Some thoughts on tests in the community

I’ve noticed some comments over the years from various people on their tests as Bahá’ís…that sometimes they feel like they are too different than other members of the community, that they are frustrated with fellow believers, that they believe in the Bahá’í Faith but disagree with elements of the administration. These, and many other reasons, create a distance between them and the community.

“Perhaps the greatest test Bahá’ís 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.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Guardian to an individual believer, February 18, 1945; Living the Life, p. 12)

The Bahá’í Faith is in a process of learning and growing. As we grow, there are individual and community struggles. This is part of the process.

“Thus you might look upon your own difficulties in the path of service. they are the means of your spirit growing and developing. You will suddenly find that you have conquered many of the problems which upset you, and then you will wonder why the should have troubled you at all. An individual must centre his whole heart and mind on service to the Cause, in accordance with the high standards set by Bahá’u’lláh. When this is done, the Hosts of Supreme Concourse will come to the assistance of the individual, and every difficulty and trial will gradually be overcome.”

(Written by the Guardian’s Secretary on his behalf to an individual believer, October 6, 1954: Living the Life, p. 19)

“He was very sorry to hear that you have had so many tests in your Bahá’í life. There is no doubt that many of them are due to our own nature. In other words, if we are very sensitive, or if we are in some way brought up in a different environment from the Bahá’ís amongst whom we live, we naturally see things differently and may feel them more acutely; and the other side of it is that the imperfections of our fellow-Bahá’ís can be a great trial to us”.

“We must always remember that in the cesspool of materialism, which is what modern civilization has to a certain extent become, Bahá’ís — that is some of them — are still to a certain extent affected by the society from which they have sprung. In other words, they have recognized the Manifestation of God, but they have not been believers long enough, or perhaps not tried hard enough, to become ‘a new Creation’. He feels that, if you close your eyes to the failings of others, and fix your love and prayers upon Bahá’u’lláh, you will have the strength to weather this storm, and will be much better for it in the end, spiritually. Although you suffer, you will gain a maturity that will enable you to be of greater help to both your fellow-Bahá’ís and your children”

(From a letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, April 5, 1956)

No matter how difficult the circumstances, we should not separate ourselves from the community as a whole. The Bahá’í community is an inseparable part of being a Bahá’í.

“For the Bahá’í Faith is above all a way of life. It is not a mere philosophical or social doctrine. It is a closely-knit and harmoniously functioning community, a world-wide spiritual fraternity which seeks to reform the world first and foremost by bringing about a deep inner spiritual change in the heart of individuals. To live the teachings of the Cause should be the paramount concern of every true believer, and the only way to do so is to commune both in spirit and through actual concrete means with the entire community of the faithful. The Bahá’í Cause encourages community life and makes it a duty for every one of its followers to become a living, a fully active and responsible member of the world-wide Bahá’í fellowship.”

(From letter written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer, August 13, 1936)

“Regarding the matter … and the inharmony that seems to exist among certain of the friends … When Bahá’ís permit the dark forces of the world to enter into their own relationships within the Faith they gravely jeopardize its progress; it is the paramount duty of the believers, the Local Assemblies, and particularly the N.S.A. to foster harmony, understanding and love amongst the friends. All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance — justified or unjustified — for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its Community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world; love and unity.”

(From a letter written on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to the National Spiritual Assembly of Bolivia, August 19, 1985)

Obviously there are individual circumstances. The reason I wrote this post was to be encouraging to those who are having a difficult time, not to berate those who are not able to be more active members of community life. None of us are perfect, all of us are striving. The beauty of this is that we can learn from each other.

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11 Comments

  1. This post is rocking!

    Its much better than your post about Tomato Cream Pasta Sauce 😛

    Just teasing.

    I don’t need to list lots of quotes about looking at our own faults and not others, but I will say this…. we are either progressing or regressing in our spirituality…. and the process is normally, ‘two steps forward, one step back’…so overall, we move one step forward.

    There are always times in our lives when we will be ‘less active’ too…

    Rather than focus on the result, we should be more focused on the process…. because only then will the result come.

    And by process I mean being encouraging, loving and patient with our fellow believers who might be at a different point in their life to us…and because
    we don’t know our own end…

  2. This is awesome. The one about how we all live in this ridiculously material society and how it really does affect each of us seems really relevant to me. Also the last one, where it says
    “All should be ready and willing to set aside every personal sense of grievance — justified or unjustified — for the good of the Cause, because the people will never embrace it until they see in its Community life mirrored what is so conspicuously lacking in the world; love and unity.”
    is great! First of all, it acknowledges that some grievances really are justified, but then explains that EVERYTHING has to be put aside so this world-redeeming Faith can work its magic. Especially pertinent right now as we’re trying to open up the community to as many as possible.

  3. Wonderful post, Sho. I will be sure to come back to it often and refer friends to it when they have these situations, which is all the time.

  4. Creepily well-timed?

    You would, of course, post this on the one-year anniversary of my declaration as a Baha’i. Sholeh, how is it that you have this uncanny ability to reach into my brain?

    Though maybe you simply saw my post about my anniversary and then decided to post this just to freak me out. LOL!

    Looking forward to seeing you in Chicago…

  5. Sholeh,

    First of all thanks for the explanation box(popping whenever I tab my cursor in here). Its simple and very straight forward.

    The tests and difficulties quote you shared with me was very handy. Even today, there was another confirmation that I was on the right path, as I was tested again by another Baha’i. I had to forgive and move on.

    I’ve found forgiveness not for others, but for one’s own self. Instead of rotting inside with anger, vengeance, egoism, and aim to prove someone wrong/put them down it is very liberating.

    Thank you and Be Blessed(Oh nice hat by the way, I was gonna wave my hat at you, but since it was Auditorium and devotions for Ascension of Abdu’l-Baha, I behaved.).