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When my son asked me to tell him about the rules of life, these words from Abdu’l-Baha occurred to me, unbidden:
Offer thy friendship, be worthy of trust. Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill. Bind thou the souls together. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 26.
Friendship and trust; a medicine for every ill; bind the souls together—that universal advice will always stand every person in good stead. From a letter Abdu’l-Baha wrote to a woman who asked for a rule to live her life by, these three short sentences offer timeless counsel to every soul.
True friendship, Baha’u’llah wrote, is a “sweet fragrance:”
O ye beloved of the Lord! Commit not that which defileth the limpid stream of love or destroyeth the sweet fragrance of friendship. By the righteousness of the Lord! Ye were created to show love one to another and not perversity and rancour. Take pride not in love for yourselves but in love for your fellow-creatures. – Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 138.
The Baha’i teachings put great emphasis on trustworthiness. Being worthy of the trust of others—the basis for all lasting friendships—pays enormous spiritual dividends. Both Baha’u’llah’s and Abdu’l-Baha’s writings call trustworthiness “the greatest portal” and “the most brilliant jewel” of our spiritual characteristics:
Trustworthiness is the greatest portal leading unto the tranquillity and security of the people. In truth the stability of every affair hath depended and doth depend upon it. All the domains of power, of grandeur and of wealth are illumined by its light. – Baha’u’llah, Tablets of Baha’u’llah, p. 36.
Trustworthiness is the most brilliant jewel in the diadem which crowns man’s heavenly attributes. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 5, p. 25.
If you’re trustworthy, I tried to explain to my son, you will always have strong relationships with other people. Much of life’s success, I told him, comes from being trustworthy. When people know you’re true to your word, that you will do what you say you’ll do, that you practice what you preach, they naturally trust you. Trust, I said, forms the foundation of every friendship.
Then he asked “What’s a ‘balm’?”
“Something that heals and soothes,” I said. I could see him thinking about Abdu’l-Baha’s admonition: “Be thou a balm to every sore, be thou a medicine for every ill.” I waited until he had a question.
“Does it mean we’re supposed to help people feel better?” he asked. “Like a doctor?”
“Yes,” I said. “It means we try to give them what will heal them the most.” Then I thought of another beautiful quotation from the Baha’i teachings, and I went to our bookshelf to find it and read it to him:
True friends are even as skilled physicians, and the Teachings of God are as healing balm, a medicine for the conscience of man. They clear the head, so that a man can breathe them in and delight in their sweet fragrance. They waken those who sleep. They bring awareness to the unheeding, and a portion to the outcast, and to the hopeless, hope. – Abdu’l-Baha, Selections from the Writings of Abdu’l-Baha, p. 22.
I looked up at my son’s young face as I read the quote. I remember saying a silent prayer at that moment, hoping that he would understand the importance of what he had heard, and make it a guiding principle in his life.
May ye be salutary water for the thirsty, an evidence of guidance for the seeker, protection and support for the helpless, a shelter and home for the wanderers, the treasury of the Kingdom for the poor; the source of hope and happiness for the disappointed; the remedy of the heart and soul for the ailing. May you manifest the utmost of kindness to the human race; to weep with him who mourneth and to laugh with him who rejoiceth; sympathizing with the helpless; in communion with the wanderer; a friend to the friend and foe. – Abdu’l-Baha, Star of the West, Volume 1, p. 9.
Next: A Face Bright with the Fire of God’s Love