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When I came across that line in the Baha’i book “The Promulgation of Universal Peace,” it really made me pause and reflect.
I’d never thought about the link between antagonism and contradiction before, and I wanted to make sure I understood what the words meant, so I looked them up. Antagonism means rivalry, resentment, ill will; and contradiction means conflict, challenge, negation, so here’s how this quote could also be understood:
- Resentment and conflict are always destructive to truth.
- Ill-will and challenge are always destructive to truth.
- Rivalry and negation are always destructive to truth.
People don’t become resentful and lash out for no reason. Often they have suffered an injustice that hurt them deeply, which they can’t forgive. A lot of resentful people have become victims of complicated and hurtful situations in the past, where they couldn’t see any other way out other than holding on to resentment or fighting back.
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This can become habitual. Sometimes, when things seem totally out of control due to traumatic experiences, we long to hold onto some element of control in our lives. This often takes the form of needing to hold onto rules and/or needing to be “right.”
As children, if we didn’t know the rules or we weren’t “right,” we may have been punished or abused. This was never our fault — abuse is always the choice of the perpetrator. It’s never because of something the victim did or didn’t do.
When children are abused, they need to make sense of their experience, and they often blame themselves to do so. Sometimes the perpetrators even tell them that something they did caused the abuse, and that’s where the lies come in. Not receiving the truth as a child; not being able to speak the truth, see the truth, know the truth or hear the truth; not being able to live or participate in the truth was all part of the damage done by abuse. As a result, those of us who were severely abused as children may have an intense need for truth.
In the book “Some Answered Questions,” Abdu’l-Baha said:
Consider that the worst of all qualities and most odious of all attributes, and the very foundation of all evil, is lying, and that no more evil or reprehensible quality can be imagined in all existence. It brings all human perfections to naught and gives rise to countless vices. There is no worse attribute than this, and it is the foundation of all wickedness.
Sometimes, when we feel the need to control and act out with antagonism, we use those reactions to deny and push away the pain of looking inside. When this need for control carries itself into adult relationships and leads to rivalry, resentment, ill-will, conflict, challenge, and negation, it can cause separation between God, ourselves, and others. This is another form of lying.
In a talk he gave in Paris, Abdu’l-Baha also said: “When we find truth, constancy, fidelity, and love, we are happy; but if we meet with lying, faithlessness, and deceit, we are miserable.”
Since the Baha’i teachings say that truthfulness is the “foundation of all the virtues of the world of humanity,” and “without truthfulness, progress and success in all of the worlds of God are impossible for a soul” and since “antagonism and contradiction are destructive to truth,” it seems to me that when antagonism and contradiction are present in a relationship, they can destroy the foundation a relationship is built upon. Consider this: how many marriages, friendships, and work environments are poisoned by lies, antagonism, and contradiction?
The human soul naturally longs to be near to God and His truth. Perhaps that’s what Baha’u’llah intended for us when he advised everyone to:
Beautify your tongues, O people, with truthfulness, and adorn your souls with the ornament of honesty. Beware, O people, that ye deal not treacherously with any one. Be ye the trustees of God amongst His creatures, and the emblems of His generosity amidst His people.