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Do you ever complain? I sometimes find myself doing it, and then I realize I should work on eliminating all those negative and unproductive complaints from my life.
We’ve all complained at one time or another. You know those no-good, terrible, horrible very bad days I’m talking about: you get a flat tire, it rains, and you’re late for work; you’re wearing a new suit, and you spill coffee on it right before your job interview; after moving into your new home, a severe storm hits, and your insurance doesn’t cover the damage. We’ve probably all experienced one of those days, the ones where we ask, “Why me?!”
When life gets tough, we often tend to dwell on the negatives and groan about the unfairness of it all. But the true test of a person’s character, and the harder thing to do (myself included), lies in focusing on the positives, remaining hopeful, and exhibiting what the Baha’i teachings call “radiant acquiescence.”
As a Baha’i, I’ve learned that radiant acquiescence entails dealing with life’s challenges by manifesting an inner sense of peaceful, calm acceptance. That requires developing a spiritual outlook on life, and accepting what it throws at you—not just with grit and stoicism, but with joy. Abdu’l-Baha defined it this way:
The confirmations of the Spirit are all those powers and gifts which some are born with (and which men sometimes call genius), but for which others have to strive with infinite pains. They come to that man or woman who accepts his life with radiant acquiescence. – Abdu’l-Baha in London, p. 120.
The word “acquiesce” means to “quietly consent,” and to develop “radiant acquiescence” means happily preferring the will of God to your own. Like the natural world, in harmony with the Creator, we can only flourish when we consent joyfully and with radiance, having faith that the Supreme Being knows what’s best for our growth. The Baha’i writings put it this way:
Even as the clouds let us shed down tears, and as the lightning flashes let us laugh at our coursings through east and west… Let us not keep on forever with our fancies and illusions, with our analysing and interpreting and circulating of complex dubieties. Let us put aside all thoughts of self; let us close our eyes to all on earth, let us neither make known our sufferings nor complain of our wrongs. Rather let us become oblivious of our own selves, and drinking down the wine of heavenly grace, let us cry out our joy, and lose ourselves in the beauty of the All-Glorious. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 236.
Instead of complaining about our plights, this wonderfully spiritual guidance suggests, we can welcome even the most difficult circumstances in life with radiant acquiescence.
How can we apply the concept of radiant acquiescence to our daily lives? First, we can realize that true happiness means severing ourselves from the material world, detaching from its unavoidable suffering, and radiantly accepting its inevitable tests and difficulties:
Such is this mortal abode — a storehouse of afflictions and suffering. It is negligence that binds man to it for no comfort can be secured by any soul in this world, from monarch down to the least subject. If once it should offer man a sweet cup, a hundred bitter ones will follow it and such is the condition of this world. The wise man therefore does not attach himself to this mortal life and does not depend upon it… – Abdu’l-Baha, Baha’i World Faith, pp. 378-379.
As this passage infers, Baha’is believe in joyously accepting our challenges and difficulties with a spirit of detachment. The Baha’i teachings say that tests and difficulties ultimately benefit us, in much the same way that metal is tested for its quality by undergoing intense heat and flame. As these tests teach us, guide us, and perfect us, it makes sense for us to accept these challenges happily and ultimately grow from them. What else can we do—complain? How does that help us grow?
Yes, the concept of radiant acquiescence may seem hard to accept initially. It’s something I, too, continually struggle with and strive towards. However–if we think of God as a kind and loving Creator who knows what’s best for us, and never sends a test our way that we can’t handle, then it’s easier to deal with our daily struggles, and realize they make us spiritually strong.
Join me in a quest to put an end to complaining and hopelessness. When life sends challenges our way, let’s use prayer, meditation, and reflection. If we focus our energies less on complaining and bemoaning our plight, and more on positivity, hopefulness, and helping others, we just might find that we truly can endure life’s challenges while acquiescing, radiantly.