Most of us understandably don’t like it when someone tells us what to do or what to think.
When the boss asks or tells us to do something we may not be prepared for the individual request, but we probably accede to it because it’s part of the job. When our spouse asks or tells us to do something we probably do it because we love and respect them. When a stranger asks or tells us to do something, though, we may balk, and go through a thinking and feeling process to determine how we will respond.
But strangers ask or tell us to do things all the time. TV, radio, newspaper and magazine ads, those pop-ups that appear on our computer screen, all constantly ask for an affirmative reaction from us. They want us to call that 800 number or click through and purchase a service or item they say will help us. We’re bombarded constantly by these messages, and we spend our time evaluating their offers to decide if we need or want them, and if the price they are asking is worth it, even if it goes to a worthy cause.
We can shut everything out and discard every single request, or we can evaluate each, or certain types of requests, as possibilities we may be interested in.
That’s why as a Bahai I don’t ask people to join the Bahai Faith unless they themselves are ready and have indicated a readiness to receive it.
The Baha’i Faith welcomes everyone, believing it has a message for all humankind. But the Faith is also exemplified by what its followers do:
The Baha’i Faith embodies independent principles and laws. It has its own Holy Book. It prescribes pilgrimage and worship. A Baha’i performs obligatory prayers and observes a fast. He gives, according to his beliefs, tithes and contributions. He is required to be of upright conduct, to manifest a praiseworthy character, to love all mankind, to be of service to the world of humanity and to sacrifice his own interests for the good and well-being of his fellow kind. He is forbidden to commit unbecoming deeds. Abdu’l-Baha says: “A Baha’i is known by the attributes manifested by him, not by his name; he is recognized by his character, not by his person. – The Universal House of Justice, 19 October 1983.
Baha’i’s don’t tell others what’s best for them, although most Baha’is would probably say that the Faith has helped them in innumerable ways. Baha’is try to stay away from self-righteousness, from an attitude of elitism and “knowing it all.” Humbly and openly, Baha’is offer the messages of Baha’u’llah through their words and actions in personal ways meant to connect hearts and minds. Baha’is do not use their tongues as swords and divide people from what they know and love, like their families or communities. Instead, Baha’is use their speech and their actions to unite. Baha’u’llah wrote:
… when he hath inscribed upon his soul … the quintessence of inner meaning and explanation, he will fathom all the secrets of these allusions, and God shall bestow upon his heart a divine tranquillity and cause him to be of them that are at peace with themselves. – Baha’u’llah, Gems of Divine Mysteries, pp. 25-26.
The spiritual tongue, as opposed to a materialistic tongue that is meant to attract our material needs, speaks the language of the spirit, the spirit that connects human hearts. Our human actions can also speak a spiritual language or a purely material one.
Abdu’l-Baha spoke about this connection:
Consider what Christ accomplished. He caused souls to attain a station where with complete willingness and joy they laid down their lives. What a power! Thousands of human souls, in the utmost joy because of their spiritual susceptibilities, were so attracted to God that they were dispossessed of volition, deprived of will in His path. If they had been told simply that sacrifice in the path of God was good and praiseworthy, this would never have happened. They would not have acted. Christ attracted them, wrested the reins of control from them, and they went forth in ecstasy to sacrifice themselves. – The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 251.
Yet today it is very hard to get through the defenses people have raised around their hearts and minds to spiritual things. For the exact same reasons stated above we are constantly bombarded with requests and a myriad voices telling us what to do and think. Each proclaims they “know better.” They “know” what is best for us. They “know” what we need and want. They “know” what we should do.
It takes a strong constitution to sort through all of this external “noise” and determine what spiritual path we should follow. Because religions have lost their luster over the centuries while defective human leaders have modified their spiritual foundations, we have lost faith in God and religion to guide us aright. Even true-hearted, devoted, stalwart believers of today’s historic religions find it impossible to follow the hundreds of rules and practices that have crept into them. Yet there is a resurgence in going back to the roots and original dictums of the faith they espouse, to the detriment and harm of so-called non-believers.
The solution for any seeker of truth is to independently investigate the reality of the subject or topic they are faced with. That process involves becoming open to receiving the truth of the matter through questioning and research, determined by the seeker’s own level of comfort and acceptance.
It involves answering the questions, “Is this unifying or disunifying? Is it beneficial or harmful?”
Let your heart, mind and spirit guide your search. Don’t let others know for you—know for yourself. It’s always your choice.