How often do we hear parents say to their child, “I’m proud of you” or “You should be proud of yourself”?
Even in school, children are taught to be proud of their school, proud of their sports teams, proud of their star athletes, proud of their flag, proud of their country, etc.—the list goes on and on. If you live in the United States, you’ve probably seen the military recruiting ad on TV that says “The proud, the few, the Marines.” In many of the world’s societies, especially the so-called “developed” nations of the West, we emphasize pride in practically everything. We’re proud of our material possessions, our educations, even our entire cultures.
This over-emphasis on pride is a little puzzling, because North America and Europe are mostly composed of Christian nations, so the spiritual teachings in the Bible presumably have some importance in the lives of most of those people. For example, the Bible clearly states that, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” – Proverbs 16:18.
Some pride can be healthy, of course, but an excess of it carries great dangers, not only for individuals but for entire societies. Where does all this pride lead? If we are proud individuals, for example, could this sense of personal pride lead to a seemingly inherent sense of superiority over others?
When it occurs, that inherent sense of superiority can easily produce prejudicial thoughts, attitudes and actions toward others who are different from ourselves, including those of a different religion, race, political party, nationality, economic standing, language, educational level, etc. In short, our pride can create divisions in society with their attendant negative feeling towards the people different from ourselves.
We might ask, “Where does this prejudice take us”? If we think deeply about the matter, we can conclude that our prejudices create the root cause of conflict in society, which eventually leads to war with its indiscriminate destruction. Just watch the news and see what is currently happening in the Middle East and even on our own city streets.
Abdu’l-Baha emphasized this point about the destructiveness of prejudice when he visited the United States in 1912. In one of his talks he said:
When we review history from the beginning of human existence to the present age in which we live, it is evident all war and conflict, bloodshed and battle, every form of sedition has been due to some form of prejudice—whether religious, racial or national—to partisan bias and selfish prejudice of some sort. Even today we witness an upheaval in the Balkans, a war of religious prejudice. Some years ago, when I was living in Rumelia, war broke out among the religious peoples. There was no attitude of justice or equity whatever amongst them. They pillaged the properties of each other, burning each other’s homes and houses, slaughtering men, women and children, imagining that such warfare and bloodshed was the means of drawing near to God. This clearly proved that prejudice is a destroyer of the foundations of the world of humanity, whereas religion was meant to be the cause of fellowship and agreement. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 343-344.
So, if prejudice destroys our human foundations, what can we do about it? Baha’u’llah, the founder of the Baha’i Faith, provided the answer. He revealed in the late 1800’s:
O ye men of wisdom among nations! Shut your eyes to estrangement, then fix your gaze upon unity. Cleave tenaciously unto that which will lead to the well-being and tranquility of all mankind. This span of earth is but one homeland and one habitation. It behoveth you to abandon vainglory which causeth alienation and to set your hearts on whatever will ensure harmony. In the estimation of the people of Baha man’s glory lieth in his knowledge, his upright conduct, his praiseworthy character, his wisdom, and not in his nationality or rank. O people of the earth! Appreciate the value of this heavenly word. Indeed it may be likened unto a ship for the ocean of knowledge and a shining luminary for the realm of perception. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, pp. 67-68.
It is possible to have a peaceful world—the choice lies within each one of us. If we abandon pride and prejudice, focus on becoming better human beings as instructed by Baha’u’llah, and find ways to build bridges with people who are different from us, it can be done. In the publication The Promise of World Peace, the Universal House of Justice, the international governing body of the Baha’i Faith, gave humanity a practical plan to eliminate warfare on earth and to establish a truly secure and peaceful world. They wrote in the introduction, addressed to “The Peoples of the World:”
The Great Peace towards which people of goodwill throughout the centuries have inclined their hearts, of which seers and poets for countless generations have expressed their vision, and for which from age to age the sacred scriptures of mankind have constantly held the promise, is now at long last within the reach of the nations. For the first time in history it is possible for everyone to view the entire planet, with all its myriad diversified peoples, in one perspective. World peace is not only possible but inevitable. It is the next stage in the evolution of this planet—in the words of one great thinker, “the planetization of mankind.” – The Promise of World Peace, October 1985, p. 1.
If you’re interested in peace, and would like to study the Baha’i plan to create the environment that will allow world peace to happen, you can read and download The Promise of World Peace at www.bahai.org. Pride and prejudice should both be abandoned, so that we don’t collectively taste the destruction they cause. Instead, let’s teach ourselves and our children that humankind is truly one family, and the Earth one homeland.