p. 387)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá promises us:
If we abandon these timeworn blind imitations and investigate reality, all of us will be unified. No discord will remain; antagonism will disappear. All will associate in fellowship. All will enjoy the cordial bonds of friendship. The world of creation will then attain composure. The dark and gloomy clouds of blind imitations and dogmatic variances will be scattered and dispelled; the Sun of Reality will shine most gloriously. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 344-345)
We have to make a choice about which Kingdom we’re going to serve: God’s Word, or the promptings of our lower nature? With God, all things are possible and we can make changes in the way we react to things. We can discern the faults of others but not condemn them.
2. Turn towards God
Against calumny there is no defence . . . having no helper, assistant nor shelter from the sword of accusation and the teeth of calumny, save God! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 379)
The Master said: turn your back to the darkness and your face to Me. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 457)
We supplicate God that He may destroy the veils which limit our vision and that these becloudings which darken the way of the manifestation of the shining lights may be dispelled in order that the effulgent Sun of Reality may shine forth. We implore and invoke God, seeking His assistance and confirmation. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 76)
3. Focus on God and not on our own personal battles
It’s hard to feel close to other people – the distance between us is too great, but if we each walk with God and follow His teachings, we’ll automatically draw closer to each other.
As we see in the diagram, “you and me” are far apart, and no amount of good-will on our part will bring us close together. When each of us gets closer to God, though, we automatically draw closer to each other.
4. Immerse ourselves in the Writings and be programmed by God’s word. We have to know the Word of God so we can discern truth from error; recognize thoughts that are not from Him, and don’t get caught up in lies. We need to be constantly vigilant so we can catch the thoughts before they take hold and do their damage.
It demands daily vigilance in the control of one’s carnal desires and corrupt inclinations. (Shoghi Effendi: The Advent of Divine Justice, p. 30)
The best way to retrain our thought processes with God’s truth is through immersing ourselves in the Ocean of His Words. When we renew our minds and replace old modes of thinking with new, God’s Word will teach us what’s from Him and what’s from our lower natures.
God is the only one able to convict someone of sin. To know what is acceptable before God or not, we have the Writings to turn too. They make us want to do better; be better; they strengthen our relationship with God; they make us feel hopeful, positive and longing to change.
We can trust that the thoughts that come to us from God are always based in the Word of God, when they come from ourselves, they’re based on our own experiences and decisions, and come from an unrenewed mind. When our minds are continually being renewed through reading the Writings morning and eve, we will be in a much better position to discern where our thoughts are coming from.
5. Make every thought captive so we can discern whether it’s arising from God or from our lower natures; and use the Words of God to drown out the idle fancies and vain imaginings. Put a “stop sign” in our brain. When we have a thought, pause, count to 10 – 20 – 50 if necessary, then ask where this thought came from. Is it from God or from our lower nature? Should we give it voice? Remember:
Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 176)
6. Abstain from Fault-finding:
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… On no subject are the Bahá’í teachings more emphatic that on the necessity to abstain from fault-finding, while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 90)
7. Listen to our elders:
What the believers need is not only . . . to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Bahá’ís, are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation. It is one of the functions of the older and the more mature Bahá’ís, to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to really function and live like true believers! (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 89)
8. Follow the example of those who have endured every tribulation and calamity
Gird up thy loins, strengthen thy back, be not discouraged or grieved if people are pouring the arrows of scorn and blame thee, in so much as in this thou wilt follow the example of those who have endured every tribulation and calamity. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 281-282)
9. Don’t listen to negative voices: Baha’u’llah tells us not to be kind to a “liar, traitor or thief”, so we don’t have to listen to these negative voices. We don’t have to give them room in our heads.
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)
We can tell the difference between the voice of God and the voice of our lower nature, because, as Baha’u’llah tells us:
Every good thing is of God, and every evil thing is from yourselves. Will ye not comprehend? (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 149)
10. Be silent against accusations: This is hard to do! We want to protect ourselves and protect our reputations; to show that the other person is at fault.
When you’re trying to break this habit of fault-finding and blame, you may need to zip your mouth and don’t make any comments at all, and that’s to be encouraged. Remember, the Báb set the standard for what we should speak about when He gave us this prayer:
I beg Thee to forgive me, O my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of Thee, and for every delight but delight in Thy nearness, and for every pleasure but the pleasure of communion with Thee, and for every joy but the joy of Thy love and of Thy good-pleasure, and for all things pertaining unto me which bear no relationship unto Thee, O Thou Who art the Lord of lords, He Who provideth the means and unlocketh the doors. (The Báb, Baha’i Prayers, p. 79)
And Baha’u’llah reminds us:
He must . . . observe silence and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 264)
Let’s take back our peace! It’s worth the hard work!
For more articles in this series:
Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation . . . :