Have you noticed how often the state of a family determines the success of its individual members—how often strong people come from strong families?
The family that provides a healthy, loving, united environment for individual growth serves as a strong foundation on which the individual can build. Furthermore, the family that is united in its efforts can achieve virtually any goal it sets. The members of such a family benefit from their interdependence, enabling all to prosper.
The Baha’i teachings point this out, and attribute that family unity to “love and agreement:”
If love and agreement are manifest in a single family, that family will advance, become illumined and spiritual; but if enmity and hatred exist within it, destruction and dispersion are inevitable. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, pp. 144-145.
It is also true that the process of disintegration in a family is doubly amplified by the absence of unity. With each successive generation mired in unresolved fracture and enmity, fewer and fewer interdependent relationships are formed within the family. A cascade of self-destruction can begin if the enmity is not replaced with love and unity. The extended family can degenerate into poorly functioning nuclear families, which can deteriorate into fragmented one-parent families, which can then degenerate into estranged individuals with little or no sense of family. It may take several generations for this process to transpire, but if it is left to run its course, the end of the family lineage is inevitable:
Consider the harmful effect of discord and dissension in a family; then reflect upon the favors and blessings which descend upon that family when unity exists among its various members. – Ibid., p. 230.
Strive to attain a station of absolute love one toward another. By the absence of love, enmity increases. By the exercise of love, love strengthens and enmities dwindle away. – Ibid., p. 9.
However, as the Baha’i teachings point out, if at some point unity begins to replace enmity, the family can begin to heal and reestablish itself. The destructive process reverses itself, and the benefits gained can touch everyone from the individual to the whole world. When unity is established between spouses, the family is united; where there are united families, there can be cooperation within the community; and with concord established in the community, there can be peace and prosperity in the world:
Treat all thy friends and relatives, even strangers, with a spirit of utmost love and kindliness. – Ibid., p. 6.
Order your lives in accordance with the first principle of the divine teaching, which is love. – Ibid., p. 7.
When you love a member of your family or a compatriot, let it be with a ray of the Infinite Love! Let it be in God, and for God! Wherever you find the attributes of God love that person, whether he be of your family or of another. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, p. 38.
The family is the home, and, according to Baha’i belief, the station of the home has been elevated to the level of a place of worship. The family is a place wherein God should be mentioned and praised often:
I beseech God to graciously make of thy home a centre for the diffusion of the light of divine guidance, for the dissemination of the Words of God and for enkindling at all times the fire of love in the hearts of His faithful servants and maidservants. Know thou of a certainty that every house wherein the anthem of praise is raised to the Realm of Glory in celebration of the Name of God is indeed a heavenly home, and one of the gardens of delight in the Paradise of God. – Abdu’l-Baha, from a Tablet- translated from the Arabic.
The family, then, is spiritually imbued with the potential for sanctity. The home can become a holy and sacred place if the family acquires and demonstrates the love of God, a reverence for peace, and an appreciation for joy and laughter.
In one sense, the family home is our first house of worship, temple, church, synagogue, or mosque—the first place where we hear about God and witness on a day-to-day basis the practical application of our innermost spiritual beliefs. Whether kneeling beside our bed, sitting in a quiet corner, or standing with our palms upraised, it is the place where we learn to pray. Prayer and the mention of God can make any home a house of God:
Blessed is the spot, and the house, and the place, and the city, and the heart, and the mountain, and the refuge, and the cave, and the valley, and the land, and the sea, and the island, and the meadow where mention of God hath been made, and His praise glorified. – Baha’u’llah, Baha’i Prayers, p. iii.