Every individual is a member of the human family and makes a contribution to the life of society. The individual takes initiative, seizes opportunities, forms friendships and builds relationships, joins with others in common service, and acts on decisions.
In order to act effectively during the present period of transition in human history, individuals must, above all, be imbued with a strong sense of purpose that impels them both to pursue their own spiritual and intellectual growth and to contribute to the transformation of society. These are fundamentally inseparable dimensions of a single process, for the standards and behaviours of individuals shape their environment and, in turn, are moulded by social structures and processes.
On a personal level, the sense of purpose is expressed by developing—in service to humanity—the vast potentialities with which we have been endowed by God. These potentialities include the virtues and qualities latent in all human beings, and the talents and characteristics which are particular to each individual. Bahá’u’lláh wrote, “The Purpose of the one true God, exalted be His glory, in revealing Himself unto men is to lay bare those gems that lie hidden within the mine of their true and inmost selves.”2
In the context of the transformation of society, our purpose is to help carry forward an ever-advancing civilization, devoting our energy and abilities to promote the welfare of the human race. “Think ye at all times of rendering some service to every member of the human race…” said ‘Abdu’l-Bahá. “Be ye sincerely kind, not in appearance only…Let him do some good to every person whose path he crosseth, and be of some benefit to him. Let him improve the character of each and all, and reorient the minds of men.”3
We pursue this two-fold moral purpose propelled by the conviction we are members of one human family. This enables us to feel as one part in an organic whole and frees us from the bigotry, prejudice, fanaticism, and superstition that can cripple collective action and frustrate positive impulses towards change.
The standard that Bahá’u’lláh envisages for the individual who can effectively play his or her part in actively assisting society to achieve lasting material and spiritual prosperity is high indeed. Yet perfection is not a requirement; what is required of us is a sincere daily effort to move towards this high standard. We are asked to tread a common path of service—supporting each other and advancing together, with sufficient humility to value the contribution of each person and avoid the pitfalls of self-righteousness.