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The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others. – Mahatma Gandhi
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. – Galatians 5:13.
The best of men are those who serve the people; the worst of men are those who harm the people. – Qur’an 59:9.
…all effort and exertion put forth by man from the fullness of his heart is worship, if it is prompted by the highest motives and the will to do service to humanity. This is worship: to serve mankind and to minister to the needs of the people. – Abdu’l-Baha, Paris Talks, pp. 176-177.
If one were to take that goal out of its religious form and look merely at its purely human side, one might state it perhaps thus: free and responsible development of the individual, so that he may place his powers freely and gladly in the service of all mankind. – Albert Einstein
“To render service to humanity,” Abdu’l-Baha said, allows us to advance in nobility and become more spiritual.
How does that work?
Generally, many people tend to think that nobility involves having servants, rather than being servants. The English word service comes from the Latin servus, which means “slave.” In the old caste and class systems, those who serve always ranked below those they served. Some see service as unskilled, undignified and even demeaning. The word “servant” can seem like a relic of a past age, where the dictionary definition meant “a person who is employed by another for menial offices, or for other labor, and is subject to his command.” “Service industry” jobs pay low wages and have little prestige in many societies. In general, modern cultures tend to assign little value to service to others.
But the Baha’i teachings upend and completely reverse that concept, and demonstrate that service to others constitutes the highest, best and most noble calling we human beings can possibly aspire to:
Again, is there any deed in the world that would be nobler than service to the common good? Is there any greater blessing conceivable for a man, than that he should become the cause of the education, the development, the prosperity and honor of his fellow-creatures? No, by the Lord God! The highest righteousness of all is for blessed souls to take hold of the hands of the helpless and deliver them out of their ignorance and abasement and poverty, and with pure motives, and only for the sake of God, to arise and energetically devote themselves to the service of the masses, forgetting their own worldly advantage and working only to serve the general good. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 103.
This kind of service—actively doing good for another person, or for all people—arises out of a noble, selfless dedication to the betterment of the human race and of the world. Baha’is believe that service to others puts human nobility into action, and expresses the highest spiritual motivation of all. In fact, the Baha’i teachings call this kind of service to humanity “the paramount motive of all existence:”
Praise be to God! the mediaeval ages of darkness have passed away and this century of radiance has dawned, this century wherein the reality of things is becoming evident, wherein science is penetrating the mysteries of the universe, the oneness of the world of humanity is being established and service to mankind is the paramount motive of all existence. – Abdu’l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 369.
Can you imagine the nobility and beauty of a world where every person exists to benefit, help and serve every other person? Instead of the grasping, selfish, dog-eat-dog, every-man-for-himself outlook so many individuals and societies have today, we could build a humble, loving and mutually supportive environment that allows everyone to flourish. This quality alone, for whoever practices and adopts it, creates a noble being:
The friends of God should become the manifestors in this world of this mercy and love. They should not dwell on the shortcomings of others. Ceaselessly should they be thinking how they may benefit others and show service and co-operation. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 2, p. 4.
Next: How to Guide and Enlighten Others