We know from the Writings that love casts out fear:
Love is a light that never dwelleth in a heart possessed by fear. (Baha’u’llah, The Four Valleys, p. 58)
When referring to the Báb, he mentioned that “love had cast out fear” (Dr. J.E. Esslemont, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 22)
We spoke earlier about the importance of faith, but did you know that:
The first sign of faith is love. (Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 337)
I found this quote extraordinary, particularly since God seems to have systematically removed everyone who might love me from my life. I lost my parents and siblings to estrangement caused by speaking out about my childhood abuse; my spouse to divorce caused by my inability to deal with my issues and his at the same time; potential mates due to excess childhood baggage on both sides; and my son who got too busy with his life to include me in it. With each loss, I’ve had nowhere to turn but to God’s love. It’s been the only constant, dependable, reliable and free source of love in my life. (Of course, my cats come pretty close but their love is not “free” in the sense that they’re expensive to maintain!)
Through this process, I realize I have no idea what it means to love. My parent’s love for me was violent and abusive; my husband’s love for me was conditional on my looking after him; potential spouse’s love for me was conditional on providing sex outside marriage; and my son’s love for me changed as he got older and didn’t need me any longer. My heart has been broken so many times, it was pretty closed off to both giving and receiving love. After the last potential husband left me, I described my heart to someone as hidden by a brick wall. As soon as I said these words, I realized I didn’t want to spend the rest of my life stuck there, especially as a Bahá’í, whose job is to love all the world and try to serve it!
The wonderful part of this story is that all these losses helped me to achieve my life’s purpose, which is to know and love God because I had to teach myself how to love from scratch.
Why is God’s Love so Important?
The Bahá’í Writings tell us that through this love we receive eternal life and become the living image of God:
Through this love [that flows from God to man] man is endowed with physical existence, until, through the breath of the Holy Spirit — this same love — he receives eternal life and becomes the image of the Living God. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 179)
And perhaps more importantly, it’s the origin of all the love in the world!
This love [that flows from God to man] is the origin of all the love in the world of creation. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 179)
If I wanted to learn to love others, I first had to learn to love God.
Love also gives healing to the sick, provides a balm to the wounded, and joy and consolation to the whole world. I was certainly in need of all of these!
There is nothing greater or more blessed than the Love of God! It gives healing to the sick, balm to the wounded, joy and consolation to the whole world, and through it alone can man attain Life Everlasting. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 82)
Why Does God Love Us?
John Ortberg, in his book “Love Beyond Reason”, (p. 179-180) says that:
There is in every human heart an inextinguishable desire to be someone’s prince, someone’s princess. We want to be beloved . . . This cry of our heart to be loved is only the faint echo of God’s desire to love us. Before you were ever born, you were beloved in the mind of God. This is the deepest secret to your identity.
The Bahá’í Writings tell us that God created us in His image because He loves us:
Veiled in My immemorial being and in the ancient eternity of My essence, I knew My love for thee; therefore I created thee, have engraved on thee Mine image and revealed to thee My beauty. (Bahá’u’lláh, Arabic Hidden Words 3)
He created us noble.
Noble I made thee . . . (Baha’u’llah, The Arabic Hidden Words 13)
He created us with a mine rich in gems of inestimable value.
Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 260).
This is the truth. Everything else we believe about ourselves is a lie.
John Ortberg continues:
God’s love cannot be earned or won, only gratefully embraced. Nothing you will ever do could make God love you more than he does right now: not greater achievement, not greater beauty, not wider recognition, not even greater levels of spirituality and obedience . . . Nothing you have ever done could make God love you any less; not any sin, not any failure, not any guilt, nor any regret. The irony is we spend our lives trying to earn the love that we can only receive when we admit our poverty of spirit . . . To learn to live in the love of God is the challenge of a life-time.
Learning to believe in God’s love isn’t easy!
We can’t love God if we don’t love ourselves. When we’re in this prison, we’re suffering from a breakdown in relationships, leading to separation and estrangement between us and God.
God often gets our attention by calling to us saying:
O Beloved of God!
When I meditated on this I found myself asking these questions:
- If I am the beloved of God what more do I need to achieve or prove or acquire?
- If I am the beloved of God, who else do I need to impress? What other ladder do I need to climb?
- If I am the beloved of God, what am I going to add to my resume that is going to top that?
John Ortberg suggests:
What if you were to make your life an experiment of living in the love of God? Every morning, when you wake up, let your fist words be “I am the beloved.” Each night, when you go to sleep, let your last words echo, “I am the beloved.” (John Ortberg, Love Beyond Reason, p. 182-183)
In case it’s hard (if not impossible) to get your head around God’s love for you, Bahá’u’lláh tells us how much we are loved:
Thy name is often mentioned in the presence of this Wronged One and the glances of Our loving-kindness and compassion are directed towards thee. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 174)
He knows us; He sees our efforts; and He loves us unconditionally:
Rejoice thou with great joy that We have remembered thee both now and in the past. Indeed the sweet savours of this remembrance shall endure and shall not change throughout the eternity of the Names of God, the Lord of mankind. We have graciously accepted thy devotions, thy praise, thy teaching work and the services thou hast rendered for the sake of this mighty Announcement. We have also hearkened unto that which thy tongue hath uttered at the meetings and gatherings. Verily thy Lord heareth and observeth all things. (Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 245)
God has given us ‘Abdul-Bahá, who loves each one of us too, and is continually praying for us. He tells us:
At all times do I speak of you and call you to mind. I pray unto the Lord, and with tears I implore Him to rain down all these blessings upon you, and gladden your hearts, and make blissful your souls, and grant you exceeding joy and heavenly delights…. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 37)
Verily I love thee with all my heart and pray for thee every eve and morn (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 112)
O maid-servant of God! Verily, I have not forgotten thee and will not forget thee. Trust thou in the love of Abdul-Bahá, for verily, nothing equals it. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 201)
It seems to me that ‘Abdu’l-Bahá is showing us how to put into practice, this teaching of Bahá’u’lláh:
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 5)
Because I see evidence for ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s love for me in these quotes, I want to love Him and turn to Him as my hero and role model.
And if you still need more earthly evidence of His love for us, just read any of the messages from the Universal House of Justice or even your National Spiritual Assembly, who always address us with great tenderness.
And if we find ourselves in need of potent prayers from the Universal House of Justice, all we have to do is write and ask them! We can write to the House at firstname.lastname@example.org and we can also address our prayer requests to the secretary of our NSA.
When we allow ourselves to be infected with the love of God, we will have a significant effect on the progress of the whole world. Shoghi Effendi used the image of leaven as a picture of contagion. Leaven is what happens when you add yeast to bread dough – it causes it to ferment and expand. In the spiritual realm, leaven produces an altering or transforming influence. God’s love for us has given us the ability to leaven the world, if only we are patient enough to recognize that the process is happening, unseen and unobserved.
Even though outwardly the number of the friends has not been increasing so rapidly, yet the spirit has not remained idle. The leaven of spirituality has been working, and when the time will come it will manifest itself in a sudden awakening. All that we need is a little more courage, perseverance and patience. There are many important men that are attentively watching the progress of the Faith but are reluctant to come forward and extend a helping hand. In time they will, and then we shall see the Cause of God spread by leaps and bounds. (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 430)
In a world the structure of whose political and social institutions is impaired, whose vision is befogged, whose conscience is bewildered, whose religious systems have become anemic and lost their virtue, this healing Agency, this leavening Power, this cementing Force, intensely alive and all-pervasive, has been taking shape, is crystallizing into institutions, is mobilizing its forces, and is preparing for the spiritual conquest and the complete redemption of mankind. Though the society which incarnates its ideals be small, and its direct and tangible benefits as yet inconsiderable, yet the potentialities with which it has been endowed, and through which it is destined to regenerate the individual and rebuild a broken world, are incalculable. (Shoghi Effendi, The World Order of Baha’u’llah, p. 195)
We have been Chosen by God
We have all known the pain of being on the outside, of not being wanted when they chose up teams, of being spurned by someone we love, or forgotten by someone we thoughts was a friend, or being held at arm’s length by someone in our family, maybe even our spouse. Now God tells us that He had chosen us! We are wanted by God, if by no one else! God claims us as part of His family.
For I say unto you that He has chosen you to be His messengers of love throughout the world, to be His bearers of spiritual gifts to man, to be the means of spreading unity and concord on the earth. Thank God with all your hearts that such a privilege has been given unto you. For a life devoted to praise is not too long in which to thank God for such a favour. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, p. 68)
From amongst all mankind hath He chosen you, and your eyes have been opened to the light of guidance and your ears attuned to the music of the Company above; and blessed by abounding grace, your hearts and souls have been born into new life. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 35)
O ye who are set aglow with the fire of God’s Love! Blessed are ye for having been chosen by God for His love, in this new age, and joy be to you for having been guided to the Great Kingdom! Verily, your Lord hath chosen you to show the path to the Kingdom of God, among the people. (Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 83)
This is a healing balm to those of us who have been abused or abandoned by others! Many of us were told that we were “chosen” for the abuse, or we came to believe that there was something on our foreheads that singled us out for victimhood. So the concept of being “chosen” doesn’t have positive connotations.
Then in school, many of us longed to “fit in”; to be “chosen” for friends; for people to play with at recess; to be picked for sports teams, and when we weren’t, we felt worthless and abandoned.
How great an honour it is, to know that we’ve been chosen by God! That He loves us and has plans for us. This is such an important part of our healing!
How I learned to love:
So how did I learn how to love? It started with this quote:
Love Me, that I may love thee. If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee. (Baha’u’llah, Hidden Words, Arabic 5)
This seemed like pretty good advice, not only in terms of my relationship to God but to other people too. I started to experiment with it by saying and doing loving things for people and watching their hearts soften towards me.
Then I had to look at the link between love and faith, as I worked through these questions. Maybe you can relate to some of them:
- How do we know that God is even there so we can love him, if we are sick, alone, estranged from our family, bankrupt, homeless and we’ve just been raped? Faith.
- How can we possibly believe in a loving God if we haven’t ever felt loved from our families; if we’ve grown up neglected and abused and have no foundation or training from loving parents? Faith.
- What if all of these calamites have happened AFTER we’ve recognized Bahá’u’lláh and done all the right things – pioneered, participated in the core activities, donated to the fund, paid our Huqúq, prayed and mediated every day and we are still marginalized from the society around us, and even worse, from the indifference of the Bahá’í community around us – raped, alone, abandoned, homeless, unemployed, bankrupt, sick, estranged from our families . . . ? Faith.
- How do we have faith when there is no love? When we feel abandoned by God, or worse, maybe cursed or punished? But for what crime? Faith.
These are questions many of us have asked at one time or another.
How do we start building faith from a place where we don’t feel loved?
There are no quick and easy answers to this question! I had to take myself back to the fundamental reason I became a Bahá’í – I believed that Bahá’u’lláh was who He claimed to be, and that He had the blueprint for humanity to get itself out of the mess it’s in, therefore I could probably find the answers in the Writings. Sure enough, I did!
It was amazing how by studying the Writings morning and night, I was led to answers to questions I didn’t even know I was grappling with! I wish I could distil what I’ve learned into an easy to follow recipe, but how can you see the ocean in a drop?
Everything I’ve written on my blog; or in my first book “Violence and Abuse: Reasons and Remedies” and here in this series of articles is an attempt to share what I’ve learned. Finding the answer is like trying to put together a puzzle without being able to look at the picture on the box!
One of the first teachings I had to understand was that God loved me and promised never to forsake me. I didn’t know what this meant, but I knew I could trust it:
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. (Bahá’u’lláh, Fire and Light, p. 10)
Then I needed to learn that I was trapped in the prison of self. I’d put myself there, and God was willing to show me where to find the key and the keyhole, so that I could set myself free.
It helped to learn that even the Manifestation of God grappled with questions such as these, as he poured out his heart to God:
Hast Thou decreed for me, O my God, any joy after this tribulation, or any relief to succeed this affliction, or any ease to follow this trouble? (Baha’u’llah: Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, Pages: 7-8)
It also helped me to understand that even the Manifestations of God, who had access to God’s love on a continual basis, also sometimes got tired and cried out in despair:
We must not only be patient with others, infinitely patient!, but also with our own poor selves, remembering that even the Prophets of God sometimes got tired and cried out in despair! (Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Baha’i Community, p. 456)
The following prayer gave me some hope that my present feelings might not persist:
My God, my Adored One, my King, my Desire! What tongue can voice my thanks to Thee? I was heedless, Thou didst awaken me. I had turned back from Thee, Thou didst graciously aid me to turn towards Thee. I was as one dead, Thou didst quicken me with the water of life. I was withered, Thou didst revive me. (Baha’u’llah, Prayers and Meditations, p. 264)
Shoghi Effendi’s warning helped too! Being a perfectionist, I didn’t want to be one of those Bahá’ís who failed their tests! In this quote I learned something about the Covenant and what happens when we don’t do our part:
Life is a constant struggle, not only against forces around us, but above all against our own “ego”. We can never afford to rest on our oars, for if we do, we soon see ourselves carried down stream again. Many of those who drift from the Cause do so for the reason that they had ceased to go on developing. They become complacent, or indifferent, and consequently cease to draw the spiritual strength and vitality from the Cause which they should have. Sometimes, of course, people fail because of a test they just to do not meet, and often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love. Generally speaking, nine-tenths of the Friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies, or in their personal lives. (Shoghi Effendi, Principles of Bahá’í Administration, p. 87-88)
Once I learned how to have a relationship with God and trust His love for me, I had to move on to establish loving relationships with other people as a means of getting rid of my fear.
Relationships with God at the Core:
I found this diagram very helpful in showing that the easiest way to get closer to another person is to get closer to God. Obviously this is easier if both parties believe in God and are willing to move towards Him! As the diagram below shows, the relationship would be closer than if neither partner was moving closer to God, but not nearly as close as it could be.
In any case, it’s not my job to get you to go closer to God; it’s my job to focus all my attention on developing my relationship to God, and trusting that you will too.
Each of us is responsible for one life only, and that is our own. Each of us is immeasurably far from being ‘perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect’ and the task of perfecting our own life and character is one that requires all our attention, our will- power and energy. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
If we allow our attention and energy to be taken up in efforts to keep others right and remedy their faults, we are wasting precious time. We are like ploughmen each of whom has his team to manage and his plough to direct, and in order to keep his furrow straight he must keep his eye on his goal and concentrate on his own task. If he looks to this side and that to see how Tom and Harry are getting on and to criticize their ploughing, then his own furrow will assuredly become crooked. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 92)
Having said that, without God in the equation, none of our relationships can be as strong as they could be; and in fact the glue that holds them together is not strong enough to hold.
But the love which sometimes exists between friends is not (true) love, because it is subject to transmutation; this is merely fascination. As the breeze blows, the slender trees yield. If the wind is in the East the tree leans to the West, and if the wind turns to the West the tree leans to the East. This kind of love is originated by the accidental conditions of life. This is not love, it is merely acquaintanceship; it is subject to change. Today you will see two souls apparently in close friendship; tomorrow all this may be changed. Yesterday they were ready to die for one another, today they shun one another’s society! This is not love; it is the yielding of the hearts to the accidents of life. When that which has caused this “love” to exist passes, the love passes also; this is not in reality love. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Paris Talks, pp. 179-181)
In her diary, Juliet Thompson quotes ‘Abdu’l-Bahá as using this analogy:
Now associate with good people. You must try to associate with those who will do you good and who will be the cause of your being more awakened, and not with those who will make you negligent of God. For example, if one goes into a garden and associates with flowers, one will surely inhale the beautiful fragrance, but if one goes to a place where there are bad-scented plants, it is sure he will inhale an unpleasant odour. In short, I mean that you will try to be with those who are purified and sanctified souls. Man must always associate with those from whom he can get light, or be with those to whom he can give light. He must either receive or give instructions. Otherwise, being with people without these two intentions, he is spending his time for nothing, and, by so doing, he is neither gaining nor causing others to gain. (The Diary of Juliet Thompson)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá further tells us the difference between associating with those who have God in their hearts:
True friends are even as skilled physicians, and the Teachings of God are as healing balm, a medicine for the conscience of man. They clear the head, so that a man can breathe them in and delight in their sweet fragrance. They waken those who sleep. They bring awareness to the unheeding, and a portion to the outcast, and to the hopeless, hope. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 23)
He further tells us:
When any souls grow to be true believers, they will attain a spiritual relationship with one another, and show forth a tenderness which is not of this world. They will, all of them, become elated from a draught of divine love, and that union of theirs, that connection, will also abide forever. Souls, that is, who will consign their own selves to oblivion, strip from themselves the defects of humankind, and unchain themselves from human bondage, will beyond any doubt be illumined with the heavenly splendours of oneness, and will all attain unto real union in the world that dieth not. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 84-85)
Without the love of God in our hearts, we will never be able to attain the standard the Faith sets before us for turning strangers into friends:
One of the teachings is that love and faithfulness must so prevail in the hearts that men may see the stranger as a friend, the sinner as an intimate fellow, may count enemies as allies, regard foes as loving comrades, call their executioner the giver of life, and consider the denier as a believer and the unbeliever as a faithful one — that is, men must behave in such a manner as may befit the believers, the faithful, the friend and the confidant. If this lamp may shine in a befitting manner in the assemblage of the world you will find that the regions will become fragrant and the world will become a delectable paradise, the surface of the earth will become an excellent garden, the world will become as one home, the different nations will become as one kind, and the peoples and nationalities of the East and West will become as one household. I hope such a day will come and such lights may dawn and such a Countenance may appear in the utmost beauty. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Baha’i Scriptures, p. 479)
Spiritual relationships endure through all the worlds of God:
Bodily relationships may pass; even two sisters may be inimical to each other, but the spiritual relationship is eternal, and brings about mutual love and service. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá in London, p. 75)
Marriage should lead to a profound friendship of spirit, which will endure in the next world, where there is no sex, and no giving and taking in marriage; just the way we should establish with our parents, our children, our brothers and sisters and friends deep spiritual bond which will be ever-lasting, and not merely physical bonds of human relationship. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 206)
As we know from the short obligatory prayer, the purpose of every soul in this world is to know and worship God;
I bear witness, O my God, that Thou hast created me to know Thee and to worship Thee. (Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. 3)
When we say this prayer every day, and strive to implement it in our own lives, we can’t help but draw closer to God.
We also know that even after death, all souls continue to progress towards God.
And now concerning thy question regarding the soul of man and its survival after death. Know thou of a truth that the soul, after its separation from the body, will continue to progress until it attaineth the presence of God, in a state and condition which neither the revolution of ages and centuries, nor the changes and chances of this world, can alter. It will endure as long as the Kingdom of God, His sovereignty, His dominion and power will endure. It will manifest the signs of God and His attributes, and will reveal His loving kindness and bounty. (Bahá’u’lláh, Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 155-156)
Obviously there are many paths to God, and it’s even been said that “there are not atheists in foxholes”, meaning that when the tests get most severe, even an atheist will reach out to God. God doesn’t distinguish between Bahá’í or non-Bahá’í. Even when relationships are strained in this world, there is hope for closeness in the next world:
Are not all the people in that world the creatures of God? Therefore, in that world also they can make progress. As here they can receive light by their supplications, there also they can plead for forgiveness and receive light through entreaties and supplications. Thus as souls in this world, through the help of the supplications, the entreaties and the prayers of the holy ones, can acquire development, so is it the same after death. Through their own prayers and supplications they can also progress, more especially when they are the object of the intercession of the Holy Manifestations. (Adib Taherzadeh, The Covenant of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 17)
Those of us who are Bahá’í know that spiritual relationships are stronger than blood relationships:
The friends should … draw closer to each other, knowing that they form one spiritual family, closer to each other, in the sight of God, than those united by ties of blood. (From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi, 8 May, 1948).
This doesn’t mean that we won’t see our non-Bahá’í loved ones in the next world. Far from it, as ‘Abdu’l-Bahá tells us:
A love that one may have entertained for any one will not be forgotten in the world of the Kingdom. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v1, p. 205-206)
When family members are focused on God, there is more likely to be unity in a family, which will have a positive effect on the whole family:
Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquility, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 278)
On a practical level, Baha’u’llah gives us some guidance on how we can do this:
If any differences arise amongst you, behold Me standing before your face, and overlook the faults of one another for My name’s sake and as a token of your love for My manifest and resplendent Cause. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 315)
Forming friendships with those who think they can do it without God are to be avoided as a protection to ourselves:
Expect not that they who violate the ordinances of God will be trustworthy or sincere in the faith they profess. Avoid them, and preserve strict guard over thyself, lest their devices and mischief hurt thee. Turn away from them, and fix thy gaze upon God, thy Lord, the All-Glorious, the Most Bountiful. He that giveth up himself wholly to God, God shall, assuredly, be with him; and he that placeth his complete trust in God, God shall, verily, protect him from whatsoever may harm him, and shield him from the wickedness of every evil plotter. (Baha’u’llah, The Summons of the Lord of Hosts, p. 210)
A good test you can use is to ask yourself: after I have contact with this person, is my faith strengthened or weakened? Is my commitment to the laws of God strengthened or weakened?
Then act accordingly.
When we take Baha’u’llah’s injunctions seriously and to seek the company of the righteous, we will draw closer to God; have more unified relationships; and ensure happiness in all the worlds of God. I think that’s a good reason to put God at the core of all of our relationships. What do you think?
With regards to building friendships, I came across this quote and decided I had to put it into practice:
In fact, every one of the believers should choose one person every year and try to establish ties of friendship with him, so that all his fear would disappear. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, in The Individual and Teaching: Raising the Divine Call, p. 12)
I always pay attention to Writings that claim to be “a secret”. What child doesn’t love secrets? I’m certainly no exception! If God wants to tell me a secret, that’s pretty exciting!
Know thou of a certainty that Love is the secret of God’s holy Dispensation (Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 27)
I wondered what it meant that “love was the secret”? I decided to test it out in a variety of settings. What would happen if I responded with love to someone’s anger? What if, when someone speaks unkindly to me, I try responding by asking:
- Are you ok?
- Are you having a difficult day?
It’s amazing to watch their jaws drop and their face soften!
I put this approach to the test one day when I went to my local Postal Office. The lady serving me was extremely rude. Rather than responding in anger, I decided to try the loving approach. I went to the bakery across the street, bought a large chocolate cookie, returned to the Post Office, gave it to her, and wished her a great day. Ever since, she has been very nice to me.
Some cynics might call this manipulative and perhaps it was, but at the time, my intentions were pure. I was trying to put into practice what I was learning, with no expectation of results. I think that’s the key. We have to be loving without expecting a reward.
The guiding motive of the true Bábí must be pure love, without hope of reward or fear of punishment. (The Báb, Baha’u’llah and the New Era, p. 21)
While finding ways to be loving is its own reward, it’s also fun to see an immediate, tangible reward as a friend of mine discovered on a recent trip to Germany. Here is the story in her own words:
It was Sunday morning, and I stayed with my Persian friends. The wife encouraged me to have a walk along the river Rheine, which can be seen from their window on the third floor. The sun just came out this Sunday and the view was breath taking from the City of Mainz an old Bishop city with the Hugh DOM and many churches. So I went along the beautiful river Rheine past the side where opposite the river Main joins the river Rhein. Many people were out for running, walking and just enjoying the rare sun shine in Germany.
I said some prayers and decided to wish every single person a “Good Morning”. People responded happily. Nearly towards the end of my 2 hour walk a lady came walking rather fast with a little dog. When I said “Good morning” she immediately stopped, looked at me and said, do we know each other? So I responded: I do not know, but may be? She looked for a few seconds very intensively at me and then with a scream she said BARBARA! I looked at her as well, but didn’t recognize her until she mentioned my name. At this moment I knew who she was. She said since 10 years she has been looking for me, but all the friends she asked did not know where I was. We both lived in another city in earlier years and now we have met after 28 years again. It was 20 Years this September that I left Germany for Haifa. She lives now with her husband one block from my Baha’i friends. So we had a lot to catch up with. It only happened because I have decided to wish every single person a “good morning.” She was also the only one who asked me whether we know each other.
Recently I came across a letter I’d saved (I’ve moved so often it’s amazing to me that I kept it!). It was written from someone I shared a locker with in grades 7-9 (we were 12-14). I went looking for her on the internet and found her at a site called classmates.com. I sent her a message, but to get a message back I had to pay (and I’m too cheap); and she didn’t pay either – but somehow she got my name and started looking on the internet for me! She found my blog, learned where I lived and found my phone number (our phone company has the phone book online)! So she called me up and we caught up (she even knew how to say Baha’i correctly! She wants to hire me as a life coach!). So miracles abound when we act with love – and as I am reminded so often (from the quote in Ruhi book 1) – God’s bounties are constantly showering down on us and it’s our job to catch them.
The whole duty of man in this Day is to attain that share of the flood of grace which God poureth forth for him. (Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 8)
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