One of my readers told me:
A girl from my building with whom I had not spoken for at least 2 yrs, was IN my life big time last week… until a blowout when she asked me to take her to a pawn shop to get money for beer (yea! then I remembered why we hadn’t spoken for yrs! She is a very mean & nasty drunk). Anyway, when I said I was ready she had already left so I said why ask me then then go by yourself anyway? (I felt confused, used, then abused & told her I didn’t appreciate her screaming at me & telling me to F.O.) She said she’s so sick & going die soon anyway & needs space.
What follows is my dialogue with her. I hope you might find it helpful for similar situations in your life!
The spiritual principles that come to mind are:
Ask yourself – is she a tyrant, traitor or thief?
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)
For more information, please see Showing Kindness to a Liar, Traitor or Thief
It sounds like she could be, so even if you don’t show kindness, it’s still important to be truthful:
Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired. (Bahá’u’lláh, Advent of Divine Justice, p. 22)
And set boundaries:
He hath let loose the two seas, that they meet each other: Between them is a barrier which they overpass not. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Prayers, p. 106)
As the quote on truthfulness suggests, there can’t be any progress in your relationship to her without first being truthful. At the same time, you are two people and between them is a “barrier” which you have a right to remain intact.
So what might that look like in this situation?
Perhaps say something like:
The other day when you asked me to take you to the pawn shop and then left without me I felt confused, used, then abused. I didn’t appreciate you screaming at me & telling me to F.O. I’m not willing to help you when you’re mean and nasty and won’t let myself be treated that way. Please contact me again when you can honor your word and treat me kindly.
I realize this will take a LOT of courage, as well as develop other virtues, so as difficult as it may seem, it’s important to take action.
Bahá’í consultation is not an easy process. It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179-180)
You might find that a note or email is easier!
The second thing that comes to mind is the story of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá and how He treated people who were mean to Him:
Hear how he treats his enemies. One instance of many I have heard will suffice. When the Master came to ‘Akká there lived there a certain man from Afghanistan [Haji Siddiq], an austere and rigid Mussulman [Muslim]. To him the Master was a heretic. He felt and nourished a great enmity towards the Master, and roused up others against him. When opportunity offered in gatherings of the people, as in the Mosque, he denounced him with bitter words.
‘This man,’ he said to all, ‘is an imposter. Why do you speak to him? Why do you have dealings with him?’ And when he passed the Master on the street he was careful to hold his robe before his face that his sight might not be defiled. Thus did the Afghan. The Master, however, did thus: The Afghan was poor and lived in a mosque; he was frequently in need of food and clothing. The Master sent him both. These he accepted, but without thanks. He fell sick. The Master took him a physician, food, medicine, money. These, also, he accepted; but as he held out one hand that the physician might take his pulse, with the other he held his cloak before his face that he might not look upon the Master. For twenty-four years the Master continued his kindnesses and the Afghan persisted in his enmity.
Then at last one day the Afghan came to the Master’s door, and fell down, penitent and weeping, at his feet. ‘Forgive me, sir!’ he cried. ‘For twenty-four years I have done evil to you, for twenty-four years you have done good to me. Now I know that I have been in the wrong.’ The Master bade him rise, and they became friends. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Centre of the Covenant, p. 101)
Ask yourself: are there things you can do to help her without necessarily having contact with her?
The third thing to keep in mind is that while offense was definitely made when she yelled at you, your job is to not take offense:
Thus no member should ever allow himself to be prevented from expressing frankly his view because it may offend a fellow member; and, realizing this, no member should take offence at another member’s statements. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 179-180)
And not to breathe her sins to anyone:
Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words, 27)
It’s OK that you shared it with me, because your motive was consultation and clarity, but you’ll have to keep silent about her character with your neighbours.
Next you told me:
OK A few minutes ago she’s at my door with a gift & $10 for my son for Xmas & this letter!
I can see the importance of asking for a reality check. I need to stop and pray again about how to respond.
It would be very easy to judge her as being:
Trying to put myself in your shoes, without taking offence, I see that:
- She’s trying to share her truth with you and set her own boundaries
- She’s trying to explain why she yelled and asked you to FO
- She’s trying to explain her circumstances
- She’s trying to ask for forgiveness
- She’s trying to tell you she loves you
- She’s trying to be ‘Abdu’l-Bahá-like by giving you a present for your son (in the spirit of the above story)
If she takes her life, you WILL NOT be to blame; nor will you be the cause. She alone has the power to make that decision; and she alone will be accountable to God for her choices.
For more information, please see this article – Suicide
The good news (for you) is that she’s also asking for alone time to make herself as comfortable as possible, and she’s giving you some clues about how you can help her (prepare some meals and take them to her)
Your concerns include:
- Boundary setting – I hope I’ve given you a perspective to consider above.
- ‘Allowing’ a person like this in my life – You don’t have that much power! The Bab tells us:
Whatever God hath willed hath been, and that which He hath not willed shall not be. (The Bab, Baha’i Prayers, p. 131)
We know that God sends us tests for the perfection of our souls:
You are encouraged to continue to keep in mind the spiritual dimension of your struggles. We are assured by ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in the following words: The more difficulties one sees in the world the more perfect one becomes. The more you plough and dig the ground the more fertile it becomes. The more you cut the branches of a tree the higher and stronger it grows. The more you put the gold in the fire, the purer it becomes. The more you sharpen the steel by grinding the better it cuts. Therefore, the more sorrows one sees the more perfect one becomes. That is why, in all times, the Prophets of God have had tribulations and difficulties to withstand. The more often the captain of a ship is in the tempest and difficult sailing the more greater his knowledge becomes. Therefore I am happy that you have had great tribulations and difficulties . . . Strange it is that I love you and still I am happy that you have sorrows. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, vol. XIV, no. 2, p. 41)
- What the heck is it about me attracting this?!?!
My hunch is that as a Bahá’í, you are uniquely positioned to forgive her, love her and help her die.
Once when ‘Abdu’l-Bahá was asked, ‘What is a Bahá’í?‘, He replied, ‘To be a Bahá’í simply means to love all the world; to love humanity and try to serve it; to work for universal peace and universal brotherhood.’ (Honnold, Annamarie, Vignettes from the Life of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 95)
It reminds me of a story:
Lua Gestinger, one of the early Baha’is of America, tells of an experience she had in Akká. She had made the pilgrimage to the prison-city to see ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. One day He said to her that He was too busy today to call upon a friend of His who was very poor and sick. He wished Lua to go in His place. He told her to take food to the sick man and care for him as He had been doing.
Lua learned the address and immediately went to do as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had asked. She felt proud that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá had trusted her with some of His own work. But soon she returned to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in a state of excitement. “Master,” she exclaimed, “You sent me to a very terrible place! I almost fainted from the awful smell, the dirty rooms, the degrading condition of that man and his house. I left quickly before I could catch some terrible disease.” Sadly and sternly, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá gazed at her. If she wanted to serve God, He told her, she would have to serve her fellow man, because in every person she should see the image and likeness of God. Then He told her to go back to the man’s house. If the house was dirty, she should clean it. If the man was dirty, she should bathe him. If he was hungry, she should feed him. He asked her not to come back until all of this was done. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá has done these things many times for this man, and he told Lua Getsinger that she should be able to do them once. This is how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá taught Lua to serve her fellow man. (Howard Colby Ives, Portals to Freedom, Chapter 6)
- I am ‘single, alone & lovely — er, I mean lonely’ but I didn’t think I was that desperate.
I think God is trying to show you an entirely new meaning of love.
- I DONT WANT THE DRAMA! What is the lesson?
It seems to me that you are caught up in her test and are being asked to find ways in your heart to be compassionate, loving and forgiving. These may be new behaviours and new ways of acting to these kinds of situations.
- Am I over-reacting by wanting to vomit & run?!?!
No, it’s your “fight or flight” kicking in. You tried “fight” when you tried talking to her, and her response has set you into “flight”
For more information, please see Fight, Flight or Freeze
Now God is taking you gently by the hand and saying: I want you to come from love and not from fear:
Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear. (Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, p. 58)
He’s asking you to detach from your fear, hurt, anger and judgments and turn to Him and trust Him:
Say to them that are of a fearful heart: be strong, fear not, behold your God . . . Well is it with him who hath been illumined with the light of trust and detachment. (Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 146)
It won’t be easy, and of course, it’s just my opinion, but hope it gives you another way to look at it!
Feel free to consult with me further about it. I realize what a challenge this test is!
How has this helped you see a situation you are dealing with differently? What spiritual advice would you have given her? Post your comments below!