In this series, we’re looking at fault-finding, blame and criticizing others.
The first thing to know is that others will attack us! We can expect this. ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:
All who stand up in the cause of God will be persecuted and misunderstood. It hath ever been so, and will ever be. Let neither enemy nor friend disturb your composure, destroy your happiness, deter your accomplishment. Rely wholly upon God. Then will persecution and slander make you the more radiant. The designs of your enemies will rebound upon them. They, not you, will suffer. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Crisis and Victory, p. 137)
A large multitude of people will arise against you, showing oppression, expressing contumely and derision, shunning your society, and heaping upon you ridicule. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Crisis and Victory, p. 137)
Therefore, my purpose is to warn and strengthen you against accusations, criticisms, revilings, and derision . . . Be not disturbed by them. They are the very confirmation of the Cause, the very source of upbuilding to the Movement. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 428-430)
Fortunately (or unfortunately!), most of us have already experienced blame, judgement and fault-finding, starting when we were children. Our parents might have said thoughtless things like:
- You’re no good
- You’ll never amount to anything.
- You never do anything right
Then we might have gone to school and heard things like:
- You’re lazy
- You’re stupid
These negative comments might become so familiar we might have married someone who tells us the same things in the form of:
- You don’t work hard enough
- You don’t look good enough
- You can’t do anything right
When we listen to these lies for years and believe them (because they come from people who are meant to love and protect us), we take them in and start believing them to be true. When we do, we’re taking someone else’s sin into every fiber of our being. We need help to stop doing this:
Women and children must be helped to avoid . . . blaming themselves, and accepting cultural rationales. (Baha’i International Community, 1994 May 26, Creating Violence-Free Families)
When someone dumps their issues on us in the form of blaming us for something; instead of taking a spiritual bath (realizing it’s their sin; and not letting our lower nature take over), we accept it and slide into gossip and backbiting. We tell others about “that mean thing he said about me”; encouraging them to agree with us that “that person is bad” . . . and none of this is from God!
If a bird defecates on us, we go home and wash it off. That’s what we need to do with accusations. The spiritual equivalent is to immerse ourselves in the Writings to learn and come back to the truth of who we are. The more we do this, the easier it is to cast off the accusations, because we know who we are.
Baha’u’llah tells us we are noble beings, rich in gems of inestimable value. That’s our reality. That’s a truth we can hold on to.
Noble have I created thee . . . (Bahá’u’lláh, Hidden Words Arabic 22).
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 260)
God came to make all things new.
Immeasurably exalted is the breeze that wafteth from the garment of thy Lord, the Glorified! For lo, it hath breathed its fragrance and made all things new! Well it is with them that comprehend. (Shoghi Effendi, The Promised Day is Come, p. 46)
When we make mistakes, we can remind ourselves that we may not be perfect, but we know we’re working on becoming better little by little, day by day, and God sees every effort we make, so there is no need for self-condemnation.
We have graciously accepted thy devotions, thy praise, thy teaching work and the services thou hast rendered for the sake of this mighty Announcement. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 245)
Moreover, although these insignificant amounts are not worthy of mention, they are well pleasing, since the donors offer them for the sake of God. If the offering be but a single grain it is regarded as the crowning glory of all the harvests of the world. (Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 490)
When someone accuses us of something, there are two possibilities: either it’s true or it’s not true. If it’s true, we can make a little adjustment and thank the person for bringing it to our attention. If it’s not true, it’s a little more complicated spiritually because we’re dealing with a betrayal which is similar to grief, so we also have to deal with rejection and bitterness.
When you’re accused of something, it brings up all kinds of fear: fear of the person who blamed you; fear of other people finding out; fear of rejection, failure, abandonment . . . all of which create veils between us and God.
When people slander us, accuse us, act against us (as they will), the Baha’i Faith gives us a standard to live up to:
Grieve not at the things that have befallen Thee, for erelong shall God raise up a people who will see with their own eyes and will recall Thy tribulations. (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 17)
Withhold Thy pen from the mention of Thine enemies, and bestir it in the praise of the Eternal King. (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 17)
Bahá’u’lláh has clearly said in His Tablets that if you have an enemy, consider him not as an enemy. Do not simply be long-suffering; nay, rather, love him. Your treatment of him should be that which is becoming to lovers. Do not even say that he is your enemy. Do not see any enemies. Though he be your murderer, see no enemy. Look upon him with the eye of friendship. Be mindful that you do not consider him as an enemy and simply tolerate him, for that is but stratagem and hypocrisy. To consider a man your enemy and love him is hypocrisy. This is not becoming of any soul. You must behold him as a friend. You must treat him well. This is right. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 267)
Here’s a story of how ‘Abdu’l-Bahá did it:
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)
We don’t have to take their accusations, or carry them in our physical, emotional, psychological beings. We don’t have to have fear, anger, bitterness or self-pity. We don’t have to repay evil for evil, or be affected by another person’s sin. We have a choice to recognize that all of these are emanating from our lower nature, detach from them, ask God’s forgiveness, forgive ourselves for entertaining these ideas, and move on with our day. It really is that simple!
Here are some other ideas:
1. Ignore rebuffs
We must never dwell too much on the attitudes and feelings of our fellow believers towards us. What is most important is to foster love and harmony and ignore any rebuffs we may receive; in this way the weakness of human nature and the peculiarity or attitude of any particular person is not magnified, but pales into insignificance in comparison with our joint service to the Faith we all love. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 116)
Don’t worry about the things others say about you:
By all these it is meant that thou must not be sorry and grieved because of these things the papers have written against thee; nay, rather trust in God and be unmoved by either the praise or the false accusations declared by people towards thee, depend entirely on God and exert thyself to serve His holy vineyard. All else save this is but imagination, though it be the praises of all people in thy behalf; because all else is of no result and bears no fruit. (Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdu’l-Baha v1, p. 158)
Therefore, my purpose is to warn and strengthen you against accusations, criticisms, revilings and derision in newspaper articles or other publications. Be not disturbed by them. They are the very confirmation of the Cause, the very source of upbuilding to the Movement. (Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 429)
2. Show forth love and affection
The more they deride and blame thee, show thou forth the greater love and affection. Do not look upon their shortcomings. Look thou upon all of them as the people of God and endeavor thou in right-doing and well-meaning. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 504-505)
. . . show to alien souls this same loving kindness ye bestow upon your faithful friends. Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any heap his blame upon you, be ye a healing salve unto his sores; should any taunt and mock at you, meet him with love. Should any heap his blame upon you, praise ye him; should he offer you a deadly poison, give him the choicest honey in exchange; and should he threaten your life, grant him a remedy that will heal him evermore. Should he be pain itself, be ye his medicine; should he be thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 34)
3. Seek God’s approval instead of worrying about what others are saying or doing to hurt us:
Man must seek to gain the acceptance of God and not that of the different classes of men. If one is praised and chosen by God, the accusation of all the creatures will cause no loss to him; and if the man is not accepted in the threshold of God, the praise and admiration of all men will be of no use to him. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 158)
It’s not our job to fix the problem or defend ourselves against their accusations. God sees the truth. God will take care of the justice. God will protect and defend us if we’ll let Him.
Whatever hath befallen you, hath been for the sake of God. This is the truth, and in this there is no doubt. You should, therefore, leave all your affairs in His Hands, place your trust in Him, and rely upon Him. He will assuredly not forsake you. In this, likewise, there is no doubt. No father will surrender his sons to devouring beasts; no shepherd will leave his flock to ravening wolves. He will most certainly do his utmost to protect his own. If, however, for a few days, in compliance with God’s all-encompassing wisdom, outward affairs should run their course contrary to one’s cherished desire, this is of no consequence and should not matter. Our intent is that all the friends should fix their gaze on the Supreme Horizon, and cling to that which hath been revealed in the Tablets. (Bahá’u’lláh, Crisis & Victory, p. 171)
Here’s a prayer we can say, asking God to protect us:
O my Lord! Make Thy protection my armor, Thy preservation my shield, humbleness before the door of Thy oneness my guard, and Thy custody and defense my fortress and my abode. (‘Abdul-Bahá, Baha’i Prayers, p. 135)
For more articles in this series:
Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation . . . :