Strive ye with all your hearts, raise up your voices and shout, until this dark world be filled with light, and this narrow place of shadows be widened out, and this dust heap of a fleeting moment be changed into a mirror for the eternal gardens of heaven, and this globe of earth receive its portion of celestial grace. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 36.
Can technology help us lead more spiritual lives? Can a virtual community help bring love and unity to the real world? Can the web, beyond all of its cat photos and social media induced depression, actually help the planet truly evolve and connect?
For almost three years, we’ve tried to answer those questions here at BahaiTeachings.org. People all over the world have responded, in large numbers and with great enthusiasm. So far, we think we can answer all of those questions with a resounding “Yes!” But, as always in life, that answer raises another question:
Can a website or an app help make a profound difference in our hearts and souls?
Today we’ll start to find out. As the founder of BahaiTeachings.org, our very positive, happy experience with this website has convinced me that technology can and does foster empathy, help us be more cognizant of our actions and their impacts, and extol the best human virtues to each other. Technology used properly can have a spiritual dimension we’ve just begun to explore. So we’re going to try something new, beginning now, called Shout the Good. (https://shout.gd)
The underlying idea comes directly from the Baha’i teachings:
One must see in every human being only that which is worthy of praise. When this is done, one can be a friend to the whole human race. If, however, we look at people from the standpoint of their faults, then being a friend to them is a formidable task. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 169.
Almost a year ago, my good friend, actor/director Justin Baldoni and I decided to try and find a way to collect, curate and quantify the best human qualities and positive character traits of people online, determined by their own social network. We wanted everybody to be able to measure the strength of their character with a simple score.
Shout’s proprietary algorithm scores users from 1-100 based on three things: their online social footprint and everything they post publicly on social media; endorsements for positive traits they give and receive from friends on the app; and “Shouting the Good” when someone either deserves a shout-out, or has had a positive impact on others.
Justin and I want this unique approach to function as a magnifying glass that amplifies our positive traits and the positive impact we have on others. Rather than a constant, depressing stream of grim news and bad behavior, we want this new site to highlight the wonderful qualities and accomplishments of good people.
Over time, as we grow and learn from all the global, crowd-sourced feedback we hope Shout the Good will provide, we want to let the service evolve into something truly helpful to humanity. We know what we’ve built so far is far from adequate. This humble effort, a long way from being final or well-developed now, will need to grow, develop and mature just like everyone’s character does. Ultimately, we want it to help all of us be better people.
Several have already asked us: “Shout highlights the good qualities, but what about the bad ones, which we all have?”
We’ve purposely left them out of the equation. Why? Because we’re trying to abide by the Baha’i admonition to focus on peoples’ praiseworthy attributes; and because we think this profound advice, also from the Baha’i teachings, best advises us about what to do when we see the faults in others:
Whenever you recognize the fault of another, think of yourself: What are my imperfections?-and try to remove them. Do this whenever you are tried through the words or deeds of others. Thus you will grow, become more perfect. You will overcome self, you will not even have time to think of the faults of others. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 138.
So rather than the snark and the insults the web can sometimes produce, we wanted to create a space where kind, thoughtful people could enhance and enliven their spirituality by focusing on shouting the good. Please join us.