As to your worry about over-controlling the friends: by appreciating the nature of the power of action which they possess, you will be able to gauge how best to guide and direct them. A wide latitude for action must be allowed them, which means that a large margin for mistakes must also be allowed. Your National Assembly and the Local Assemblies must not react automatically to every mistake, but distinguish between those that are self-correcting with the passage of time and do no particular harm to the community and those which require Assembly intervention. Related to this is the tendency of the friends to criticize each other at the slightest provocation, whereas the Teachings call upon them to encourage each other. Such tendencies are of course motivated by a deep love for the Faith, a desire to see it free of any flaw. But human beings are not perfect. The Local Assemblies and the friends must be helped through your example and through loving counsel to refrain from such a pattern of criticism, which stunts the growth and development of the community. You should also be fearful of laying down too many rules and regulations. The Cause is not so fragile that a degree of mistakes cannot be tolerated. When you feel that certain actions may become trends with harmful consequences, you may, instead of making a new rule, discuss the matter with the Counsellors, enlisting their support in educating the friends in a manner that will improve their understanding and their conduct.
(Universal House of Justice to the US NSA, 19 May 1994)
As you know, there can be many reasons for Assemblies not to respond to the believers. Undoubtedly, in some cases, it is because the friends and the Assemblies are struggling with issues on the frontier of their spiritual growth. Such a process can lead to tremendous development on both the individual and the collective levels. Sometimes we can facilitate this process of spiritual growth for individuals, and of maturation for Local and National Assemblies, by viewing these situations not as a problem but as opportunities for development. Taking part in this process should be a source of joy to us since we are, in effect, helping to build the kingdom of God on Earth. Nevertheless, patience is needed, particularly when it involves a subject that is close to our hearts, and when it seems that progress on the matter is lagging or has ceased entirely. We must maintain our confidence that the divinely ordained administrative system given to us by Bahá’u’lláh, and the inspiration of the Creative Word, will enable us to rise to these challenges.
(Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 25 October, 1994)
Generally speaking nine-tenths of the friends’ troubles are because they don’t do the Bahá’í thing, in relation to each other, to the administrative bodies or in their personal lives.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 114)
It is a self-evident truth that all humanity is the creation of God. All are His servants and under His protection. All are recipients of His bestowals. God is kind to all His servants. At most it is this: that some are ignorant; they must be educated in order that they may become intelligent. Some are immature as children; they must be aided and assisted in order that they may become mature. Some are sick and ailing; they must be healed. But the suffering patient must not be tested by false treatment. The child must not be warped and hindered in its development. The ignorant must not be restricted by censure and criticism. We must look for the real, true remedy.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 39)
Let not the things they have perpetrated grieve thee. Truly they are even as dead, and not living. Leave them unto the dead, then turn thy face towards Him Who is the Life-Giver of the world. Beware lest the sayings of the heedless sadden thee. Be thou steadfast in the Cause, and teach the people with consummate wisdom. Thus enjoineth thee the Ruler of earth and heaven. He is in truth the Almighty, the Most Generous. Ere long will God exalt thy remembrance and will inscribe with the Pen of Glory that which thou didst utter for the sake of His love. He is in truth the Protector of the doers of good.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 15)
One of the greatest problems in the Cause is the relation of the believers to each other; for their immaturity (shared with the rest of humanity) and imperfections retard the work, create complications, and discourage each other. And yet we must put up with these things and try and combat them through love, patience and forgiveness individually, and proper administrative action collectively.
(Shoghi Effendi, The Unfolding Destiny of the British Bahá’í Community, p. 449)
The Cause is manifest, it shineth resplendent as the sun, but the people have become veils unto themselves. We entreat God that He may graciously assist them to return unto Him. He is, in truth, the Forgiving, the Merciful.
(Bahá’u’lláh, Tablets of Bahá’u’lláh, p. 79)
The energy we expend in enduring the intolerance of some individuals of our community is not lost. It is transformed into fortitude, steadfastness and magnanimity.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 603)
The friends must be patient with each other and must realize that the Cause is still in its infancy and its institutions are not yet functioning perfectly. The greater the patience, the loving understanding and the forbearance the believers show towards each other and their shortcomings, the greater will be the progress of the whole Bahá’í community at large.
(From a letter dated 27 February 1943 written on behalf of Shoghi Effendi to an individual believer)
The friends should therefore not feel discouraged at the differences of opinion that may prevail among the members of an Assembly, for these, as experiences has shown, and as the Master’s words attest, fulfil a valuable function in all Assembly deliberations. But once the opinion of the majority has been ascertained, all the members should automatically and unreservedly obey it, and faithfully carry it out. Patience and restraint, however, should at all times characterize the discussions and deliberations of the elected representatives of the local community, and no fruitless and hair- splitting discussions indulged in, under any circumstances.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 48)
The imperfect members of society, the weak souls in humanity, follow their natural trend. Their lives and actions are in accord with their natural propensities; they are captives of physical susceptibilities; they are not in touch or in tune with the spiritual bounties. Man has two aspects: the physical, which is subject to nature, and the merciful or divine, which is connected with God. If the physical or natural disposition in him should overcome the heavenly and merciful, he is, then, the most degraded of animal beings; and if the divine and spiritual should triumph over the human and natural, he is, verily, an angel.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 40)
The worst enemies of the Cause are in the Cause and mention the name of God. We need not fear the enemies on the outside for such can be easily dealt with. But the enemies who call themselves friends and who persistently violate every fundamental law of love and unity, are difficult to be dealt with in this day, for the mercy of God is still great. But ere long this merciful door will be closed and such enemies will be attacked with a madness.
(‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Star of The West, Vol.6, No.6, p.45)
There is a difference between character and faith; it is often hard to accept this fact and put up with it, but the fact that a person may believe in and love the Cause – even being ready to die for it—and yet not have a good personal character or posses traits at variance with the teachings. We try to change, to let the Power of God help recreate us make us true Bahá’ís in deed as well as in belief. But the process is slow, sometimes it never happened the individual does not try hard enough. But these cause us suffering and are a test to us in our fellow-believers, most especially if we love him and have been their teacher!
(Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 75)
We Bahá’ís can always, with the aid of Bahá’u’lláh, Who, is ever ready to strengthen and assist us, turn our stumbling blocks into stepping stones, and utilize the often violent forces released by sincere but perhaps misguided friends, as a positive stream of power by turning them into productive channels instead of destructive ones.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 602-603)
We must realize our imperfection and not permit ourselves to get too upset over the unfortunate things which occur, sometimes in Conventions, sometimes in Assemblies or on Committees, etc. Such things are essentially superficial and in time will be outgrown.
(Shoghi Effendi, Compilation of Compilations, vol II, p. 9)
When others fall short of the standards of a Bahá’í way of life, we can demonstrate the Bahá’í pattern of life and love and encourage them to do the same, while taking refuge in the knowledge that this process takes time. Though these shortcomings may slow the progress of the Faith they will not ultimately defeat it.
(Quickeners of Mankind, p. 120)
Your should, under no circumstances, feel discouraged, and allow such difficulties, even though they may have resulted from the misconduct, or the lack of capacity and vision of certain members of the Community, to make you waver in your faith and basic loyalty to the Cause. Surely, the believers, no matter how qualified they may be, whether as teachers or administrators, and however high their intellectual and spiritual merits, should never be looked upon as a standard whereby to evaluate and measure the divine authority and mission of the Faith. It is to the Teachings, themselves, and to the lives of the Founders of the Cause that the believers should look for their guidance and inspiration, and only by keeping strictly to such true attitude can they hope to establish their loyalty to Bahá’u’lláh upon an enduring and unassailable basis. You should take heart, therefore, and with unrelaxing vigilance and unremitting effort endeavor to play your full share in the gradual unfoldment of this Divine World Order.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 78-79)
… often our severest tests come from each other. Certainly the believers should try to avert such things, and if they happen, remedy them through love.
(Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 113)