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After all, Baha’is believe, God fashioned a universe and a Divine realm so that all his children and their eternal souls could grow and develop. This insight reaches across all religious teachings.
However – it is often hard to comprehend how we can repay this love.
We can show our love, in part, by developing our capacity and propensity to serve, as well as by working diligently to understand the Creator through our independent investigation of His messengers and the mysteries of His universe. In return, we develop our souls. Yet there must be more ways we can show our love to God.
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If we consider that the entirety of humanity are God’s children, then there is a clue about loving God through loving humanity in Gary Chapman’s Five Languages of Love. His book explores how we can both show our love and receive love from others. By extension, we can increase our capacity and propensity to love God by offering ourselves through these five languages of love to a greater number of people. If in doing so, we subsequently increase our selfless desire to express love to others, then we can edge closer to understanding and thus expressing the love that God feels for all of humanity.
Those five “languages of love” are:
- Quality Time
- Physical Touch
- Acts of Service
- Words of affirmation
In every given interaction throughout the day, whether it is with your parents, your children, your friends, your neighbor, the postman, an enemy, a work colleague, or a stranger on the street, and even yourself, you have an opportunity to express yourself through one of the five languages of love.
The Buddha, before he found enlightenment, was a Samadhi who never begged or asked for food, yet the social expectation at the time was to feed a religious person. So, rather than waiting for a beggar to ask you for food, if you went to them and asked them what they needed, not wanted, but needed, it would take away the shame they felt about asking.
Equally we all have a need for social interaction. Today, that same hungry person would have hundreds of people walk past them every day often not wanting to look at them, out of guilt or shame for their situation, or perhaps our own shame for not being able to help them. But if instead of walking past, we regarded them kindly, gave them a fist bump, a handshake, a hug, or sat down with them for a few minutes and listened to their story, perhaps it might help both of us, just by sharing a simple heartfelt word with them or offering to help them in some way. Wouldn’t all of these acts show love towards them, and thus love towards God?
The same logic applies with your family. But if you only show love to your immediate family, you create within you a barrier of us versus them, where your affection is relegated to those who are connected by blood. Your friends, if you show them enough love, can be raised to the station of family for you. A stranger, if shown enough love, can be raised to the station of family for you. Any human, animal, plant, or even mineral, that you show enough love towards, through the five languages of love, can be raised to the station of family within your heart.
Clearly, the more people you hold as family, the closer you become to God – who created the entire human family. That’s the essential message of the Baha’i teachings – that we are all members of the human family. In a talk he gave in Paris, Abdu’l-Baha said:
All men are of one family; the crown of humanity rests on the head of every human being.
In the eyes of the Creator all His children are equal; His goodness is poured forth on all. He does not favour this nation nor that nation, all alike are His creatures. This being so, why should we make divisions, separating one race from another? Why should we create barriers of superstition and tradition bringing discord and hatred among the people? … All peoples and nations are of one family, the children of one Father, and should be to one another as brothers and sisters!
Now that we’re aware of this, how many people each day, on a consistent basis, can we each give quality time to? What is quality time, that first “love language?” Is it just one-on-one time? Or is it time you spend in meaningful dialogue and mutual reflection? When a teacher, whether spiritual or intellectual, offers their knowledge to a student, or to 30 students, is that quality time? When you prepare a meal for your family, or spend an extra hour and a few more dollars preparing meals for your neighbors, isn’t this both an act of service and a gift?
When we share a smile with a stranger, this small act can often bring a smile to their face. To move a few more muscles and to compliment them on something, whether their hair, their smile, their radiant eyes, what they’re wearing, a virtue or quality you admire in them, all of these don’t take a lot of effort – yet they raise the vibration of the soul, and in return will raise the vibration of your own soul.
When we meet someone and offer them a handshake, we show respect, the basis for love, through physical touch. Yet if we hug someone, we both release the “feel-good” hormone called oxytocin, which increases our feelings of connection, bonding, and trust.
So many ways exist for us to express love – and to grow closer to God means to grow closer to all of His creation. Primarily, we do this through expressions of love. The more we can raise the station of all of God’s creation up to our highest capacity for love, that of our one human family, the closer we will come to God. The only challenge, once we can do this at a localized level, is figuring out how to scale it to include the entirety of humanity and all living creatures, just as all the Divine messengers have done before us.