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O Son of Man! 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, The Hidden Words, p. 10.This passage from the Baha'i teachings raises a question. How are we supposed to move the community we belong to from blameworthy toward praiseworthy behavior if we never speak of one another’s shortcomings? We can still speak of our own faults. But obviously, if somebody doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with their own behavior, he or she won’t ever talk about it as such. This suggests that in order to be rectified, somebody else may have to say something. The Baha’i writings are quite clear that we should not speak casually about the faults of others when they are not present, especially if it is in a way that attacks their character. So what are we supposed to do?
- Be humble, and know that we are in the presence of God. When we consistently strive to have this kind of consciousness, the love of God can spill over into our feelings toward other people.
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. 15.Humility is also really important if anyone points out our own faults. None of us are perfect, and few people expect us to be. They’re mainly just hoping we’re willing to change our ways if it becomes clear that we need some work.
- Meditate on our spiritual duties—and on our own shortcomings.
… search out your own imperfections and not think of the imperfections of anybody else. Strive with all your power to be free from imperfections. Heedless souls are always seeking faults in others. What can the hypocrite know of others' faults when he is blind to his own? ... As long as a man does not find his own faults, he can never become perfect. Nothing is more fruitful for man than the knowledge of his own shortcomings. - Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 244.
Man must consult on all matters, whether major or minor, so that he may become cognizant of what is good. Consultation giveth him insight into things and enableth him to delve into questions which are unknown. - Abdu’l-Baha, from a tablet to an individual Baha’i.
- Finally, say it to their face.