Take Care of Yourself
Friends and family members of those who’ve experienced trauma isn’t easy. It’s hard to know what to do or say that won’t trigger an angry response. It can be like “walking on eggshells”! Here are some things you can do to take care of yourself.
Make your own spiritual growth your priority
It’s easy to become spiritually depleted if we aren’t careful:
He [Shoghi Effendi] quite understands how the friends can sometimes feel, as you put it, ‘spiritually depleted’, for 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. (Shoghi Effendi, 8 May, 1948, Source Unknown)
Here is a checklist we can use to make sure we’re taking care of the essentials:
Bahá’u’lláh has stated quite clearly in His Writings the essential requisites for our spiritual growth, and these are stressed again and again by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in His talks and Tablets. One can summarize them briefly in this way:
- The recital each day of one of the Obligatory Prayers with pure-hearted devotion.
2. The regular reading of the Sacred Scriptures, specifically at least each morning and evening, with reverence, attention and thought.
3. Prayerful meditation on the teachings, so that we may understand them more deeply, fulfil them more faithfully, and convey them more accurately to others.
4. Striving every day to bring our behaviour more into accordance with the high standards that are set forth in the Teachings.
5. Teaching the Cause of God.
6. Selfless service in the work of the Cause and in the carrying on of our trade or profession. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 540)
Make sure you’re taking enough time for rest and relaxation
It’s not enough to take time for prayer and meditation, we must also have time for real rest and relaxation:
You should certainly safeguard your nerves and force yourself to take time, and not only for prayer and meditation, but for real rest and relaxation. (Shoghi Effendi, The Importance of Prayer and Meditation and a Devotional Attitude, p.19)
Even Shoghi Effendit needed to take a “leave of absence” from his job until he regained his health, strength, self-confidence and spiritual energy:
Shoghi Effendi had to take a “leave of absence” from his job “under the weight of sorrows and boundless grief” until “by the grace of God, having gained health, strength, self confidence and spiritual energy” he was able to return. (Rúhíyyih Rabbani, The Priceless Pearl, p.42)
Don’t force yourself to do something you can’t handle
We must guard against utterly depleting our forces and having breakdowns, for this can do more harm than good:
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. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p.279)
Instead of over-taxing our will power and strength by forcing ourselves to do things for the Cause, we can let our minds rest in the thought of Baha’u’llah’s infinite love, mercy and forgiveness:
There is no object in over-taxing your will power and strength by forcing yourself to do things for the Cause. You should let your mind rest in the thought of the infinite love, Mercy and Forgiveness of Bahá’u’lláh, and cease to fret about whether you are or are not doing your share until you fully recover your health. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p.282)
Don’t take offense
When others become angry, irritable, withdrawn, or emotionally distant, it’s important to remember that this is a result of the trauma and may not have anything to do with you or your relationship. The standard we’re called on to reach is to neither give offense nor take offense:
They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offense or belittling the views of another.
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179-180)
Remember that God is in charge; He has a plan; and can be counted on to help
Despite our best efforts, sometime trauma will not resolve the way we hoped. When all spiritual avenues are exhausted, we need to turn our hearts to God; and trust in Him, knowing we’re all in His hands:
Assemblies should be aware that some situations of domestic abuse will not resolve favorably even after all avenues for protection and remediation have been explored. Threats may continue to exist over extended periods of time and family members may be faced with continuing uncertainty, apprehension, and fears for safety. Among the ways to strengthen individuals to deal with such situations is to encourage and assist them to do whatever is realistically possible to remedy the situation according to the guidance in this supplement, and then to turn their hearts to God and trust in Him for, in the end, the lives of all people are in God’s hands. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 131)
Admit your powerlessness
Every day when we say the short Obligatory Prayer, we admit we are powerless, and that God is in charge. It’s such an important reminder, especially for those of us who like to think we’re in control:
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. I testify, at this moment, to my powerlessness and to Thy might, to my poverty and to Thy wealth. There is none other God but Thee, the Help in Peril, the Self-Subsisting. (Bahá’u’lláh, Short Obligatory Prayer, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 3)
Give it time:
Give yourself time and recognize that you cannot control everything. There’s a time and season for everything. During winter, it may look like everything is dead and nothing will grow ever again, but winter is always followed by spring; and new growth:
There is one season to harrow the ground, another season to scatter the seeds, still another season to irrigate the fields and still another to harvest the crop. We must attend to these various kinds of activities in their proper seasons in order to become successful. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Consultation, p. 7.)
Unless the season of winter appear, thunder roll, lightning flash, snow and rain fall, hail and frost descend and the intensity of cold execute its command, the season of the soul-refreshing spring would not come, the fragrant breeze would not waft, the moderation of temperature would not be realized, the roses and hyacinths would not grow, the surface of the earth would not become a delectable paradise, the trees would not bloom, neither would they bring forth fruits and leaves. That fierce inclemency of cold, snow, frost and tempest was the beginning of the manifestation of these roses, hyacinths, buds, blossoms and fruits. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 655)
Make sure you aren’t enmeshed and codependent. For more information please see:
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How have you taken care of yourself? Post your comments below!