"Because the Most Great Peace is the object of our longing, a primary effort of the Baha'i community is to reduce the incidence of conflict and contention, which are categorically forbidden in the Most Holy Book."
(Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 14)
"...unity... is the alpha and omega of all Baha'i objectives."
(Universal House of Justice, May 19, 1994)
One of the purposes for the material presented here is to serve as an additional resource for Ruhi study circle participants studying Book 2, Arising to Serve, "Deepening Themes," Section 4, pages 35-43. See Table of Linked Contents below.
This compilation was assembled around 1996. A resource for further guidance on several of the matters dealt with here is the latest edition of Guidelines for Local Spiritual Assemblies: Developing Distinctive Baha'i Communities.
Members of the Baha'i community of the United States of America may download it for free at www.usbnc.org.
TABLE OF LINKED CONTENTS
1-5) Why God has given us the gift of speech.
6-16) How we should regard backbiting, slander, calumny, and gossip.
17-18) What if the things being said about others are true—is it still backbiting?
19-26) What the Baha'i Writings say about fault-finding and negative criticism of others.
27-29) What are the results of backbiting?
30-33) How can we learn not to concern ourselves with the faults of others?
34-37) What course of action should we take if someone wants us to listen to backbiting?
38-40) What should be done if someone persists in attempting to make us listen to backbiting or engages in other flagrant conduct injurious to the community? Is reporting it to the institutions of the Faith backbiting?
41-44) What should be our response as an individual if we are the target of slander?
45-56) Quarreling, harsh criticism, and hurt feelings within a Baha'i community have serious implications.
57-66) How should problems of harsh words and disunity be dealt with if they occur in a Baha'i community?
67-75) How should the friends express themselves in relating to the institutions of the Faith?
76-79) How should the Assemblies relate to the friends?
80-100) How can an individual go about refining the power of speech?
101-105) What about the value of silence?
106-114) The Baha'i writings explain what our speech should be like in relation to our actions.
Note: The headings, the numbers preceding the quotes and any words contained in brackets are from the compiler. The italics in extracts #12 and #59 are in the source material.
Saturday, June 6, 2009
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:58 PM
Why God has given us the gift of speech.
1) "O Emigrants! The tongue I have designed for the mention of Me, defile it not with detraction. If the fire of self overcome you, remember your own faults and not the faults of My creatures, inasmuch as every one of you knoweth his own self better than he knoweth others."
(Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden Words, No. 66)
2) "Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men. Lofty is the station of man!"
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp. 219-220)
3) "Glorified art Thou, 0 Lord my God! My tongue, both the tongue of my body and the tongue of my heart, my limbs and members, every pulsating vein within me, every hair of my head, all proclaim that Thou art God, and that there is none other God beside Thee."
(Baha'u'llah, Prayers and Meditations, p. 112)
4) "I beg Thee to forgive me, 0 my Lord, for every mention but the mention of Thee, and for every praise but the praise of thee..."
(The Bab, Baha'i Prayers, Wilmette, 2002, p. 80)
5) 'Today it behoveth one and all to forgo the mention of all else, and to disregard all things. Let their speaking, let their inner state be summed up thus: "Keep all my words of prayer and praise confined to one refrain; make all my life but servitude to Thee." That is, let them concentrate all their thoughts, all their words, on teaching the Cause of God and spreading the Faith of God, and inspiring all to characterize themselves with the characteristics of God; on loving mankind; on being pure and holy in all things, and spotless in their public and private life; on being upright and detached, and fervent, and afire. All is to be dispraised, except His praise. Today, to this melody of the Company on high, the world will leap and dance: "Glory be to my Lord, the All-Glorious!" But know ye this: save for this song of God, no song will stir the world, and save for this nightingale-cry of truth from the Garden of God, no melody will lure away the heart. "Whence cometh this Singer Who speaketh the Beloved's name?"'
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 93)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:57 PM
How we should regard backbiting, slander, calumny, and gossip.
6 ) "That seeker should regard backbiting as grievous error and keep himself aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul."
(Baha'u'llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 193)
7) "Ye have been forbidden to commit murder or adultery, or to engage in backbiting or calumny; shun ye, then, what hath been prohibited in the holy Books and Tablets."
(Baha’u'llah, Kitab-i-Aqdas, p. 26)
8) "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, Arabic Hidden Words, No. 27)
9) "O People of Baha! Ye are the dawning-places of the love of God and the daysprings of His loving-kindness. Defile not your tongues with the cursing and reviling of any soul, and guard your eyes against that which is not seemly. Set forth that which ye possess. If it be favourably received, your end is attained; if not, to protest is vain. Leave that soul to himself and turn unto the Lord, the Protector, the Self-Subsisting."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp. 27 & 129)
10) "Purge your hearts from love of the world, and your tongues from calumny, and your limbs from whatsoever may withhold you from drawing nigh unto God, the Mighty, the All-Praised. Say: By the world is meant that which turneth you aside from Him Who is the Dawning-Place of Revelation, and inclineth you unto that which is unprofitable unto you. Verily, the thing that deterreth you, in this day, from God is worldliness in its essence."
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 54)
11 ) "According to the direct and sacred command of God we are forbidden to utter slander, are commanded to show forth peace and amity, are exhorted to rectitude of conduct, straightforwardness, and harmony with all the kindreds and peoples of the world."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 8)
12) "... Thou hast written regarding thy aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Baha'o'llah would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity. I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects. This is the attribute of the children of the Kingdom. This is the conduct and manner of the real Baha'is. I hope that all the believers will attain to this lofty station."
(Abdu’l-Baha, "Star of the West," Vol. IV, No. 11, 192)
13) "Waste not your precious time in fault-finding and backbiting. Polish the surface of the mirrors of your hearts from the dross of human frailties. If you live according to the standard of other communities, then what difference does there exist between you and them?"
(Abdu’l-Baha, "Star of the West," Vol. V, No. 1, 5)
14) "Remember above all the teaching of Baha'u'llah concerning gossip and unseemly talk about others. Stories repeated about others are seldom good. A silent tongue is safest. Even good may be harmful if spoken at the wrong time or to the wrong person."
(Attributed to Abdu’l-Baha, Abdu'l-Baha in London, p. 125)
15) "As regards backbiting, i.e. discussing the faults of others in their absence, the teachings are very emphatic... The condemnation of backbiting could hardly be couched in stronger language... it is obviously one of the foremost obligations for Baha'is to set their faces against this practice."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National SpiritualAssembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)16) 'You are quite correct in your understanding of the importance of avoiding backbiting; such conduct strikes at the very unity of the Baha'i community. In a letter written to an individual believer on behalf of the Guardian it is stated: “If we are better, if we show love, patience, and understanding of the weakness of others, if we seek to never criticize but rather encourage, others will do likewise, and we can really help the Cause through our example and spiritual strength.”'
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:55 PM
What if the things being said about others are true—is it still backbiting?
17) "Even if what is said against another person be true, the mentioning of his faults to others still comes under the category of backbiting, and is forbidden."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)
18) "You ask in your letter for guidance on the implications of the prohibition on backbiting and more specifically whether, in moments of anger or depression, the believer is permitted to turn to his friends to unburden his soul and discuss his problem in human relations. Normally, it is possible to describe the situation surrounding a problem and seek help and advice in resolving it, without necessarily mentioning names. The individual believer should seek to do this, whether he is consulting a friend, Baha'i or non-Baha'i, or whether the friend is consulting him. Abdu'l-Baha does not permit adverse criticism of individuals by name in discussion among the friends, even if the one criticizing believes that he is doing so to protect the interests of the Cause."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)[See also #39.]
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:54 PM
What the Baha'i Writings and authoritative texts say about fault-finding and negative criticism of others.
19) "How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me."
(Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words, No. 26)
20) "If ye become aware of a sin committed by another, conceal it, that God may conceal your own sin. He, verily, is the Concealer, the Lord of grace abounding."
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 55)
21) "O Essence of Desire! At many a dawn have I turned from the realms of the Placeless unto thine abode, and found thee on the bed of ease busied with others than Myself. Thereupon, even as the flash of the spirit, I returned to the realms of celestial glory and breathed it not in My retreats above unto the hosts of holiness."
(Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden Words, No. 28)
22) "O Companion of My Throne! Hear no evil, and see no evil, abase not thyself, neither sigh and weep. Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great; and wish not the abasement of anyone, that thine own abasement be not exposed. Live then the days of thy life, that are less than a fleeting moment, with thy mind stainless, thy heart unsullied, thy thoughts pure, and thy nature sanctified, so that, free and content, thou mayest put away this mortal frame, and repair unto the mystic paradise and abide in the eternal kingdom for evermore."
(Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden Words, No. 44)
23) "Beware lest ye harm any soul, or make any heart to sorrow; lest ye wound any man with your words, be he known to you or a stranger, be he friend or foe. Pray ye for all; ask ye that all be blessed, all be forgiven. Beware, beware, lest any of you seek vengeance, even against one who is thirsting for your blood. Beware, beware lest ye offend the feelings of another, even though he be an evil-doer, and he wish you ill. Look ye not upon the creatures, turn ye to their Creator."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 73)
24) 'One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task.
It happened one day in the time of Christ—may the life of the world be a sacrifice unto Him—that He passed by the dead body of a dog, a carcass reeking, hideous, the limbs rotting away. One of those present said. "How foul its stench!" And another said: "How sickening! How loathsome!" To be brief, each one of them had something to add to the list.
But then Christ Himself spoke, and He told them: "Look at that dog's teeth! How gleaming white!"
The Messiah's sin-covering gaze did not for a moment dwell upon the repulsiveness of that carrion. The one element of that dead dog's carcass which was not abomination was the teeth: and Jesus looked upon their brightness.
Thus is it incumbent upon us, when we direct our gaze toward other people, to see where they excel, not where they fail.'
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 169)
25) "Even though we find a defective branch or leaf upon this tree of humanity or an imperfect blossom, it, nevertheless, belongs to this tree and not to another. Therefore, it is our duty to protect and cultivate this tree until it reached perfection. If we examine its fruit and find it imperfect, we must strive to make it perfect. There are souls in the human world who are ignorant; we must make them knowing. Some growing upon the tree are weak and ailing; we must assist them toward health and recovery. If they are as infants in development, we must minister to them until they attain maturity. We should never detest and shun them as objectionable and unworthy. We must treat them with honor, respect and kindness; for God has created them... In brief, all humanity must be looked upon with love, kindness and respect; for what we behold in them are none other than the signs and traces of God Himself. All are evidences of God..."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 230-231)
26) "Vicious criticism is indeed a calamity. But its root is lack of faith in the system of Baha'u'llah, i.e., the Administrative Order—and lack of obedience to Him—for He has forbidden it! If the Baha'is would follow the Baha'i laws in voting, in electing, in serving and in abiding by Assembly decisions, all this waste of strength through criticizing others could be diverted into cooperation and achieving the Plan..."
(From a letter written in behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, December 18, 1949)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:53 PM
What are the results of backbiting?
27) "O beloved of the Lord! If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 230-231)
28) "...When a difficulty is brought out into the daylight and freely discussed by a duly authorized and responsible group of people who are sincerely desirous of finding the best solution and are free from prejudice or personal motive, then there is a good chance of overcoming it, but discussions of the faults of others, behind their backs by unauthorized people who have no authority to take action in the matter, is surely one of the most fertile causes—probably THE most fertile cause—of disunity, and the importance of putting an end to this practice should be impressed on all Baha'is."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, followed by an extract from the Guardian's postscript, February 11, 1925)29) "If Baha'i individuals deliberately ignore the principles embedded in the Order which Baha'u’llah Himself has established to remedy divisiveness in the human family, the Cause for which so much has been sacrificed will surely be set back in its mission to rescue world society from complete disintegration."
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 16)[See also #34, #35, and #54.]
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:52 PM
How can we learn not to concern ourselves with the faults of others?
30) 'If we Baha’is cannot attain to cordial unity among ourselves, then we fail to realize the main purpose for which the Bab, Baha’u’llah, and the Beloved Master lived and suffered.
'In order to achieve this cordial unity one of the first essentials insisted on by Baha'u'llah and Abdu'l-Baha is that we resist the natural tendency to let our attention dwell on the faults and failings of others rather than on our own. Each of us is responsible for one life 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. If we allow our attention 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.
'On no subject are the Baha’i teachings more emphatic than on the necessity to abstain from faultfinding and backbiting while being ever eager to discover and root out our own faults and overcome our own failings.'
(From a letter dated 12 May 1925 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
31) "Baha’u’llah also recognizes that human beings are fallible. He knows that, in our weakness, we shall repeatedly stumble when we try to walk in the path He has pointed out to us.
"If all human beings became perfect the moment they accepted the call of Baha’u’llah this world would be another world. It is in the light of our frailty that Abdu’l-Baha appealed to the friends everywhere to love each other and stressed the emphatic teaching of Baha'u'llah that each of us should concentrate upon improving his or her own life and ignore the faults of others. How many times the Master stressed the need for unity, for without it His Father's Cause could not go forward."
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated July 24, 1973, to an individual believer)32) 'As to backbiting, the House of Justice points out that learning not to concern oneself with the faults of others seems to be one of the most difficult lessons for people to master, and that failing in this is a fertile cause of disputes among Baha’is as it is among men and women in general. In 'Star of the West', Volume 8, No. 10, on page 138, there is a record of a reply given by Abdu'l-Baha in a private interview in Paris in 1913. He was asked "How shall I overcome seeing the faults of others—recognizing the wrong in others?", and He replied: "I will tell you. 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..."'
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, August 13, 1980)
33) 'You also ask what one should do to “handle depression and anger with someone" one feels “very positively about." The Universal House of Justice suggests that you call to mind the admonitions found in our Writings on the need to overlook the shortcomings of others, to forgive and conceal their misdeeds, not to expose their bad qualities, but to search for and affirm their praiseworthy ones, and endeavour to be always forbearing, patient, and merciful.'
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:51 PM
What course of action should we take if someone wants us to listen to backbiting?
34) "If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honor of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly an the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.
"If, however, a person setteth about speaking well of another, opening his lips to praise another, he will touch an answering chord in his hearers and they will be stirred up by the breathings of God. Their hearts and souls will rejoice to know that, God be thanked, here is a soul in the Faith who is the focus of human perfections, a very embodiment of the bounties of the Lord, one whose tongue is eloquent, and whose face shineth, in whatever gathering he may be, one who hath victory upon his brow, and who is being sustained by the sweet savours of God.
"Now which is the better way? I swear this by the beauty of the Lord: whensoever I hear good of the friends, my heart filleth up with joy; but whensoever I find even a hint that they are on bad terms one with another, I am overwhelmed by grief. Such is the condition of Abdu'l-Baha. Then judge from this where your duty lieth."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 231)
35) 'If some people come to thee alone complaining against each other, don't listen to them, don't let them breathe the faults of others in thy presence. Tell them: “I have not come here to engage my time with these things. I am not a judge. I have come to summon the people to the Kingdom of Abha, to call you to unity and accord, to raise the dead, make mindful those who are unaware, awaken those who are asleep, breathe new life into the mouldering bones and sound the trumpet of resurrection! Friends! It is high time for you to throw away these tales, these barren stories. God is not pleased with them, humanity is not pleased with them, Your time is too costly to be expended on these trifling events. You are made in the image and likeness of God. Your birthright is more valuable than all the treasures of the empires. Arise with heart and soul and let not these golden days slip by without results! This day is the day of the splendors of the Sun of Reality! This day is the day of the Lord of the Kingdom! This day is the day of the fulfillment of glorious promises! This day is the day of joy and fragrance!"
'Petty bickerings and jealousies make one lose all the traces of spirituality, excommunicate a person from the divine company of the worthy ones, submerge one in the sea of phantasms, suffer one to become cold and pessimistic and throw him headlong into the depths of despair and helplessness! You must not listen to anyone speaking about another; because no sooner do you listen to one than you must listen to someone else, and thus the circle will be enlarged endlessly. Therefore, say to them: "O friends! Let us come together, forget all our self-thoughts and be in one accord, and cry at the top of our voices, 'Ya-Baha-El-Abha!'"'
(Abdu’l-Baha, "Star of the West," Vol. V, No. 1, p. 6)
36) "It is obvious that if we listen to those who complain to us about the faults of others we are guilty of complicity in their backbiting. We should therefore, as tactfully as possible, but yet firmly, do our utmost to prevent others from making accusations or complaints against others in our presence."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to the National Spiritual Assembly of the British Isles, February 11, 1925)37) "The friends should understand that they should not only cease backbiting and gossiping, but should cease listening to others who fall into this sin. Ignoring gossip and slander is a positive, constructive and healing action helpful to the community, the gossiper and to the persons slandered."
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated September 21, 1965, to a National Spiritual Assembly)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:50 PM
What should be done if someone persists in attempting to make others listen to backbiting or engages in other flagrant conduct injurious to tie community? Is reporting it to the institutions of the Faith backbiting?
38) "While it can be a severe test to a Baha'i to see fellow believers violating Baha'i laws or engaging in conduct inimical to the welfare and best interests of the Faith, there is no fixed rule that a believer must follow when such conduct comes to his notice. A great deal depends upon the seriousness of the offense and upon the relationship which exists between him and the offender.
"If the misconduct is blatant and flagrant or threatens the interests of the Faith the believer to whose attention it comes should immediately report it to the Local Spiritual Assembly. Once it is in the hands of the Assembly the believer's obligation is discharged and he should do no more than pray for the offender and continue to show him friendship and encouragement - unless, of course, the Spiritual Assembly asks him to take specific action.
"Sometimes, however, the matter does not seem grave enough to warrant reporting to the Spiritual Assembly, in which case it may be best to ignore it altogether. There are also other things that can be done by the Baha'i to whose notice such things come. For example, he could foster friendly relations with the individual concerned, tactfully drawing him into Baha'i activities in the hope that, as his knowledge of the teachings and awareness of the Faith deepens, he will spontaneously improve his patterns of conduct. Or perhaps the relationship is such that he can tactfully draw the offender's attention to the teachings on the subject - but here he must be very careful not to give the impression of prying into a fellow-believer's private affairs or of telling him what he must do, which would not only be wrong in itself but might well produce the reverse of the desired reaction.
"If a believer faced with knowledge of another Baha'i's conduct is unsure what course to take, he can, of course, always consult his Local Spiritual Assembly for advice. If, for some reason, he is reluctant at that stage to inform his Spiritual Assembly, he can consult an Auxiliary Board member or assistant.
"Whatever steps are taken, it is vital that the believers refrain from gossip and backbiting, for this can only harm the Faith, causing perhaps more damage than would have been caused by the original offense."
(Letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice, dated February 20, 1977, to an individual believer)39) "If the situation is of such gravity as to endanger the interests of the Faith, the complaint, as your National Spiritual Assembly has indicated, should be submitted to the Local Spiritual Assembly, or as you state to a representative of the institution of the Counsellors, for consideration and action. In such cases, of course, the name of the person or persons involved will have to be mentioned."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, September 23, 1975)
40) "…it should be realized that there is a distinction drawn in the Faith between the attitudes which should characterize individuals in their relationship to other people, namely, loving forgiveness, forbearance, and concern with one's own sins, and not the sins of others, and those attitudes which should be shown by the Spiritual Assemblies, whose duty is to administer the law of God with justice."
(Letter from the Universal House of Justice, dated February 6, 1973, Messages from the Universal House of Justice, 1968-1973, p. 110)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:49 PM
What should be our response as an individual if we are the target of slander?
41) "Let us take for our example the great and sacred Tree of the exalted Bab—may my life be offered up for Him. Like Him let us bare our breasts to the shaft of agony, like Him make our hearts to be targets for the spears decreed by God. Let us, like candles, burn away; as moths let us scorch our wings; as the field larks, vent our plaintive cries; as the nightingales, burst forth in lamentations.
"Even as the clouds let us shed down our tears, and as the lightning flashes let us laugh at our coursings through east and west. By day, by night, let us think but of spreading the sweet savours of God. Let us not keep on forever with our analyzing and interpreting and circulating of complex dubieties. Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 236)
42) "Should any come to blows with you, seek to be friends with him; should any stab you to the heart, 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 thorns, be ye his roses and sweet herbs. Perchance such ways and words from you will make this darksome world turn bright at last', will make this dusty earth turn heavenly, this devilish prison place become a royal palace of the Lord - so that war and strife will pass and be no more, and love and trust will pitch their tents on the summits of the world."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 34)
43) "In your love for God and your attachment to Abdu'l-Baha, accept ye every tribulation, every sorrow. Endure the aggressor's taunts, put up with the enemy's reproaches. Follow in the footsteps of Abdu'l-Baha..."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 245-246)
44) "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 weaknesses 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."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, September 19, 1948)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:48 PM
Quarreling, harsh criticism, and hurt feelings within a Baha'i community have serious implications.
45) "Nothing whatever can, in this Day, inflict a greater harm upon this Cause than dissension and strife, contention, estrangement and apathy, among the loved ones of God. Flee them, through the power of God and His sovereign aid, and strive ye to knit together the hearts of men, in His Name, the Unifer, the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 9)
46) "Conflict and contention are categorically forbidden in His Book. This is a decree of God in this Most Great Revelation. It is divinely preserved from annulment and is invested by Him with the splendour of His Confirmation. Verily He is the All-Knowing, the All-Wise."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 221)
47) "We have forbidden you dissension and conflict in My Books, and My Scriptures, and My Scrolls, and My Tablets and have wished thereby naught else save your exaltation and advancement. Unto this testify the heavens and the stars thereof, and the sun and the radiance thereof, and the trees and the leaves thereof, and the seas and the waves thereof, and the earth and the treasures thereof."
(Baha'u'llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 135)
48) "Be not the cause of grief, much less of discord and strife."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 27)
49) "Strife and conflict befit the beasts of the wild."
(Baha'u'llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 85)
50) "Beware lest ye sow tares of dissension among men or plant thorns of doubt in pure and radiant hearts. O ye beloved of the Lord! Commit not that which defileth the limpid stream of love or destroyeth the sweet fragrance of friendship. By the righteousness of the Lord! Ye were created to show love one to another and not perversity and rancour."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 296)
51) "Beware lest ye prefer yourselves above your neighbours."
Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 315)
52) "O ye beloved of the Lord! In this sacred Dispensation, conflict and contention are in no wise permitted. Every aggressor deprives himself of God's grace."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Will and Testament of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 73)
53) "Again have the prideful devised all manner of plots and schemes to completely disable the Cause of God and to erase the name of Abdu'l-Baha from the Book of Life.
"And now, added to all these tribulations, these miseries, these enemy attacks, there hath arisen a dust cloud of ill will amongst the believers themselves. This in spite of the fact that the Cause of the Ancient Beauty is the very essence of love, the very channel of oneness, existing only that all may become the waves of one sea, and bright stars of the same endless sky, and pearls within the shell of singleness, and gleaming jewels quarried from the mines of unity; that they may become servants one to another, adore one another, bless one another, praise one another; that each one may loose his tongue and extol the rest without exception, each one voice his gratitude to all the rest; that all should lift up their eyes to the horizon of glory, and remember that they are linked to the Holy Threshold; that they should see nothing but good in one another, hear nothing but praise of one another, and speak no word of one another save only to praise.
"There are indeed certain ones who tread this way of righteousness, and God be thanked, these are strengthened and supported by heavenly power in every land. But others have not arisen as they ought to this gloried and exalted station, and this doth lay upon the heart of Abdu'l-Baha a heavy burden of grief, of inconceivable grief. For no tempest more perilous than this could ever assail the Cause of God, nor could anything else so diminish the influence of His Word."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writing of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 229-230)
54) "The Lord of all mankind hath fashioned this human realm to be a Garden of Eden, an earthly paradise. If, as it must, it findeth the way to harmony and peace, to love and mutual trust, it will become a true abode of bliss, a place of manifold blessings and unending delights. Therein shall the rays of the Sun of Truth shine forth on every hand."Remember how Adam and the others once dwelt together in Eden. No sooner, however, did a quarrel break out between Adam and Satan than they were, one and all, banished from the Garden, and this was meant as a warning to the human race, a means of telling humankind that dissension—even with the Devil—is the way to bitter loss. This is why, in our illumined age, God teacheth that conflicts and disputes are not allowable, not even with Satan himself."55) "O ye friends of God! Beware! Beware of differences! By differences the Temple of God is razed to its very foundation, and by the blowing of the winds of disagreement the Blessed Tree is prevented from producing any fruit. By the intense cold of the diversity of opinions the rose-garden of unity is withered, and the fire of the love of God is extinguished."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writing of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 275)
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of Abdul-Baha Abbas, Vol. 2, p. 431)
56) "Endeavor ye as much as possible that differences may not arise in the affairs; let not every insignificant matter become the cause of disagreement. If such conditions exist the end will be complete dispersion."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 417)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:47 PM
How should problems of harsh words and disunity be dealt with if they occur in a Baha'i community?
57) "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. We love to see you at all times consorting in amity and concord within the paradise of My good-pleasure, and to inhale from your acts the fragrance of friendliness and unity, of loving-kindness and fellowship."
(Baha'u'llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 375)
58) "O Brethren! Be forbearing one with another..."
(Baha'u'llah, Persian Hidden Words, No. 48)
59) "In brief, 0 ye believers of God! The text of the Divine Book is this: If two souls quarrel and contend about a question of the Divine questions, differing and disputing, both are wrong. The wisdom of this incontrovertible law of God is this: That between two souls from amongst the believers of God, no contention and dispute may arise; that they may speak with each other with infinite amity and love. Should there appear the least trace of controversy, they must remain silent, and both parties must continue their discussions no longer, but ask the reality of the question from the Interpreter. This is the irrefutable command!"
(Abdu’l-Baha, Tablets of the Divine Plan, pp. 21-22)
60) "The believers and maid-servants of the Merciful must all consider how to produce harmony, so that the unity of the human world may be realized, not that every wholly unimportant subject become conducive to differences of opinion.
"It is my hope that the friends and the maid-servants of America become united on all subjects and not disagree at all. If they agree upon a subject, even though it be wrong, it is better than to disagree and be in the right, for this difference will produce the demolition of the divine foundation. Though one of the parties may be in the right and they disagree that will be the cause of a thousand wrongs, but if they agree and both parties are in the wrong, as it is in unity the truth will be revealed and the wrong made right."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Baha'i World Faith, p. 417)
61) "It behoveth all the beloved of God to become as one, to gather together under the protection of a single flag, to stand for a uniform body of opinion, to follow one and the same pathway, to hold fast to a single resolve. Let them forget their divergent theories and put aside their conflicting views since, God be praised, our purpose is one, our goal is one. We are the servants of one Threshold, we all draw our nourishment from the same one Source, we all are gathered in the shade of the same high Tabernacle, we all are sheltered under the one celestial Tree."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings Abdu'l-Baha, p. 230)
62) "When criticism and harsh words arise within a Baha'i 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. The more the friends argue back and forth and maintain, each side, that their point of view is the right one, the worse the whole situation becomes.
"When we see the condition the world is in today, we must surely forget these utterly insignificant internal disturbances, and rush, unitedly, to the rescue of humanity. You should urge your fellow-Baha’is to take this point of view, and support you in a strong effort to suppress every critical thought and every harsh word, in order to let the spirit of Baha'u'llah flow into the entire community, and unite it in His love and in His service."
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, February 16, 1951)
63) 'However, he feels very strongly that if... is in the state your letter would seem to indicate it is certainly conducting its affairs in the wrong way. This does not mean the Assembly, it means everyone. For where is Baha'i love? Where is putting unity and harmony first? Where is the willingness to sacrifice one's personal feelings and opinions to achieve love and harmony? What makes the Baha'is think that when they sacrifice the spiritual laws the administrative laws are going to work?
'He urges you to exert your utmost to get the... Baha'is to put aside such obnoxious terms as “radical,” “conservative,” “progressive,” “enemies of the Cause,” “squelching the teachings,” etc.. If they paused for one moment to think for what purpose the Bab and the Martyrs gave their lives, and Baha’u'llah and the Master accepted so much suffering, they would never let such definitions and accusations cross their lips when speaking of each other. As long as the friends quarrel amongst themselves their efforts will not be blessed for they are disobeying God.'
(From a letter dated 24 February 1950 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
64) "Since you have turned to him for guidance, he will very frankly give you his opinion.
"He feels that the present inharmony prevailing amongst you... is very detrimental to the advancement of the Cause, and can only lead to disruption and the chilling of the interest of new believers. You... should forget about your personal grievances, and unite for the protection of the Faith which he well knows you are all loyally devoted to and ready to sacrifice for.
"Perhaps the greatest test Baha’is are ever subjected to is from each other; but for the sake of the Master they should be ever ready to overlook each other’s mistakes, apologize for harsh words they have uttered, forgive and forget. He strongly recommends to you this course of action.
"Also he feels that you and… should not remain away from the meetings and Feasts in…, and you should show them a strong example of Baha’i discipline and the unity which can and must prevail amongst the Community of the Most Great Name."
(From a letter dated 18 December 1945 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
65) "What the believers need is not only, as you state, to really study the teachings, but also to have more peace-makers circulating among them. Unfortunately, not only average people, but average Baha’is, are very immature; gossip, trouble-making, criticism, seem easier than the putting into practice of love, constructive words and cooperation. It is one of the functions of the older and more mature Baha’is, to help the weaker ones to iron out their difficulties and learn to function and live like true believers!"
(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, January 11, 1950)
66) "The greatest need it seems everywhere inside the Cause is to impress upon the friends the need for love among them. There is a tendency to mix up the functions of the Administration and try to apply it in individual relationships, which is abortive, because the Assembly is a nascent House of Justice and is supposed to administer, according to the Teachings, the affairs of the Community. But individuals towards each other are governed by love, unity, forgiveness and a sin-covering eye. Once the friends grasp this they will get along much better, but they keep playing Spiritual Assembly to each other and expect the Assembly to behave like an individual."
(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, October 5, 1950)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:46 PM
How are the friends to express themselves in relating to the institutions of the Faith?
67) "The friends must be patient with each other and must realize that the Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly. The greater the patience, the loving understanding and the forbearance the believers show towards each other and their shortcomings, the greater will be the progress of the whole Baha'i community at large."
(From a letter dated 27 February 1943 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)68) "We must realize our imperfection and not permit ourselves to get too upset over the unfortunate things which occur, sometimes in Conventions, sometimes in Assemblies or on Committees, etc. Such things are essentially superficial and in time will be outgrown."
(From a letter dated 17 March 1943 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)69) "What the Master desired to protect the friends against was continual bickering and opinionatedness. A believer can ask the Assembly why they made a certain decision and politely request them to reconsider. But then he must leave it at that, and not go on disrupting local affairs through insisting on his own views. This applies to an Assembly member as well. We all have a right to our opinions, we are bound to think differently; but a Baha'i must accept the majority decision of his Assembly, realizing that acceptance and harmony—even if a mistake has been made—are the really important things, and when we serve the Cause properly, in the Baha'i way, God will right any wrongs done in the end."
(From a letter dated 19 October 1947 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)70) "They (the believers) seem—many of them—to be prone to continually challenging and criticizing the decisions of their assemblies. If the Baha'is undermine the very leaders which are, however immaturely, seeking to coordinate Baha'i activities and administer Baha'i affairs, if they continually criticize their acts and challenge or belittle their decisions, they not only prevent any real rapid progress in the Faith's development from taking place, but they repel outsiders who quite rightly may ask how we ever expect to unite the whole world when we are so disunited among ourselves!
There is only one remedy for this: to study the administration, to obey the assemblies, and each believer seek to perfect his own character as a Baha'i. We can never exert the influence over others which we can exert over ourselves.
...They have to learn to obey, even when the assembly may be wrong, for the sake of unity. They have to sacrifice their personalities, to a certain extent, in order that the Community life may grow and develop as a whole."
(From a letter dated 26 October 1943 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)71) "Speech is a powerful phenomenon. Its freedom is both to be extolled and feared. It calls for an acute exercise of judgment, since both the limitation of speech and the excess of it can lead to dire consequences. Thus there exist in the system of Baha'u'llah checks and balances necessary to the beneficial uses of this freedom in the onward development of society. A careful examination of the principles of Bahá'í consultation and the formal and informal arrangements for employing them offer new insights into the dynamics of freedom of expression."
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 13)
72) '...How can there be the candor called for in consultation if there is no critical thought? How is the individual to exercise his responsibilities to the Cause, if he is not allowed the freedom to express his views? Has Shoghi Effendi not stated that “at the very root of the Cause ties the principle of the undoubted right of the individual to self-expression, his freedom to declare his conscience and set forth his views” ?
'The Administrative Order provides channels for expression of criticism, acknowledging, as a matter of principle, that “it is not only the right, but the vital responsibility of every loyal and intelligent member of the community to offer fully and frankly, but with due respect to the authority of the Assembly, any suggestion, recommendation or criticism he conscientiously feels he should in order to improve and remedy certain existing conditions or trends in his local community.” Correspondingly, the Assembly has the duty “to give careful consideration to any such views submitted to them.”
'Apart from the direct access which one has to an Assembly, local or national, or to a Counselor or Auxiliary Board member, there are specific occasions for the airing of one's views in the community. The most frequent of these occasions for any Baha'i is the Nineteen Day Feast which, “besides its social and spiritual aspects, fulfills various administrative needs and requirements of the community, chief among them being the need for open and constructive criticism and deliberation regarding the local Baha'i community.” At the same time, Shoghi Effendi's advice, as conveyed by his secretary, goes on to stress the point that “all criticisms of a negative character which may result in undermining the authority of the Assembly as a body should be strictly avoided. For otherwise the order of the Cause itself will be endangered, and confusion and discord will reign in the community.”
'Clearly, then, there is more to be considered than the critic's right to self-expression; the unifying spirit of the Cause of God must also be preserved, the authority of its laws and ordinances safeguarded, authority being an indispensable aspect of freedom. Motive, manner, mode, become relevant; but there is also the matter of love: love for one's fellows, love for one's community, love for one's institutions.
'The responsibility resting on the individual to conduct himself in such a way as to ensure the stability of society takes on elemental importance in this context. For vital as it is to the progress of society, criticism is a two-edged sword: it is all too often the harbinger of conflict and contention. The balanced processes of the Administrative Order are meant to prevent this essential activity from degenerating to any form of dissent that breeds opposition and its dreadful schismatic consequences. How incalculable have been the negative results of ill-directed criticism.'
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 14-15)
73) 'May not the existence of the Covenant be invoked again and again, so that such repetition may preserve the needed perspective? For, in this age, the Cause of Baha’u’llah has been protected against the baneful effects of the misuse of criticism; this has been done by the institution of the Covenant and by the provision of a universal system which incorporates within itself the mechanisms for drawing out the constructive ideas of individuals and using them for the benefit of the entire system. Admonishing the people to uphold the unifying purpose of the Cause, Baha’u’llah, in the Book of His Covenant, addresses these poignant words to them: “Let not the means of order be made the cause of confusion and the instrument of union an occasion for discord."'
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 16)
74) "In terms of the Covenant, dissidence is a moral and intellectual contradiction of the main objective animating the Baha'i community, namely, the establishment of the unity of humankind."
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, p. 16)
75) "Let us all remember that the struggle of the infant Faith of God to thrive is beset with the turmoil of the present age. Like a tender shoot just barely discernable above ground, it must be nurtured to strength and maturity and buttressed as necessary against the blight of strong winds and deadly entanglements with weeds and thistles. If we to who whose care this plant has been entrusted are insensitive to its tenderness, the great tree which is its certain potential will be hindered in its growth towards the spreading of its sheltering branches over all humankind. From this perspective we must all consider the latent danger to the Cause of ill-advised actions and exaggerated expectations; and particularly must we all be concerned about the effects of words, especially those put in print."
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 19-20)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:45 PM
How are the Assemblies to express themselves in relating to the friends?
76) "They must endeavor to promote amity and concord amongst the friends, efface every lingering trace of distrust, coolness and estrangement from every heart, and secure in its stead an active and whole-hearted cooperation for the service of the Cause."
(Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 20)
77) "Let us also bear in mind that the keynote to the Cause of God is not dictatorial authority, but humble fellowship, not arbitrary power, but the spirit of frank and loving consultation. Nothing short of the spirit of a true Baha'i can hope to reconcile the principles of mercy and justice, of freedom and submission, of the sanctity of the right of the individual and of self-surrender, of vigilance, discretion and prudence on the one hand and fellowship, candor and courage on the other. The duties of those whom the friends have freely and conscientiously elected as their representatives are no less vital and binding than the obligations of those who have chosen them. Their function is not to dictate, but to consult, and consult not only among themselves, but as much as possible with the friends whom they represent."
(Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, pp. 63-64)
78) 'In your openness and candor you will, no doubt, avoid ineptitudes that pass as norms in the freedom of speech practiced in your nation. In a society where "telling it like it is" employs a style of expression which robs language of its decorum, and in a time when stridency is commonly presumed to be a quality of leadership, candor is crass, and authority speaks in a loud and vulgar voice. People are frequently obliged to receive direction from their leaders in such disrespectful modes; this is a reason for resentment and suspicion toward those in authority. By contrast, Baha'i institutions have the task of accustoming the friends to recognizing the expression of authority in language at a moderate pitch.'
(The Universal House of Justice, May 19, 1994 Letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States)
79) "Your National Assembly and the local Assemblies must not react automatically to every mistake, but distinguish between those that are self-correcting with the passage of time and do no particular harm to the community and those which require Assembly intervention. Related to this is the tendency of the friends to criticize each other at the slightest provocation whereas the Teachings call upon them to encourage each other. Such tendencies are of course motivated by a deep love for the Faith, a desire to see it free of any flaw. But human beings are not perfect. The local Assemblies and the friends must be helped through your example and through loving counsel to refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community. You should also be fearful of laying down too many rules and regulations. The Cause is not so fragile that a degree of mistakes cannot be tolerated."
(The Universal House of Justice, May 19, 1994 Letter to the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of the United States)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:44 PM
How can an individual go about refining the power of speech?
80) "...when a true seeker determineth to take the step of search in the path leading to the knowledge of the Ancient of Days, he must, before all else, cleanse and purify his heart... He must never seek to exalt himself above any one, must wash away from the tablet of his heart every trace of pride and vainglory, must cling unto patience and resignation, observe silence, and refrain from idle talk. For the tongue is a smoldering fire, and excess of speech a deadly poison. Material fire consumeth the body, whereas the fire of the tongue devoureth both heart and soul. The force of the former lasteth but for a time, whilst the effects of the latter endureth a century. That seeker should also regard backbiting as grievous error, and keep aloof from its dominion, inasmuch as backbiting quencheth the light of the heart and extinguisheth the life of the soul."
(Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, pp. 192-193)
81) "Ascribe not to any soul that which thou wouldst not have ascribed to thee, and say not that which thou doest not. This is my command unto thee, do thou observe it."
(Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words, No. 29)
82) "Be fair in thy judgment and guarded in thy speech."
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 285)
83) "...consume every wayward thought with the flame of His loving mention..."
(Baha’u’llah, Kitab-i-Iqan, p. 194)
84) "Bring thyself to account each day ere thou art summoned to a reckoning; for death, unheralded, shall come upon thee and thou shalt be called to give account for thy deeds."
(Baha’u’llah, Arabic Hidden Words, No. 37)
85) "The fruits of the human tree are exquisite, highly desired and dearly cherished. Among them are upright character, virtuous deeds, and a goodly utterance."
(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 257)
86) "A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men. It is the bread of the spirit, it clotheth the words with meaning, it is the fountain of the light of wisdom and understanding."
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 269)
87) "Beautify your tongues, 0 people, with truthfulness and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, 0 people, that ye deal not treacherously with any one."
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 297)
88) "Dispute not with any one concerning the things of this world and its affairs, for God hath abandoned them to such as have set their affection upon them. Out of the whole world He hath chosen for Himself the hearts of men—hearts which the hosts of revelation and of utterance can subdue."
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 279)
89) "O people of Baha! Subdue the citadels of men's hearts with the swords of wisdom and of utterance. They that dispute, as prompted by their desires, are indeed wrapped in a palpable veil. Say: The sword of wisdom is hotter than summer heat, and sharper than blades of steel, if ye do but understand."
(Baha’u’llah, Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 55)
90) "Say: Sow not, 0 people, the seeds of dissension amongst men, and contend not with your neighbor. Be patient under all conditions, and place your whole trust and confidence in God. Aid ye your Lord with the sword of wisdom and of utterance."
(Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha'u'llah, p. 296)
91) "...It was through the grace of God and with the aid of seemly words and praiseworthy deeds that the unsheathed swords of the Babi community were returned to their scabbards. Indeed through the power of good words, the righteous have always succeeded in winning command over the meads of the hearts of men. Say, 0 ye loved ones! Do not forsake prudence. Incline your hearts to the counsels given by the Most Exalted Pen and beware lest your hands and tongues cause harm unto anyone among mankind."
(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, p. 85)
92) "No man of wisdom can demonstrate his knowledge save by means of words. This showeth the significance of the Word as is affirmed in all the Scriptures, whether of former times or more recently. For it is through its potency and animating spirit that the people of the world have attained so eminent a position. Moreover words and utterances should be both impressive and penetrating. However, no word will be infused with these two qualities unless it be uttered wholly for the sake of God and with due regard unto the exigencies of the occasion and the people.
"The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets.
"Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which every each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. The Great Being saith: One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world. Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. And likewise he saith: One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison. It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with the utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man's station."
(Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha'u'llah, pp. 172-173)
93) "Rest assured that the breathings of the Holy Spirit will loosen thy tongue. Speak, therefore; speak out with great courage at every meeting. When thou art about to begin thine address, turn first to Bahá'u'lláh, and ask for the confirmations of the Holy Spirit, then open thy lips and say whatever is suggested to thy heart; this, however, with the utmost courage, dignity and conviction. It is my hope that from day to day your gatherings will grow and flourish, and that those who are seeking after truth will hearken therein to reasoned arguments and conclusive proofs. I am with you heart and soul at every meeting; be sure of this."
(Abdu'l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, pp. 269-270)
94) "The individual must be educated to such a high degree that he would rather have his throat cut than tell a lie, and would think it easier to be slashed with a sword or pierced with a spear than to utter calumny or be carried away by wrath."
(Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu'l-Baha, p. 136)
95) "When a speaker's brow shineth with the radiance of the love of God, at the time of his exposition of a subject, and he is exhilarated with the wine of true understanding, he becometh the center of a potent force which like unto a magnet will attract the hearts. This is why the expounder must be in the utmost enkindlement."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call, p. 11)
96) 'In accordance with the divine teachings in this glorious Dispensation we should not belittle anyone and call him ignorant, saying: "You know not but I know." Rather, we should look upon others with respect, and when attempting to explain and demonstrate, we should speak as if we are investigating the truth, saying: "Here these things are before us. Let us investigate to determine where and in what form the truth can be found."
'The teacher should not consider himself as learned and others ignorant. Such a thought breeds pride, and pride is unconducive to influence. The teacher should not see in himself any superiority; he should speak with the utmost kindliness, lowliness and humility, for such speech exerts influence and educates the souls.'
(Abdu’l-Baha, The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call, p. 11)
97) "Follow thou the way of thy Lord, and say not that which the ears cannot bear to hear, for such speech is like luscious food given to small children. However palatable, rare and rich the food may be, it cannot be assimilated by the digestive organs of a suckling child. Therefore unto every one who hath a right, let his settled measure be given."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call, p. 13)
98) "Do not argue with anyone, and be wary of disputation. Speak out the truth. If your hearer accepteth, the aim is achieved. If he is obdurate, you should leave him to himself, and place your trust in God. Such is the quality of those who are firm in the Covenant."
(Abdu'l-Baha, The Individual and Teaching - Raising the Divine Call, p. 13)
99) "We should strive in all our utterances to combine the discretion and noble reticence of the wise with the frankness and passionate loyalty of the ardent advocate of an inspiring Faith. While refusing to utter the word that would needlessly alienate or estrange any individual, government or people, we should fearlessly and unhesitatingly uphold and assert in their entirety such truths the knowledge of which we believe is vital and urgently needed for the good and betterment of mankind."
(Shoghi Effendi, Baha'i Administration, p. 102)
100) "Content, volume, style, tact, wisdom, timeliness are among the critical factors in determining the effects of speech for good or evil. Consequently, the friends need ever to be conscious of the significance of this activity which so distinguishes human beings from other forms of life, and they must exercise it judiciously. Their efforts at such discipline will give birth to an etiquette of expression worthy of the approaching maturity of the human race."
(The Universal House of Justice, Individual Rights and Freedoms in the World Order of Baha'u'llah, pp. 16-17)
Posted by Paul Mantle at 11:43 PM