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The Duty of Encouragement
"The people of Bahá must associate and deal with each other with the utmost love and sincerity. They should be mindful of the interests of all, especially the friends of God." - Bahá'u'lláh, Kitáb-i-Aqdas, The Book of Laws, Notes, p. 209
How often do we remember to encourage one another? And I'm not talking about providing helpful criticism, which I find oh so easy to do, especially with children! An important part of building and sustaining community, whether family or neighborhood, is consistent support of one another's growth and dreams. We should praise the wavering first steps as much as the successes.
Well, hey, for most of us, just noticing small progress instead of focusing on all that has not yet been achieved would be a huge step in the right direction! Alas, I went through many children before I realized this, and I'm not sure I could implement it even today. It is just so much easier to see the negative, even in myself.
But, I am a Bahá'í, and the Bahá'í Faith is all about improving life and building peaceful and productive communities locally, regionally, nationally, internationally. The process and tools they use are the virtues espoused by religion throughout human history. This requires a personal commitment to developing good character, which is pretty hard to do without support and encouragement.
'Abdu'l-Bahá, the son of Prophet/Founder Bahá'u'lláh, advised, "You live to do good and to bring happiness to others. Your greatest longing is to comfort those who mourn, to strengthen the weak, and to be the cause of hope to the despairing soul. Day and night your thoughts are turned to the Kingdom, and your hearts are full of the Love of God. Thus you know neither opposition, dislike, nor hatred, for every living creature is dear to you and the good of each is sought." - Paris Talks, pp. 112-113
Such a state is difficult to imagine, let alone achieve. I can only offer what I have learned so far:
First, I must encourage myself, which requires beginning the day with prayer and the assurance that God loves me even in my imperfection. Then some quiet reflection on what one thing I might be able to do this day to work towards my goals. It might be about myself, such as refraining from complaining about something or being impatient with a certain person. Or it could be to notice and praise something a family member or neighbor has achieved. I have to be very specific and concrete. Goals that are too general, such as halting climate change or being the perfect spouse will not produce enough success in one day to encourage me!
It helps to remember (and this works for any Prophet of God, since Bahá'ís believe there is only one God and all His Messengers speak with the same voice), "...Peace of mind is gained by the centering of the spiritual consciousness on the Prophet of God; therefore you should study the spiritual Teachings, and receive the Water of Life from the Holy Utterances. Then by translating these high ideals into action, your entire character will be changed, and your mind will not only find peace, but your entire being will find joy and enthusiasm." - Lights of Guidance, p. 112
Only then, can I approach the world better prepared to find ways to encourage positive change. Religion is about personal transformation and the Bahá'í Faith is focused upon the unification of the entire human race into one peaceful planet wide family. Bahá'u'lláh has provided the goals, the guidelines (laws) specific to this point in history, and the blueprint for building a supportive community to make the work easier to achieve those goals.
When I focus on becoming a part of the solution, on being the change I want to see in the world, then I can encourage others. Then I can make a difference for the better. But it surely helps when someone encourages me to keep at it!
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