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COLLECTIONLetters from the Universal House of Justice
TITLEChildhood Trauma, Recovering from
AUTHOR 1 Universal House of Justice
ABSTRACTGuidance for individuals who suffered traumatic childhood experiences at the hands of disturbed parents.
TAGSAbuse; Domestic violence; Ethics; Justice; Psychology; Trauma
CONTENT Dear Bahá'í Friend,

The Universal House of Justice has received your letter of 21 July 1992, which raises a number of questions as a consequence of your traumatic experiences as a child. We have been asked to provide the following response.

The House of Justice is distressed to hear of the appalling ceremonies in which you were compelled to participate as a child. You are truly blessed to have been enabled to accept Bahá'u'lláh as the Manifestation of God for this Age, and to have access to the limitless spiritual powers with which His life-giving Revelation is infused. You can draw on these powers by your prayers as well as your participation in the work of the Faith and the life of the Bahá'í community; through this effort, and through your consultation with competent professionals having expertise in your area of need, you can promote your healing from the damaging effects of your past experiences, and can find happiness and tranquillity. You are assured of the prayers of the Universal House of Justice in the Holy Shrines on your behalf.

Turning now to the questions you have posed, you are encouraged to study carefully the passages in the Holy Writings, and especially the Tablets and talks of 'Abdu'l-Bahá, pertaining to the nature of man. Every human being has a spiritual nature and also a material nature; his purpose is to subdue the material nature, which inclines him to evil, and, with the aid of Divine Teachings, to develop his spiritual nature so that he can manifest praiseworthy attributes. An individual who chooses to surrender to the promptings of his material nature can sink to levels of depravity and bestiality which are abhorrent to the discerning eye, and which are totally unworthy of the human station. The Bahá'í Teachings inform us that there is no independent force of evil in creation, but terms such as "devil" or Satan" are used in sacred books as symbols of the promptings of the lower nature of man.

As a devoted believer you are urged to strive to develop forgiveness in your heart toward your parents who have abused you in so disgraceful a manner, and to attain a level of insight which sees them as captives of their lower nature, whose actions can only lead them deeper into unhappiness and separation from God. By this means, you can liberate yourself from the anger to which you refer in your letter, and foster your own spiritual development. The peerless example of 'Abdu'l-Bahá merits close scrutiny in your quest for a sense of forgiveness; His abiding love for humanity, despite its waywardness and perversity enabled Him to manifest sincere compassion and magnanimity to those who had brought Him distress and hardship.

Such an attitude does not preclude your being prudent in deciding upon the appropriate amount of contact with your parents. In reaching your decision you should be guided by such factors as their degree of remorse over what they inflicted on you in the past, the extent of their present involvement in practices which as so contrary to Bahá'í Teachings, and the level of vulnerability you perceive within yourself to being influenced adversely by them. In the process of reaching a decision, you may well find it useful to seek the advice of experts such as your therapist.

In one of His Tablets, 'Abdu'l-Bahá has responded to concerns expressed to Him by a believer with the following:

. . . if you seek immunity from the sway of the forces of the contingent world, hang the Most Great Name in your dwelling, wear the ring of the Most Great Name on your finger, place the picture of 'Abdu'l-Bahá in your home and always recite the prayers that I have written; then you will behold the marvellous effect they produce. Those so-called forces will prove but illusions and will be wiped out and exterminated.

You enquire whether you should take action to have your parents charged with murder, following the death of your brother. You should ascertain from a competent lawyer what are your legal obligations in this regard, and follow such requirements. If there is no legal obligation, it is left to your discretion to decide on this matter, in light of the circumstances However, you might well ask yourself, in the course of this decision-making, what beneficial result is to be gained from such an action, more especially if the action occurred some years ago and if legally-acceptable proof is difficult to establish; you should also weigh carefully the effect this might have on yourself, in the process of re-opening the subject, testifying about it in court, and doubtless incurring the antagonism of your parents. Your fervent prayers for the progress of the soul of your deceased brother must surely be of inestimable value to him, as are services to humanity which you may wish to render in his name or on his behalf.

The House of Justice offers you its abundant sympathy at what you have suffered, its loving concern for your welfare, and its encouragement to you to look to the future with confidence and optimism. You are urged to ponder these reassuring words of Bahá'u'lláh:

O My servants! Sorrow not if, in these days and on this earthly plane, things contrary to your wishes have been ordained and manifested by God, for days of blissful joy, of heavenly delight, are assuredly in store for you. Worlds, holy and spiritually glorious, will be unveiled to your eyes. You are destined by Him in this world and hereafter, to partake of their benefits, to share in their joys, and to obtain a portion of their sustaining grace. To each and every one of them you will, no doubt, attain.

With loving Bahá'í greetings,

For Department of the Secretariat

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