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Letting Go of Entitlement and Embracing Gratitude

Badi Shams | Dec 31, 2022

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

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Badi Shams | Dec 31, 2022

The views expressed in our content reflect individual perspectives and do not represent the official views of the Baha'i Faith.

Today the world is experiencing great confusion that has made humanity forget some fundamental values which could save us from great misery – and one of these forgotten values is thankfulness. 

A sense of entitlement pervades many cultures, and prevents them from appreciating the gifts given to them. Sadly, for many that sense of entitlement has replaced gratefulness. 

Some people spend more time pointing to the things they demand and not enough time appreciating their blessings for the things they have. Regrettably, gratefulness and thankfulness have become scarce commodities.

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Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that gratitude creates contentment, which leads to peace of mind and makes us appreciate the gifts given to us by the Creator. God wants nothing from us but our love, and in return provides us with the vast universe and everything in it as our playground to enjoy.

In a talk he gave in New York City in 1912, Abdu’l-Baha pointed us to the crucial things we should all be grateful for:

Do you realize how much you should thank God for His blessings? If you should thank Him a thousand times with each breath, it would not be sufficient because God has created and trained you. He has protected you from every affliction and prepared every gift and bestowal. Consider what a kind Father He is. He bestows His gift before you ask. We were not in the world of existence, but as soon as we were born, we found everything prepared for our needs and comfort without question on our part. He has given us a kind father and compassionate mother, provided for us two springs of salubrious milk, pure atmosphere, refreshing water, gentle breezes and the sun shining above our heads. In brief, He has supplied all the necessities of life although we did not ask for any of these great gifts. …

He has bestowed both upon us – without asking and with supplication. He has created us in this radiant century, a century longed for and expected by all the sanctified souls in past periods. It is a blessed century; it is a blessed day. The philosophers of history have agreed that this century is equal to one hundred past centuries. This is true from every standpoint. This is the century of science, inventions, discoveries and universal laws. This is the century of the revelation of the mysteries of God. This is the century of the effulgence of the rays of the Sun of Truth. Therefore, you must render thanks and glorification to God that you were born in this age. Furthermore, you have listened to the call of Baha’u’llah. …

You were asleep; you are awakened. Your ears are attentive; your hearts are informed. You have acquired the love of God. You have attained to the knowledge of God. This is the most great bestowal of God. This is the breath of the Holy Spirit, and this consists of faith and assurance. This eternal life is the second birth; this is the baptism of the Holy Spirit. … You must appreciate the value of this bounty and engage your time in mentioning and thanking the True One.

As a Baha’i, I am incredibly grateful for the gifts of the Baha’i writings that guide each Baha’i from birth to beyond their physical existence. They include subjects such as educating children, choosing the spiritual path of our lives, and facing the tests and difficulties that come our way – and even include how to view the journey to the next world and the meaning of death. In short, the Baha’i writings cover all aspects of human life, giving us guidance and joy and hope.

All this guidance, sent for our benefit, can help us to aspire to a higher spiritual understanding. In return, we must try to know God and show our gratitude. Understanding God and our relation to Him is complex, and we will never get to know Him due to our limited ability to comprehend Him. But luckily, a recent personal experience helped me see a glimpse of what my relationship with my Creator could be. 

I have a beautiful garden, my prize material possession, with a wide variety of flowers and fruit trees. Flowers attract birds and insects, and among them are a few families of hummingbirds who enjoy the flowers I have planted and the feeders I’ve filled specifically for them. I felt happy to see that they enjoyed the feeders, but the fact that they fought over them saddened me. I wished they would stop fighting, start sharing, and live peacefully together in this beautiful garden. 

The hummingbirds liked the feeders so much that they decided not to migrate. Instead, they have stayed the winter with me for the past few years. I kept the feeders full for the whole winter since there are no flowers or other food sources. Last winter was extremely cold, and the temperature went below zero. The feeders would freeze at night, so I had to defrost them every morning and put them out again. One day, as I was putting out a feeder for these tiny birds and watching their happiness, I realized they would die if I did not feed them. Then I realized how much I loved them and how sad I would be without them. 

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How I wished that they knew how much I loved them. They didn’t realize that their life was in my hands — or that I made sure they were provided for — because of my love for them. Nobody asked me to do that. At that moment it dawned on me that, really, this is what God wishes for us: recognition and gratitude in return for His gifts.

Unlike the hummingbirds who have no idea of the gifts given to them, I hope we recognize the Creator’s gift of life and His love for us. He has made provisions for all our needs. All we have to do is to acknowledge them and be grateful for them.

Like humanity, my birds fought the whole summer, and I gave up finding ways to make them stop fighting, share the feeders, and eat together. I resigned myself to their aggressive territorial behavior, but to my surprise, they started eating together by the summer’s end. I was so happy to see five birds sitting together and sustaining themselves on the same small feeder. Their unity delighted me, and took a photo of that moment so I could relish it in the future – and as proof that we humans can do the same. 

I hope that, like the birds in my garden, humanity stops fighting and realizes the need for the oneness of humankind. We, too, can learn to unite and enjoy the world’s gifts, count our blessings, and show our gratitude every day.

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