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Most of us rely on a good “vent” every once in a while — you know that feeling when you need to unload the weight of heavy emotions to a sympathetic ear. So we phone a friend or relative.
After all, we are social creatures, and it’s natural for us to communicate with one another when we face adversity. While some of us have been scarred by negative experiences and so believe that we should keep things to ourselves, it isn’t uncommon that when we seek to resolve an issue that has been affecting us emotionally, we have to talk about it. In my own experience, when I have conflict or stress in my life, other people are involved.
Lately, I have been trying to be especially careful about how I talk about other people behind their backs. I was reading passages from the Most Holy Book of the Baha’i Faith. I’ve been trying to think more deeply about the concepts it explores:
Backbiting, slander and dwelling on the faults of others have been repeatedly condemned by Bahá’u’lláh. In the Hidden Words, He clearly states: “O Son of Being! How couldst thou forget thine own faults and busy thyself with the faults of others? Whoso doeth this is accursed of Me.”
And again: “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.”
This strong admonition is further reiterated in His last work, “the Book of My Covenant”: “Verily I say, the tongue is for mentioning what is good, defile it not with unseemly talk. God hath forgiven what is past. Henceforward everyone should utter that which is meet and seemly, and should refrain from slander, abuse and whatever causeth sadness in men.”
With these passages in mind, I have often wondered how we externalize what we feel. Clearly, it’s important to find ways to problem-solve, rely on others, and engage in therapeutic conversation. But how can we avoid talking negatively about others when we need to process and consult with people who offer us mental and emotional support?
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In my own journey, I have realized that one of the easiest ways to overcome my perceived need to provide all the details of an issue I have with someone else is to speak directly to the person I have conflict with. The Baha’i writings point to “consultation” — sincere conversation with the objective of discovering truth together — as a key tool we should all rely on in navigating the many different parts of our lives:
In all things it is necessary to consult… The intent of what hath been revealed… is that consultation may be fully carried out among the friends, inasmuch as it is and will always be a cause of awareness and of awakening and a source of good and well-being.
In addition to being direct, there are times when I can process my thoughts and feelings, and generate solutions for my problems without explicitly talking about another person. When I consult with people unrelated to the issue, I can ask for their general thoughts on how to navigate certain challenges. A passage from the Baha’i writings that promotes thoughtful speech and sharing inspires me. Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, wrote:
Not everything that a man knoweth can be disclosed, nor can everything that he can disclose be regarded as timely, nor can every timely utterance be considered as suited to the capacity of those who hear it.
In my experience, these changes can seem super difficult to adapt to upon first trying to implement them. But like any habit, it will get easier over time. As we open the door to this growth, we can look forward to internal changes, no matter how long they take or how much effort we have to put towards them.