In this series, we’re looking at fault-finding, blame and criticizing others.
There are ten things we need to be aware of, which will alert us that we are about to descend into fault-finding, blame and accusation.
1. Isolating yourself from others: if you find yourself isolating from other people, it’s your lower nature’s plan and not the plan of God. You don’t have to agree with it. Disagree and get yourself back out there relating to other people.
2. Suspicious and Mistrustful: If you find yourself suspicious or distrustful of someone’s motives or intent (including your own); or questioning their motives.
I have expounded these things for you, for the conservation and protection of the teachings of Bahá’u’lláh, in order that you may be informed, lest any souls shall deceive you and lest any souls shall cause suspicion among you. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 323-324)
3. Holding others to their past failures, thoughts, beliefs; always judging them in terms of the past; never letting them forget that they hurt you or did something you think was wrong. This is just a waste of time and energy. Shoghi Effendi tells us to put the past behind:
When criticism and harsh words arise within a Bahá’í community there is no remedy except to put the past behind one and persuade all concerned to turn over a new leaf, and, for the sake of God and His Faith, refrain from mentioning the subjects which have led to misunderstanding and inharmony. (Shoghi Effendi, Directives of the Guardian, pp. 17-18)
Forgive them, give them a chance to take responsibility for their past. You won’t ever be able to live in the present and have a relationship with them if you don’t forgive their past. How many times do you forgive? A hundred-thousand:
. . . if a person falls into errors for a hundred-thousand times he may yet turn his face to you, hopeful that you will forgive his sins; for he must not become hopeless, neither grieved nor despondent. This is the conduct and the manner of the people of Bahá’. This is the foundation of the most high pathway! (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 436)
4. Establishing standards for other people to attain. If someone doesn’t do what we want or how we want it done, we accuse them of being selfish or lazy. For example, sometimes I look at other Baha’is who are gossiping and it irritates me. I don’t see how they can call themselves Baha’is and continually talk about other people. In my mind, I condemn and judge and in my actions, I distance myself from them because I don’t want to be their next victim. I myself am trying hard not to backbite, so I assume everyone else is or should be striving to do this too. I forget that there is an ocean to Baha’u’llah’s revelation, and it’s entirely possible that the other person is struggling just as hard as I am, with a different law. Because I’ve distanced myself from him, I’ll never know . . .
5. Gossip, backbiting and innuendo all murder a person’s reputation with the tongue. “Abdu’l-Bahá describes what we might find ourselves saying:
. . . whenever we wish to put on a show of wisdom and learning, of virtue and godliness, we set about mocking and reviling this one and that. “The ideas of such a one,” we say, “are wide of the mark, and so-and-so’s behavior leaves much to be desired. The religious observances of Zayd are few and far between, and Amr is not firm in his faith. So-and-so’s opinions smack of Europe. Fundamentally, Blank thinks of nothing but his own name and fame. Last night when the congregation stood up to pray, the row was out of line, and it is not permissible to follow a different leader. No rich man has died this month, and nothing has been offered to charity in memory of the Prophet. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 56)
6. Misunderstanding and accusing others of things that aren’t true. Perhaps someone just didn’t understand. This sounds simple but it’s very profound. When we make judgments and jump to conclusions, it’s generally that we don’t have the whole story. We don’t have the whole picture, either from someone else or from God.
In every suffering one can find a meaning and a wisdom. But it is not always easy to find the secret of that wisdom. It is sometimes only when all our suffering has passed that we become aware of its usefulness. What man considers to be evil turns often to be a cause of infinite blessings. And this is due to his desire to know more than he can. God’s wisdom is, indeed, inscrutable to us all, and it is no use pushing too far trying to discover that which shall always remain a mystery to our mind. (Shoghi Effendi, Unfolding Destiny, p. 434)
For example: as a child I begged God to make the abuse stop, and it didn’t, so I stopped believing in God. Years later I realized that I hadn’t abused my own child, thereby breaking the cycle of abuse that had been in my family for generations. God had stopped the abuse forever, instead of just in the moment. As a result, it had a much bigger impact. Instead of the abused (me) becoming the abuser; the cycle has been broken for eternity. As a child I misunderstood God’s timetable; and the ways in which He answers prayer.
Day by day the realization deepens in all conscious men and women that in this age new forces are seeking expression – forces so mighty that the difference between understanding and misunderstanding is the immediate crisis between the alternatives of a new, worldwide and spiritualized civilization and a further, even more disastrous undoing of the things that are. It is upon the plane of understanding that the power of the Bahá’í writings operates, in that are of being which lies beyond the personal desire, the personal thought, the personal will. Their operation is to restore in the individual, whatever his race, class, creed, profession or temperament, that eternal vision of the oneness of God whose evolving expression is directly the development of the soul, and indirectly the harmonious organization of mankind. (Compilations, Baha’i Scriptures, p. v-vi)
Often these trials and tests which all Bahá’í Communities inevitably pass through seem terrible, at the moment, but in retrospect we understand that they were due to the frailty of Human nature, to misunderstanding, and to the growing pains which every Bahá’í community must experience. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 601)
7. Judging others for the same behavior we have ourselves and excusing ourselves while accusing others; trying to become a “condemning god” in other people’s lives; trying to tell them what to do all the time; telling them what is wrong with them all the time
8. Tearing down someone else so you will look better; exalting yourself over another
Human society at present exerts a pernicious influence upon the soul of man. Instead of allowing him to live a life of service and sacrifice, it is highly competitive and teaches him to pride himself on his accomplishments. From early childhood he is trained to develop his ego and to seek to exalt himself above others, in the ultimate aim of achieving self-importance, success and power. The Revelation of Bahá’u’lláh aims to reverse this process. The soul of man needs to be adorned with the virtues of humility and self-effacement so that it may become detached from the Kingdom of Names. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Baha’u’llah, p. 22)
Know ye not why We created you all from the same dust? That no one should exalt himself over the other. Ponder at all times in your hearts how ye were created. Since We have created you all from one same substance it is incumbent on you to be even as one soul, to walk with the same feet, eat with the same mouth and dwell in the same land, that from your inmost being, by your deeds and actions, the signs of oneness and the essence of detachment may be made manifest. Such is My counsel to you, O concourse of light! Heed ye this counsel that ye may obtain the fruit of holiness from the tree of wondrous glory. (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 68)
9. Self-pity: If we find ourselves saying things like “poor me”, or blaming others and their behavior for our problems, we’re probably accusing someone of something, in order to make us the victim.
Don’t confuse feelings with reality. Just because we feel unloved or unlovable because of things others have said about us, does not mean these beliefs are real. If a thought makes us feel bad, it’s always coming from the lower nature. It’s always a lie, and can be used as a “red flag” to alert us to danger, so we can quickly turn our thoughts around.
10. Exploiting the weaknesses of others: Our lower nature uses the weaknesses of others to justify our own righteousness, so we’ll often go after the people we know the best. We know the weaknesses of the people we spend the most time with. For example, you might find yourself saying things like: “Look at how wrong my spouse is. She never . . . (fill in the blank); He always . . . (fill in the blank).
If someone else’s behaviour bothers you that much, you probably have that trait too, which is why Baha’u’llah tells us:
. . . magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 44)
The fault we accuse others of having, we probably have as well and just aren’t seeing it. An expression that always helps me is to remember that when I’m pointing a finger at someone else, there are 3 fingers pointing back at me (try it right now – point your finger and look at the 3 fingers folded into the palm of your hand, pointing back at you!) In this way, you can use the faults of others to shine a light on your own; to bring you back to focusing on your own faults.
Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself! What are my imperfections? — and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others… (‘Abdul-Bahá, Star of the West’, Volume 8, No. 10, p 138)
Know the truth and don’t waste time with strife. We don’t have to be accused and condemned by ourselves or others anymore. The Baha’i Writings tell us quite clearly not to give offense or take offence.
The members of an Assembly must learn to express their views frankly, calmly, without passion or rancour. They must also learn to listen to the opinions of their fellow members without taking offence or belittling the views of another. Bahá’í consultation is not an easy process. It requires love, kindliness, moral courage and humility. 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)
The only person’s opinion who matters is God’s.
To be approved of God alone should be one’s aim. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, Vol. 6, No. 6, p. 44)
… at all times seeking the approval of men is many times the cause of imperiling the approval of God. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of the West, June 24, 1915)
For more articles in this series:
Fault-Finding, Blame and Accusation . . . :