There are many stories about ‘Abdu’l-Bahá; and how He forgave others. If we study these stories, we can learn how to be more forgiving towards the people who hurt us.
He forgave with compassion and magnanimity:
The peerless example of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá merits close scrutiny in your quest for a sense of forgiveness; His abiding love for humanity, despite its waywardness and perversity enabled Him to manifest sincere compassion and magnanimity to those who had brought Him distress and hardship. (The Universal House of Justice, 1985 Dec 02, Child Abuse, Psychology and Knowledge of Self)
Here’s a story to illustrate:
On the occasion of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s first dinner in the home of Lady Bloomfield in London His hostess had prepared course after course in her eagerness to please Him. Afterwards He gently commented: ‘The food was delicious and the fruit and flowers were lovely, but would that we could share some of the courses with those poor and hungry people who have not even one.’ Thereafter the dinners were greatly simplified. Flowers and fruit remained in abundance, for those were often brought to the Master as small love tokens. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá)
He forgave without wanting others to speak about it:
‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s signet ring disappeared during his Western journey. The Master had confided His loss to Florence and Khan, and named the thief but He did not wish them to speak of it. (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 228)
He forgave by looking at situations with love:
During this second stay in Chicago, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá chose to stay in Corrine True’s home for a day or two before moving to a hotel. When He arrived with His secretaries, Corrine serve them all tea. Unfortunately, it was a type of tea that Persians don’t like, and some of them remarked that “there was a better tea”. But the Master drank it anyway, saying, “This tea is very good because it is been prepared with love.” (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 192)
He forgave with kindness:
There was a time when the Covenant-Breakers ‘gave away the garments and personal effects of Bahá’u’lláh to government functionaries, to serve as chattels of bribery and to provide as well the means of humiliating ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. At their instigation the Deputy-Governor of Haifa would, whilst visiting ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ostentatiously wear Bahá’u’lláh’s cloak and brazenly use His spectacles. Before long this man was dismissed from his post and fell on evil days. Then he went to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and begged His forgiveness. He had acted, he said, in the manner he did, because he was prompted by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s own relatives. The Master showed him utmost kindness and generosity…’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 84)
He forgave through generosity:
Juliet Thompson and other Bahá’ís decided to give the Master a birthday party, and a few of them baked a cake. She reported, ‘We took several taxis to the Bronx, with the Master riding in the first one. As soon as His taxi had arrived there, the Master got out and walked into the park ahead of the rest of us. ‘A group of young boys gathered around Him and started to laugh. Two or three of them threw stones at Him. With natural concern many of the friends hurried towards the Master, but He told them to stay away. The boys came closer to the Master, jeered at Him and pulled at His clothes. The Master did not become cross. He merely smiled at them radiantly, but the boys continued to behave as before. Then the Master turned towards the friends. ‘Bring me the cake,’ He said. No one had mentioned to Him that we had brought a cake. ‘Some of us said, “But ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, the cake is for your birthday.” He repeated, “Bring me the cake.” A friend uncovered a large sponge cake, with white icing, and gave it to the Master. As soon as the boys had seen the cake they began to calm down, and stared at the cake hungrily. ‘The Master took it in His hands and looked at the cake with pleasure. The boys were now standing quietly around Him. “Bring me a knife,” said the Master. A friend brought Him a knife. The Master counted the number of boys who were standing around Him and then cut the cake into the same number of pieces. Each boy eagerly took a piece, ate it with relish, and then ran away happily.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 45)
He forgave by giving gifts:
At one time the Master had a fine cloak of Persian wool, which had been given to Him. When a poor man appealed to Him for a garment, He sent for this cloak and gave it to him. The man took it but complained, saying it was only of cotton. ‘No,’ ‘Abbas Effendi assured him, ‘it is of wool‘; and to prove it He lighted a match and burned a little of the nap. The man still grumbled that it was not good. ‘Abbas Effendi reproved him for criticizing a gift, but He ended the interview by directing an attendant to give the man a mejidi (a coin then worth about four francs). It was observed that if someone vexed the Master, He always gave him a gift. (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 75)
He forgave by spending time with them:
If you could have seen the brute, Juliet, mumbling out his miserable excuses! But the Master took him in His arms and said: ‘All those things are in the past. Never think of them again.’ Then He invited Zillu’s-Sultan two sons to spend a day with Him. (Misc Bahá’í, The Diary of Juliet Thompson)
On the other hand, there were times when He too, ran out of patience:
After returning to the holy land ‘Abdu’l-Bahá sent Dr. Baghdadi a Tablet, and directed that copies be distributed to every community so that all could read it. The Master wrote here that during his stay in America he had forgiven a certain member of his suite four times, but that he would forgive the man’s misdeeds no longer. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá returned to Haifa, he proceeded directly to the room with His wife, Munirih Khanum, and said in a feeble voice, “Dr. Fareed has ground me down!” (Earl Redman, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in Their Midst, p. 228)
The idea that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá too could run out of patience was very reassuring! We’re held to his standard, but he too had his limits.
How has this given you new approaches to forgiveness? Post your comments below.