If you tell your family and friends you are investigating the Baha’i Faith, or that you have become a Baha’i, you will encounter all kinds of responses. Some will be positive; some may be negative.
Of course, positive responses validate us, make us feel good, and are easier to handle than the negative ones. In contrast, negative responses can make us feel uncomfortable, defensive, frightened, and put down. Because negative responses can have such powerful effects on us, we need to be able to handle them in ways that are emotionally and spiritually healthy.
First let’s mention some responses you may receive from others: “You’re going to hell.” “You’re following a cult.” “I’m not interested.” “How can you do this to us?” “If you join this religion, we will disown you!”
These unexpected negative responses often occur spontaneously when we share the Baha’i Faith with our family and friends, irrespective of whether we have become Baha’is or not. If others don’t know about the Baha’i Faith, they may be initially suspicious or dismissive before investigating for themselves.
Naturally, as sincere spiritual seekers, we might get upset when we experience such negative statements. However, no matter how upset we feel, we must accept the fact that sometimes people are going to respond this way. We have no control over how others choose to respond. All we have control over is how we choose to respond to them.
It’s okay to feel upset when we experience these negative responses — but the Baha’i teachings tell us that it’s not okay to treat such responses in a negative way. As difficult as this situation is, we must do our best to be loving, kind, respectful, forbearing, patient, restrained, and accepting. For in the last analysis, it doesn’t really matter what other people think or feel regarding your religious beliefs. The fact is that your religion is strictly between you and God. No one else can tell you what you should or should not believe.
It’s hard to know exactly what to say when we encounter negative responses for which we are unprepared. This is especially true if the response is a personal rejection like the threat of being disowned by our parents. We have to be in the situation before we can know how we would respond. But what we must do is come from a position of deep inner emotional and spiritual strength. While this is not easy, we have the power to do this if we choose to do so. We don’t have to let people have power over us.
How do we develop deep inner emotional and spiritual strength? There are many ways we can do this. Here are three:
1. Pray. Using the Baha’i prayers and our own words, we can implore God to help us become firm and emotionally and spiritually strong.
2. Trust in God. God is our Mattress: always holding us up, never letting us down. We just need to keep turning to Him, having faith that He is always there for us, loving us, protecting us, at all times, under all conditions.
3. Study the Baha’i writings about steadfastness. Memorize them and repeat them often. Here are three quotations on steadfastness from the writings of Baha’u’llah:
… Well is it with those who, in the face of the remembrance of the Lord of Eternity, regard the peoples of the world as utter nothingness, as a thing forgotten, and hold fast to the firm handle of God in such wise that neither doubts nor insinuations, nor swords, nor cannon could hold them back or deprive them of His presence. Blessed are the steadfast; blessed are they that stand firm in His Faith. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah
Should you acquaint yourself with the indignities heaped upon the Prophets of God, and apprehend the true causes of the objections voiced by their oppressors, you will surely appreciate the significance of their position. Moreover, the more closely you observe the denials of those who have opposed the Manifestations of the divine attributes, the firmer will be your faith in the Cause of God. – Baha’u’llah, The Book of Certitude
Say: O people of God! Beware lest the powers of the earth alarm you, or the might of the nations weaken you, or the tumult of the people of discord deter you, or the exponents of earthly glory sadden you. Be ye as a mountain in the Cause of your Lord, the Almighty, the All-Glorious, the Unconstrained. – Baha’u’llah, quoted by Shoghi Effendi in The Advent of Divine Justice
The bottom line: whether you’re investigating the Baha’i Faith or are already a Baha’i, irrespective of what other people say, think, feel, or do, you have the right, the power, and the responsibility to be firm and staunch in your beliefs. No one can take your beliefs away from you, unless you let them. Regardless of how people feel about our beliefs, we deserve to feel good about ourselves. We deserve to give ourselves love, gentleness, and kindness. We deserve to believe in God’s latest messenger to humanity – Baha’u’llah – if we desire to do so. We deserve to become followers of Baha’u’llah, if this is what we choose to do, regardless of the consequences.