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O Children of Adam! Holy words and pure and goodly deeds ascend unto the heaven of celestial glory. – Baha’u’llah, The Hidden Words, p. 46.

Words (Kalimāt, in Persian) is the name of the seventh Baha’i month in the 19-month Baha’i Calendar. The month of “Words” lasts from mid-July until the beginning of August each year.

Words translate our thoughts into speech. Sometimes linguists call verbal expressions “speech acts.” Yet words, standing alone, are not acts or deeds. Words, by themselves, can’t affect meaningful changes in the lives of others and in society at large—only actions can do that.

But when used for teaching, edifying, promoting knowledge, fostering education, imparting wisdom, and strengthening discussion, words prompt actions that aim to create awareness, heighten sensitivity, expand consciousness, build character, foster empathy, encourage consultation, enhance decision-making, promote cooperation, and so forth.

That’s why, in Baha’u’llah’s Hidden Word, above, the conjunction “and” shows that “holy words” (consecrated for a beneficial purpose) must be connected with “pure and goodly deeds” for such words to be worthy of rising to “the heaven of celestial glory,” which likely means attracting spiritual  confirmation. In fact, it’s hard to imagine deeds without words. Baha’u’llah writes:

Were man to appreciate the greatness of his station and the loftiness of his destiny he would manifest naught save goodly character, pure deeds, and a seemly and praiseworthy conduct. If the learned and wise men of goodwill were to impart guidance unto the people, the whole earth would be regarded as one country. Verily this is the undoubted truth. This servant appealeth to every diligent and enterprising soul to exert his utmost endeavour and arise to rehabilitate the conditions in all regions and to quicken the dead with the living waters of wisdom and utterance, by virtue of the love he cherisheth for God, the One, the Peerless, the Almighty, the Beneficent. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 172.

At the beginning of this paragraph, Baha’u’llah says that each person can fulfill his or her destiny by means of “goodly character, pure deeds, and a seemly and praiseworthy conduct.” At the end of this very same paragraph, such “pure deeds” and “praiseworthy conduct” are explicitly associated with “wisdom and utterance” — that is, words judiciously chosen and effectively delivered.

For words to have power and effect, they must be timely, relevant, and purposeful—spoken with pure intent, wisdom and tact.

words-as-deeds-2

What’s the best way to ensure that words fulfill their intended purpose, so that our use of words will prove worthy and effective? In other words, how can you and I make a difference in the lives of others? Baha’u’llah has some advice on how best to use words in one’s speech and actions:

No man of wisdom can demonstrate his knowledge save by means of words. This showeth the significance of the Word as is affirmed in all the Scriptures, whether of former times or more recently. For it is through its potency and animating spirit that the people of the world have attained so eminent a position. Moreover words and utterances should be both impressive and penetrating. However, no word will be infused with these two qualities unless it be uttered wholly for the sake of God and with due regard unto the exigencies of the occasion and the people. – Ibid.

Here, notice that one word in particular is capitalized: “Word.” In Christian discourse, this would be understood as “the Word of God,” i.e. the Bible. In Baha’i discourse, “the Word of God” refers to not only the Bible, but to the holy books of other religions as well, including the scriptures of the Baha’i Faith. As to the power and influence of the “Word of God,” Baha’u’llah elaborates:

O friend of mine! The Word of God is the king of words and its pervasive influence is incalculable. It hath ever dominated and will continue to dominate the realm of being. The Great Being saith: The Word is the master key for the whole world, inasmuch as through its potency the doors of the hearts of men, which in reality are the doors of heaven, are unlocked. No sooner had but a glimmer of its effulgent splendour shone forth upon the mirror of love than the blessed word ‘I am the Best-Beloved’ was reflected therein. It is an ocean inexhaustible in riches, comprehending all things. Every thing which can be perceived is but an emanation therefrom. High, immeasurably high is this sublime station, in whose shadow moveth the essence of loftiness and splendour, wrapt in praise and adoration. – Ibid., p. 173.

The Great Being saith: Human utterance is an essence which aspireth to exert its influence and needeth moderation. As to its influence, this is conditional upon refinement which in turn is dependent upon hearts which are detached and pure. As to its moderation, this hath to be combined with tact and wisdom as prescribed in the Holy Scriptures and Tablets. – Ibid., p. 172.

This sage advice makes perfect sense, and speaks for itself. Let’s close with this inspirational passage:

Every word is endowed with a spirit, therefore the speaker or expounder should carefully deliver his words at the appropriate time and place, for the impression which each word maketh is clearly evident and perceptible. The Great Being saith: One word may be likened unto fire, another unto light, and the influence which both exert is manifest in the world. Therefore an enlightened man of wisdom should primarily speak with words as mild as milk, that the children of men may be nurtured and edified thereby and may attain the ultimate goal of human existence which is the station of true understanding and nobility. And likewise He saith: One word is like unto springtime causing the tender saplings of the rose-garden of knowledge to become verdant and flourishing, while another word is even as a deadly poison. It behoveth a prudent man of wisdom to speak with utmost leniency and forbearance so that the sweetness of his words may induce everyone to attain that which befitteth man’s station. – Ibid., pp. 172–173.

“Words” describes a godly attribute that can be transformed into goodly deeds — especially actions done with pure intent, a noble purpose, and by using the power of “speech acts” (think: “words as deeds”) effectively and productively. These attributes of God are most accessible, easy to understand, and ready to put to good use and best practice in our daily lives.

3 Comments

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  • Brett Zamir
    May 09, 2016
    Nice, Paul!
  • May 05, 2016
    Thanks Christopher and Brett! Here is another compilation on the subject, although it's somewhat specialized for Baha'is:
    http://bahaimosaic.blogspot.com/2009_06_06_archive.html
    (Scroll down to "Table of Linked Contents.")
  • Brett Zamir
    May 04, 2016
    Thank you for drawing out what I think is an under-appreciated topic. FWIW, there are a few other quotes on this topic at https://bahai9.com/wiki/Words_and_deeds .
    I also have https://bahai9.com/wiki/Speech and https://bahai9.com/wiki/Speech_acts , with the latter linking to pages with quotations from the Writings about specific speech acts (e.g., promises or apologies).