Editors note: Every Friday a question is printed at the end of this column inviting a response. If you are a religious leader on Kaua‘i please send in your thoughts or suggestions for future topics. Next week’s topic is on integrity. The topic at the end of the column is for the following week.
Rev. Rita MeKila Herring
Universal Brotherhood Movement
When you think of energy, what’s the first thing that comes to your mind? Chances are your answer wasn’t accountability. Wouldn’t it be nice if that truly was the first thing that came to most of our minds? Let’s face it, day in and day out we all expend energy. Every single thing we do requires energy. The thoughts we allow to flow through our minds are powered by energy. The act of looking at something and seeing it requires energy to do so. There simply is not a single thing that we do whether automatically or with consciousness that can be done without the expenditure of energy.
Having said that, just how accountable are you for the type of energy that you spend every day? Do you utilize the precious gift of energy in ways that uplift and empower the people you come in contact with? Or do you throw this most powerful fuel around in damaging ways? Have you felt the power of a smile? Likewise, is there any denying the force behind stink eye?
Sometimes we wonder how we can improve the world. What can we possibly do to make a difference? If we all took responsibility for the mana behind our actions and showed respect for the gift of that mana by being accountable for how it’s spent … we’d see just how much our efforts ripple out. We’d see how seemingly tiny changes we make within ourselves have much larger impacts that grow exponentially as they touch people and continue on to inspire changes in others. Let’s make an effort to be more aware of how we’re spending our allotments of energy as we journey through the experiences life brings.
The Spiritual Assembly
of the Baha’is of Koloa
The following excerpts come from an article entitled “Covenant and the Foundations of Civil Society: Part II” by Wendy M. Heller. Heller explored accountability from the Baha’i perspective in regards to the governance of society.
“Governance is frequently mentioned in the Baha’i writings as trusteeship, as the administering of a trust … Baha’u’llah speaks of the governors and administrators of society as “trustees” or “trusted ones” of God. He writes: “Know ye that the poor are the trust of God in your midst. Watch that ye betray not His trust. Ye will most certainly be called upon to answer for His trust on the day when the balance of justice shall be set.”
“ … Although all persons are equal before God, as Baha’u’llah indicates it is really the most vulnerable whose interests and rights we need to be most concerned to safeguard, those who are without wealth, without social status or prestige; rather, it is those who do not have a voice to speak up whose rights need to be protected — the poor. In a covenantal order, it is not merely the governors of society who have an ethical duty to care for the best interests of their people. The sense of responsibility to the common good is a civic virtue that devolves on each member of the polity …
“Anyone who governs or administers does so on the basis of this covenant of trusteeship. The content of the trust obligation thus is not reducible or subject to the desires or preferences of the individuals involved … Equity inevitably requires that some must get less than they might like to have so that others will not have to go without, and that some individuals must sacrifice their purely private interests when those conflict with the common good … In this perspective, the virtue of sacrificing self-interest for the common good is not something that can be imposed by an external source (otherwise it is not “sacrifice”), but it arises out of personal commitment and the genuine consciousness of a unity of interests that is best described as love. And where love is concerned, no sacrifice entails a net loss.
The virtue of trustworthiness implies strong accountability. The trustee, in this case the governors of society, will be “called upon to answer for His trust.” But accountability can only have motivating force if it is real and inevitable, and not merely a chance of getting caught. Our own “best interests” are really only fused with those of “the poor,” that is, an “other,” by a certainty that how we act toward others determines how we will be judged, and what we will receive.
Thus Abdu’l-Baha writes: “… a religious individual must disregard his personal desires and seek in whatever way he can wholeheartedly to serve the public interest; and it is impossible for a human being to turn aside from his own selfish advantages and sacrifice his own good for the good of the community except through true religious faith. For self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good.”
“The adoption of a spiritual perspective transforms that self-love into a reference point for understanding the needs of others and seeing their interests as linked with one’s own: “O son of man!” Baha’u’llah reveals, “If thine eyes be turned towards mercy, forsake the things that profit thee and cleave unto that which will profit mankind. And if thine eyes be turned towards justice, choose thou for thy neighbor that which thou choosest for thyself.”
Next week’s question:
• Will you speak to us on
• Spiritual leaders are
invited to e-mail responses of three to five paragraphs to firstname.lastname@example.org
• Deadline each week is
Tuesday, by 5 p.m.