On Backbiting

Aug 2014
Blue Planet
I think the matter of backbiting is one of the things which is really clearly and directly mentioned within the faith. That we should not backbite, and we should not listen to it either, and should find smart ways even to stop it without hurting anyone.
I always thought I could easily stop the backbiting in a gathering I take part in, and I sometimes did, but today, I was in a situation which I am going to explain, and I really didn't know how to react. I would like to know everyone's idea about the situation:

A very close family friend who is not Iranian and who is a merchant was telling me (and there were only the two of us in the room), with extreme anger and regret and sadness how another friend whom I know has taken HUGE sum of money from him, promising to turn it back with benefit, after 6 month. But after one and a half year when the merchant friend goes to the one who borrowed money, he says he has no money to give him, and that he can do what he likes! He even does not end here and starts to say shameful things to the merchant man and his family, calling him a dirty Arab etc.

now, this was the situation I was in, and this was almost the first time I could not stop the merchant man from telling me all these. He was so sad about what had happened and he was telling me that that rubbery has made him hate all Iranians and Iran all at once, and that he thinks he can never forgive that man who ruined his trust so badly.
When I was listening to him, it came to my mind to tell him, mildly, that now that all is done, saying those things to me won't cure anything. But I could not do it, because the man is older than me and is already broken hearted because of we Persians. I also wanted to tell him some good words which could probably change his mood and build a little trust in him again, but that would look so much like I was trying to teach him; he just needed to talk and an ear to listen!

what would you do in such a condition? did I make an error by listening to him?
I thought maybe by trying to not be affected by what the merchant man said, I am somehow staying away from the whole act of backbiting. That maybe if my view about that man who stole the money is not changed, I have stayed clean. But it is somehow also impossible to not take a little effect from those words. Thus, I would like to hear your ideas, dear friends.
Feb 2019
Portland, OR USA
I have never successfully stopped someone from backbiting by using a spiritual and friendly manner as Abdu'l-Baha recommends. I have however said "I believe you are justified to be upset, but I don't want to hear about what they did unless they are here to give their interpretation." I do use the word interpretation. I feel resentful to be placed in a position of implied support of the backbiter's view by listening respectfully. Which is why I have a hard time being spiritual and friendly about the situation. I am trying not to show my displeasure to someone who is already upset. So if you feel similar then I can relate to your situation.

While my response is more commiseration than recommendation, I think it represents the reality of backbiting. It is divisive. No matter how many facts are presented. I know I have backbit, and been bitten. I believe the behavior comes from the desire for fairness and justice divorced from compassion. How do you find justice when the betrayal was not illegal? How do you feel compassion when consumed by pain and pride? If the listener adapts my view all I have done is spread poison and discord. When I am consumed such that I want to backbite, my focus is on myself so strongly that prayer is veiled and just out of reach.

I have avoided backbiting to my best ability. I backbite in my mind and can identify the support I want or the perception of life I lost. Doing so has helped me be mindful enough of my mind and heart that I can move on and live and pray. I am unsure if this is healthy. But I do know that our minds are not totally(to put it lightly) under our control. Speaking or writing words, on the other-hand, are (besides some forms of brain damage where the thought to speech control is actually gone, and also some psychosis that prevent reflection).

I tried to clean up my thoughts here and give you a organized response. I think spiritual wrestling is just unorganized.
Aug 2014
Blue Planet
Thank you BrianRid and n0thing so much.
now what's your ideas about the meaning of "backbiting" itself? can we say backbiting is only when someone talks about the faults of others either for pleasure or to ruin the absent person's reputation? and that if someone is talking fully out of pain, hopelessly searching for justice even from everyday people, it is not backbiting?
Sep 2018
what's your ideas about the meaning of "backbiting" itself?
to me, simply put, backbiting is that which causes division.

my friend, i must say, we should not find sins in others, for no one is perfect, and there is only one judge.:)
Breathe not the sins of others so long as thou art thyself a sinner. Shouldst thou transgress this command, accursed wouldst thou be, and to this I bear witness.
(Bahá’u’lláh, The Arabic Hidden Words, 27)
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