The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.
Lots of boys pick strong messages about who they are and who they want to be from the media. The music industry presents overtly sexual messages that denigrate women and portray them as sex toys. Video games offer violent messages, and even the sports video games include taunting and teasing. Movies portray men as tough guys. And there are the subtle advertising messages aimed at boys, in the liquor ads on billboards and buses. All of these offer images of masculinity that boys strive to achieve. – Geoffrey Canada, CEO, Harlem Children’s Zone
What image of masculinity would you like your boy to achieve? What constitutes success for your son? Does it center on material prosperity—a career, a nice home, wealth? Would you like your son to achieve fame or notoriety? Or does your dream for him center around the inner, more intellectual and spiritual virtues you want your son to evince? Can you think of a role model for that image of masculinity, someone you would recommend as an example to your boy, someone he could emulate?
Boys actively and naturally seek a role model, someone they can look up to and whose footsteps they can strive to follow in life. Often that role model is the father, but every good father recognizes the need for a positive influence beyond his own.
The Baha’i Faith offers the world a remarkable role model named Abdu’l-Baha. The son of Baha’u’llah, the prophet and founder of the Baha’i Faith, Abdu’l-Baha suffered tremendously as a boy, only to grow into a world-renowned teacher of love, peace and unity. He spent much of his early life in exile and in prison because of Baha’u’llah’s imprisonment; and his release in 1908 allowed him to travel the world spreading the Baha’i message of oneness. He always served the poor, the hungry, the ill and the unfortunate; and the British Empire knighted him for his selfless service to others. In Abdu’l-Baha’s travels to Europe and North America, he became widely known as a powerful advocate for world government, demilitarization, racial unity, the harmony of science and religion and the emancipation of women.
Abdu’l-Baha encouraged everyone, males and females, to focus their lives on serving others:
How noble and excellent is man, if he only attain to that state for which he was designed. And how mean and contemptible, if he close his eyes to the public weal, and spend his precious capacities on personal and selfish ends. The greatest happiness lies in the happiness of others. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 181.
Exalt your thoughts. Reflect over all your affairs. Magnify your endeavours. Enlarge the circle of your ideals. Open the wings of spiritual wisdom. Let your hope be the accomplishment of most great deeds the results of which may immortalize your names. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 4, p. 184.
That advice—to accomplish truly great deeds by devoting your life to the happiness and welfare of others—exemplifies what it means to be a Baha’i:
Then it is clear that the honour and exaltation of man cannot reside solely in material delights and earthly benefits. This material felicity is wholly secondary, while the exaltation of man resides primarily in such virtues and attainments as are the adornments of the human reality. These consist in divine blessings, heavenly bounties, heartfelt emotions, the love and knowledge of God, the education of the people, the perceptions of the mind, and the discoveries of science. They consist in justice and equity, truthfulness and benevolence, inner courage and innate humanity, safeguarding the rights of others and preserving the sanctity of covenants and agreements. They consist in rectitude of conduct in all circumstances, love of truth under all conditions, self-abnegation for the good of all people, kindness and compassion for all nations, obedience to the teachings of God, service to the heavenly Kingdom, guidance for all mankind, and education for all races and nations. This is the felicity of the human world! This is the exaltation of man in the contingent realm! This is eternal life and heavenly honour! – Abdu’l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, newly revised edition, pp. 89-90.
These noble goals, ideals and achievements, so exalted and admirable, can truly inspire our children. So rather than leaving your sons and daughters at the mercy of the modern media and its morally and spiritually dubious role models, feel free to introduce them to the life, the example and the writings of Abdu’l-Baha.