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If you’re an adult, try to imagine the life of a young person right now. Do you think growing up in today’s culture would be harder than growing up in earlier times?
I asked my friends last night if they felt that it would be harder to be a young person today than it was 20 years ago, and they all responded with a unanimous YES!
The strong societal influences young people have to contend with in our current culture come at them from every angle. If not at school, they’re being bombarded with negative, disintegrative forces and messaging at home, online, on their phones, and on TV. It’s constant and it’s everywhere!
However, young people have already shown their capacity not to be disillusioned by conformity, by the forces of disintegration. Many of them continue to be beacons of hope for the rest of us who grew up in a different world, shining examples of remaining coherent with their beliefs and acting upon them, despite the myriad forces at play. As a community we need to continue nurturing and encouraging dialogue and space where our standards for spiritual excellence, are matched by our language and actions – an ultimate example of coherence.
In 2013, Baha’is held a series of 114 conferences for youth from around the world. The conferences celebrated the efforts being made by young people bettering their society, and highlighted the spiritual characteristics necessary to strengthen that trend in the field of service to humanity. One of these characteristics – the need for coherence in our daily lives – can also apply to our presence on the web. Attendees at the conference focused on this theme: “Failure to approach one’s life as a coherent whole often breeds anxiety and confusion. Through service, young people can learn to foster a life in which its various aspects complement each other.”
Living a life of coherence simply means that our beliefs manifest in every aspect of our lives. If we profess to love humanity, how do our actions reflect that love? Our acts of service to others, whether they be through our work, our talents, our relationships, or simply bringing joy to others, keep us in check and help us maintain that coherence.
So, if we learn to use technology with the intention of uplifting the world of being, and serving the integrative forces that contribute to the realization of a new, better world, then we can’t go wrong! The Baha'i teachings highlight the qualities and attributes that contribute to living a life of coherence, through our words, tone, actions, and online presence:
… let each one of you be as a lamp shining forth with the light of the virtues of the world of humanity. Be trustworthy, sincere, affectionate and replete with chastity. Be illumined, be spiritual, be divine, be glorious, be quickened of God, be a Baha’i. - Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 452.
... ye must conduct yourselves in such a manner that ye may stand out distinguished and brilliant as the sun among other souls. Should any one of you enter a city, he should become a centre of attraction by reason of his sincerity, his faithfulness and love, his honesty and fidelity, his truthfulness and loving-kindness towards all the peoples of the world, so that the people of that city may cry out and say: ‘This man is unquestionably a Baha’i, for his manners, his behaviour, his conduct, his morals, his nature, and disposition reflect the attributes of the Baha’is.’ – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 70.
Changing the negative aspects of the culture of the virtual world, and the real one, will take a massive effort from all of us, organized around a new set of spiritual values and characteristics that honor humanity:
Tens of thousands of youth, unwilling to succumb to triviality or to settle for easy conformity, have now been brought within the widening embrace of a conversation and pattern of action of far-reaching consequence regarding how to live a coherent life and be an agent of spiritual and social transformation. – The Universal House of Justice, to the Baha’i’s of the World, 5 December 2013.