Sunday, January 26, 2014

Disappointment

"The Baha'is will disappoint you."

I could not, for the life of me, figure out why she was telling me this.She had been slowly and patiently teaching me the Faith for years and I had just declared less than an hour earlier. And now, here she was, telling me that the Baha'is would disappoint me. Was she trying to discourage me from staying within the Faith?

"No matter what happens", she went on, "always look to the Writings, not the people. The Writings will never disappoint you. Baha'is will disappoint, but Baha'u'llah never will."

To say that this was drilled into me may, perhaps, be a bit of an understatement. But you know what? She was right. And I praise her wisdom and foresight in warning me. (I also thank God, but she was the one who really carried that message to me, so I thank my teacher, too.)

Time and again over the years, I saw the truth of this. Over and over I found the Baha'is disappointed me. And I'm sure that I've disappointed my fair share across the years, too.

Now, to be fair, there are more times that the Baha'is impressed me far beyond belief (perhaps not the best phrase to use here, but I already typed it). Throughout my years within the Faith I have been very impressed with the quality of love, unity, insights, action, and I can really go on and on, but I don't want to tempt anyone out there with their ego.

But I have also had my share of disappointments. And if my teacher had not drilled into me the fact that this would happen, I might not be here today typing this.

From Ruhi Book 1, we all know the famous line from Baha'u'llah, "Nothing whatsoever 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", but that doesn't warn us about the tests we seem to impose upon each other.

Baha'u'llah, in a few of His writings, points this out to us this test that we will likely face. "The imprisonment inflicted on this wronged One, O Dhabih, did to Him no harm nor can it ever do so; nor can the loss of all His earthly goods, His exile, or even His martyrdom and outward humiliation, do Him any hurt. That which can hurt Him are the evil deeds which the beloved of God commit..." "My captivity cannot harm Me. That which can harm Me is the conduct of those who love Me, who claim to be related to Me, and yet perpetrate what causeth My heart and My pen to groan." "My captivity can bring on Me no shame. Nay, by My life, it conferreth on Me glory. That which can make Me ashamed is the conduct of such of My followers as profess to love Me, yet in fact follow the Evil One."

We never really think of ourselves as those who could possibly commit those evil deeds. And while He may be referring to some other things, some heinous deeds perpetrated by the friends, such as that ludicrous attempt on the life of the Shah by some depraved Babis, we should also recall that He considers backbiting "grievous error". He says that it "quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul." "How
couldst thou forget thine own faults", He writes, "and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me." "Accursed" is a very strong term, and may seem too strong, but if we look at the results of being accursed, then it is quite appropriate.

"If any soul speak ill of an absent one," says 'Abdu'l-Baha, "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... (I)t would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth."

So why am I writing about this? Because I think it is important.

I have seen too many friends pull away from the Faith because of something another Baha'i did.

Aside - I was once asked to breakfast with a couple of friends and their daughter. She was struggling with some issue and they wanted to know if I could answer her. It was a very common problem, and she explained it really well. But then, out of nowhere, she said that she had been told all people who do this thing would "go to hell".

"Who said that", I asked.

"My Sunday class teacher."

"Well, I think your teacher was wrong. First, we don't believe in a hell in that way, and second, there is nothing that says that people who do that will go there. This is what it says in the Writings", and I handed her some quotes. I was prepared for that question, but not in that way.

"Well, yes," she replied, "but my teacher said this."

"So who are you going to believe? Your teacher or the Writings?"

"My teacher."

What can you say to that? She was putting her faith in her teacher, instead of in the Writings. I tried to explain that we individuals are prone to error, present writer perhaps moreso than others, but that the Writings are always true. And while she didn't accept that, it did serve to remind me that we have to be extremely careful not to include our personal opinion when teaching, especially when teaching children.

Another friend of mine has become quite antagonistic towards the community, even though he still loves the Writings, prays regularly, and on and on. Over the years certain Baha'is had said some very bozoid things to him, and he has just decided that he can really live without the community.

Now, in both of these cases the people involved have severed themselves from the community, and it seems to me that it is because of what we in the Baha'i community did to them. We either said something silly, or did something thoughtless, and the effect was to turn someone away. And these were people who were actually within the embrace of the Faith. Imagine how our friends from the Greater Community must feel?

So, when I am teaching others, I always remind them that, yes, the Baha'is will disappoint you. For we will. Not on purpose, but through our carelessness.

The Writings, however, will not. They will never disappoint.

6 comments:

  1. This is spot on, Mead. Such an important lesson!

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  2. Yes, we come to the Faith from different backgrounds and load it with imperfections, vanities, and ignorance; otherwise, we have no need of the Faith. There is a little light in our hearts that somehow guided us to Baha'u'llah.
    The process of purification of the heart does not happens instantly; I continue to fail, to fall, and with the help of God, I continue to get back up so I can then, "bring myself into account each day" It is really painful to know that I am causing such disappointments to the Blessed Beauty!,- I am so attach to comfort among other things- but I always remember something 'Abdu'l-Baha says, "Take courage! God never forsakes His children who strive and work and pray!" ... and with pure intentions and honesty, I always try to present and live the Faith with the best of my abilities. Notice that this is not a confection but sharing my feelings ...Thank you Mead!

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  3. so how should we feel when baha'i institutions fail us? grievously fail us?

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    1. That is such a great question. And one that I have felt on more than one occasion. To start,though, I cannot answer how anyone else "should" feel. I can only talk about how I have felt. And what I felt was anger, initially, and then disappointment. What I did, though, was follow their decision while presenting my case to a higher institution. Actually, to start, what I did was find what I considered relevant guidance in the Writings and asked the institution to re-consider their decision. If that failed, then I went to a higher institution. From there, in every single case I was either presented with guidance I had not previously seen that helped me change my mind, or they consulted with the lower institution and helped them see the case in a new light.

      I think the overarching thing to remember is that we are at the very beginning of community building, according to the Universal House of Justice. many of these institutions are made up of members that are still learning about the intricacies of applying the teachings. And we need to show them patience, just as we hope to be shown patience, too.

      And while this can be very difficult in a small community where the institution is "controlled" by a very vocal minority, it is a part of our growing process. And the result is often growing pains.

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    2. i took my local matter to the national level, only to be further disappointed by what i can only call a case of double jeopardy, a monumental failure that has ruined my life and the lives of many around me. as for the individuals of the institutions, i could not disagree with you more. they are community elected based on their skills, talents, personalities, i.e. the 9 folks the community deems to be the creme de la creme. we will always be in perpetual wait for these people to mature and learn the laws of the faith, if we are to accept that these are all growing pains. as for growing pains, i'd accept that as a plausible defense in the 1960's, but not today. the bahais, because of the "milk breath" have enjoyed unprecedented advancement in terms technology, a globally aware international community among other things to rely on the argument crutch of "growing pains". i'm not directing this angst at you though, please don't get me wrong, this terminology of growing pains is just part of the bahai vocabulary.

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    3. Thank you for your clarification. I don't know what you mean by "double jeopardy", but it sounds like you took good steps with a pure attitude. Perhaps you may want to take it to a higher level?

      And regarding my comment about the individuals on institutions, this was in reference to many communities where this is the problem with which they are struggling. When there are only 10 - 15 Baha'is, this type of problem has been known to occur. Besides, it was only a few years ago, in 1996, that the Universal house of Justice said, "Bahá'ís everywhere are at the very beginning of the process of community building". So we may want to keep in mind that it isn't that long ago.

      Assemblies seem to function at their absolute peak when dealing with thousands and thousands of people in their jurisdiction. That is when they are fairly sure to have ready access to experts in the multitude of areas required, such as counselling, economics, and so forth. And when the Assembly can call upon these experts, in addition to the wisdom they show through consultation, then it is light upon light. For now, though, I have seen too many cases where an Assembly made the best decision they could with the resources they had, and yet, if they had consulted someone trained in basic counselling, much pain would have been avoided.

      In communities where there are hundreds to draw upon, the difficulties encountered tend to be minimized, but unfortunately there are still many communities that have less than a few dozen members.

      As the Guardian said many times, the problems we are facing will best be overcome through teaching.

      My prayers are with you, and thank you for your question and clarification.

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