Someone once asked me:
Kindness cannot be shown the tyrant, the deceiver, or the thief, because, far from awakening them to the error of their ways, it maketh them to continue in their perversity as before. No matter how much kindliness ye may expend upon the liar, he will but lie the more, for he believeth you to be deceived, while ye understand him but too well, and only remain silent out of your extreme compassion. (Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 158)
What is the purpose in this? Kindness is a virtue that we want to be able to show, yet to be kind to my father and brother made them worse. They hid their abuse of me so well that everyone thought they were great people and were therefore kind to them and as a result I suffered more, and more.
I’m not sure we understand kindness the way we will in the future! For example, although this law is not in effect yet, Baha’u’llah tells us they will be punished:
Exile and imprisonment are decreed for the thief, and, on the third offence, place ye a mark upon his brow so that, thus identified, he may not be accepted in the cities of God and His countries. Beware lest, through compassion, ye neglect to carry out the statutes of the religion of God; do that which hath been bidden you by Him Who is compassionate and merciful. (Baha’u’llah, The Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 35)
I’m glad that you recognize that to “be kind to my father and brother made them worse.”
Remember how Baha’u’llah says in the Tablet of Ahmad that “the wisdom of every command shall be tested?” Sometimes the tests apply to us, and some we can learn from watching others. This knowledge will help you in the future.
There are ways you can be kind to them now without having contact; particularly through prayer. This will help in two ways – it will help both you and them. Have you seen this quote by the Báb?
It is seemly that the servant should, after each prayer, supplicate God to bestow mercy and forgiveness upon his parents. Thereupon God’s call will be raised: ‘Thousand upon thousand of what thou hast asked for thy parents shall be thy recompense!’ Blessed is he who remembereth his parents when communing with God. (The Báb, Lights of Guidance, p. 230)
Perhaps it’s a bit self-serving, but the Báb must have told us this to motivate us to pray for them!
Here’s a prayer you can say for your father:
O Lord! In this Most Great Dispensation Thou dost accept the intercession of children in behalf of their parents. This is one of the special infinite bestowals of this Dispensation. Therefore, O Thou kind Lord, accept the request of this Thy servant at the threshold of Thy singleness and submerge his father in the ocean of Thy grace, because this son hath arisen to render Thee service and is exerting effort at all times in the pathway of Thy love, Verily, Thou art the Giver, the Forgiver and the Kind! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 64)
Being kind to our perpetrators doesn’t mean we have to spend time with them. Again these quotes from the House to me and a friend of mine, helped me make those decisions:
Such an attitude (forgiveness and insight into their actions) does not preclude your being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents. In reaching your decision you should be guided by such factors as their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past, the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings, and the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them. In the process of reaching a decision, you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist. (Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 9 September, 1992)
The House of Justice has noted with sympathetic understanding the despair to which you have been driven by the recurrent incidences of cruelty and neglect you have been made to endure . . . Under the circumstances you have so amply described, you should feel free to separate yourself from them to the extent possible. Their behavior towards you grossly violates the norms of parental relationship with a child, and this fact can be taken into consideration if and when you decide to get married. (Universal House of Justice to an individual, 7 August 2001)
To summarize – we can use the following criteria in deciding how much contact to have:
- their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past
- the extent of their present involvement in practices which are so contrary to Bahá’í Teachings
- the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them
And we can look at having their right of parenthood removed when we want to get married.
With regards to the comment:
They hid their abuse of me so well that everyone thought they were great people and were therefore kind to them and as a result I suffered more, and more.
I understand how painful this was for you, and I’m sorry you had to go through it!
The insights which have helped me are knowing that my abusers have to meet their Maker and be called to account for what they did.
Know verily, that while the radiant dawn breaketh above the horizon of eternal holiness, the satanic secrets and deeds done in the gloom of night shall be laid bare and manifest before the peoples of the world. (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words, Persian 67)
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)
So I can trust that God sees what they’ve done and can leave justice in God’s hands!
I’ve often found this quote interesting:
In the same way they consider that the spiritual punishment, that is to say the torture and punishment of existence, is to be subjected to the world of nature, to be veiled from God, to be brutal and ignorant, to fall into carnal lusts, to be absorbed in animal frailties; to be characterized with dark qualities, such as falsehood, tyranny, cruelty, attachment to the affairs of the world, and being immersed in satanic ideas; for them, these are the greatest punishments and tortures. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i World Faith, p. 324)
Try to look at your father and brother and see how many of these apply to their lives.
- subjected to the world of nature
- veiled from God
- brutal and ignorant
- fallen into carnal lusts
- absorbed in animal frailties
- characterized with dark qualities such as
- attachment to the affairs of the world
- immersed in satanic ideas
If so, these are among their spiritual punishments.
I love this quote by Bahá’u’lláh. It seems to offer us a step-by-step process we can use to stay close to Him. I think if we can remember to take all of these steps every day, we can be prevented from engaging in negative interactions with others:
Deprive not yourselves of the unfading and resplendent Light that shineth within the Lamp of Divine glory. Let the flame of the love of God burn brightly within your radiant hearts. Feed it with the oil of Divine guidance, and protect it within the shelter of your constancy. Guard it within the globe of trust and detachment from all else but God, so that the evil whisperings of the ungodly may not extinguish its light. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 325)
The steps are:
- let the flame of the love of God burn brightly within your radiant hearts.
- feed it with the oil of Divine guidance
- protect it within the shelter of your constancy
- guard it within the globe of trust and detachment from all else but God, so that the evil whisperings of the ungodly may not extinguish its light.
How has this helped your understanding of this topic? Post your comments here: