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Dealing with Injustice
"Be vigilant, that ye may not do injustice to anyone, be it to the extent of a grain of mustard seed. Tread ye the path of justice, for this, verily, is the straight path." - Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá'u'lláh, p. 250
I'm having trouble dealing with injustice, whether against me or others. Well, actually, I've had the problem since I was a child, and haven't managed to avoid the inevitable stresses caused by endless fussing about the wrongs of the world! Turning off the television only limits the daily drone--since we read several local, national and international newspapers online--and we are still surrounded by family and neighbors and friends and travelling strangers.
Just telling myself to focus only on things I can control or at least have a hand in ameliorating hasn't proved very successful. "Not my circus; not my monkeys!"--or, as my ex-merchant marine uncle used to say (minus the profanity), "I ain't got a dog in this fight!"--may sound good, but haven't prevented my inclination to fuss over everything from climate change to whether my next door neighbor has watered her potted plants in this hot weather.
Much of what bothers me most on a daily basis is little stuff other people are doing: poor driving, cupidity, stupidity, ignorance, arrogance, cruelty, and unbelievably dangerous decisions being made by authorities and experts who are supposed to have my best interests at heart. In the 1970s we'd say, "My inner child is having a tantrum because other people are getting away with wrong behaviors I'm not allowed!"
What, exactly and usefully, can be done as an individual facing impossibly large as well as annoyingly recurring small issues? The answer must deal with both the problems and the individual's response to them.
The Bahá'í Faith has within its teachings mission critical advice on how to live with others. Essentially, "We must look upon our enemies with a sin-covering eye and act with justice when confronted with any injustice whatsoever, forgive all, consider the whole of humanity as our own family, the whole earth as our own country, be sympathetic with all suffering, nurse the sick, offer a shelter to the exiled, help the poor and those in need, dress all wounds and share the happiness of each one. Be compassionate, so that your actions will shine like unto the light streaming forth from the lamp." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 41
To follow such advice will require some serious attitude adjustment! But there are tools to help do so: psychologists tell us, for instance, that it is impossible to be loving and judgmental at the same time. Fussing about some perceived injustice means judging the other person first. Assuming deliberate malice or conspiracy, when unaware of mitigating circumstances, is a kind of injustice I am committing!
But how to avoid that consistently in my relationships? There is a solution, from the Bahá'í Faith: "And in this new and wondrous age, the Holy Writings say that we must be at one with every people; that we must see neither harshness nor injustice, neither malevolence, nor hostility, nor hate, but rather turn our eyes toward the heaven of ancient glory. For each of the creatures is a sign of God, and it was by the grace of the Lord and His power that each did step into the world; therefore they are not strangers, but in the family; not aliens, but friends, and to be treated as such." - Selections from the Writings of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, p. 24
If humanity as a whole could mange to see all others as family, much of the injustice in the world would disappear. This is a state that religion has always addressed, and the Bahá'í Faith is only the latest installment in God's age-old guidance. "The aim of the prophet of God is to raise man to the degree of knowledge of his potentiality and to illumine him through the light of the kingdom, to transform ignorance into wisdom, injustice into justice, error into knowledge, cruelty into affection and incapability into progress. In short, to make all the attainments of existence resplendent in him." - 'Abdu'l-Bahá, Divine Philosophy, p. 111
If I can manage to consider others first as friend rather than foe, and then give them the benefit of doubt in their actions, it will not only save me some hurt and outrage, but also change my behavior towards them and the perceived incident. "Never assume conspiracy when simple incompetence or ignorance is more likely," to quote my systems analyst husband.
Achieving such an attitude will certainly change my life. It might change the world, too!
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