avoiding gossip and backbiting

lucia & the tin-can phoneThe Baha’i teachings condemn all forms of gossip and backbiting. We need to avoid gossip and backbiting at all costs.

Prayers/readings for study

” … backbiting quencheth the light of the heart, and extinguisheth the life of the soul.” (Gleanings from the Writings of Bahá’u’lláh, CXXV, p.265)

“Speak no evil, that thou mayest not hear it spoken unto thee, and magnify not the faults of others that thine own faults may not appear great…” (The Hidden Words, Persian, no.44, p.37)

Activities

Story

Games

  • Virtue scavenger hunt. Many strips of paper are prepared and scattered around the classroom or a designated area; some of them have virtues written on them, while others have faults written on them. the children must look for and bring back the strips of paper with virtues on them, and ignore the ones with faults.
  • Telephone. This classic game can be used to demonstrate how stories change as they pass from one person to the next, in the same way that spreading gossip tends to alter the truth.

Drama

  • Accompany the children through two skits based on the same situation: one that shows what gossip looks like, and the other that shows how to avoid gossip.
  • Dramatize the “Feathers in the wind” story. Have the children continue their skit after the end of the story by imagining what happens after the woman learns how not to spread gossip. What does she talk about? What has she learned about hurting people’s feelings? How do her friends react to her change of heart? How do they feel?

Craft

  • Virtue collage. Connected with the “Virtue scavenger hunt” above. Once all the virtues are found, they may be incorporated into a textured collage, where they glue one of the virtues onto a paper backing along with several other types of material (like aluminum foil, crumpled paper, old denim, yarn, and so on) to remind them of how we should focus on the “good” qualities even if they are surrounded by not-so-good ones.

Other activities

  • Dirty water. An activity to aid understanding of the damage done by gossip and backbiting, found at RuhiResources.org.

Reference

“Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner.” (The Hidden Words, Arabic, no.27, p.10)

“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.” (The Hidden Words, Arabic, no.26, p.10)

“…If any soul speak ill of an absent one, the only result will clearly be this: he will dampen the zeal of the friends and tend to make them indifferent. For backbiting is divisive, it is the leading cause among the friends of a disposition to withdraw. If any individual should speak ill of one who is absent, it is incumbent on his hearers, in a spiritual and friendly manner, to stop him, and say in effect: would this detraction serve any useful purpose? Would it please the Blessed Beauty, contribute to the lasting honour of the friends, promote the holy Faith, support the Covenant, or be of any possible benefit to any soul? No, never! On the contrary, it would make the dust to settle so thickly on the heart that the ears would hear no more, and the eyes would no longer behold the light of truth.” (‘Abdu’l-Bahá: Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, pp 230-31)

“…Thou hast written regarding aims. How blessed are these aims, especially the prevention of backbiting! I hope that you may become confirmed therein, because the worst human quality and the most great sin is backbiting; more especially when it emanates from the tongues of the believers of God. If some means were devised so that the doors of backbiting could be shut eternally and each one of the believers of God unsealed his tongue in the praise of the other, then the teachings of His Holiness Bahá’u’lláh would be spread, the hearts illuminated, the spirits glorified, and the human world would attain to everlasting felicity.

I hope that the believers of God will shun completely backbiting, each one praising the other cordially and believe that backbiting is the cause of Divine wrath, to such an extent that if a person backbites to the extent of one word, he may become dishonored among all the people, because the most hateful characteristic of man is fault-finding. One must expose the praiseworthy qualities of the souls and not their evil attributes. The friends must overlook their shortcomings and faults and speak only of their virtues and not their defects.” (‘Abdu’l-Baha tablet to Dr. M. G. Skinner, August 12, 1913. Star of the West, Vol IV, No.11, Pg 192)

Experience

Photo: “lucia & the tin-can phone“, by Somaya Langley.

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