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Are people drawn to you? Do you have what some might call a “magnetic personality?”
Or do you have difficulty making and keeping friends? Have you ever considered what it is about you—your character—that makes you either likeable or unlikeable; or perhaps worse, someone who is just there, someone unconsidered, ignored?
Of course, many traits make us likeable. Our positive characteristics, our virtues, our inner spiritual attributes all contribute to our likeability. If you’re happy, when people see you smile, they smile, too. When you laugh for joy, they want to partake of that joy. If you’re generous, empathetic, a good listener, people will seek your company. If they know they can count on you for help when needed, they will feel comforted.
But, if we exhibit some or even all of these likeable qualities, yet have a biting tongue, if we speak ill of others or criticize or backbite, it counteracts everything else. People will, even if they don’t realize the source, develop negative feelings for those who were belittled, as well as towards the one who spoke the hurtful words—and even for themselves—for having listened. After a while, they’ll begin to wonder what you may be saying about them. They will find themselves distancing themselves from you and finding excuses to avoid getting together.
Baha’u’llah tells us that “A kindly tongue is the lodestone of the hearts of men.” – Epistle to the Son of the Wolf, p. 15.
A lodestone, literally, is a variety of magnetite that possesses magnetic polarity and attracts iron. The word has come to be used to indicate “something that attracts strongly.”
In Psalms 15:1 – 3, we read:
Lord, who shall abide in thy tabernacle? who shall dwell in thy holy hill? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness, and speaketh the truth in his heart. He that backbiteth not with his tongue, nor doeth evil to his neighbour, nor taketh up a reproach against his neighbour.
So even more than impacting our relationships with friends and family, speaking ill of others will affect our spiritual health, our relationship with our Creator. Indeed, Baha’u’llah warned that “… Backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.” – Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 265.
Abdu’l-Baha wrote that we should shun backbiting completely, because it is:
…the cause of the divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word he may become dishonoured amongst the people; because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praise-worthy 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 faults. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 3, p. 192.
Further, he tells us:
The worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting, more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. – Ibid.
The Baha’i teachings ask us not to gossip and backbite. They also urge us not to listen to those who do. Baha’u’llah urges us to:
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, The Hidden Words, p. 37.
So think before speaking and consider whether what you’re about to say fits the advice given in the Scriptures. If it does, then say it; if not, hold your tongue.
When you adopt this truly spiritual practice, you’ll find more and more people will appreciate you and your friendship.
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