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The Bahá’í Writings offer a vision of the qualities for which women must strive and we are often encouraged to examine the life of Bahiyyih Khánum, (the daughter of Bahá’u’lláh), who served her Father selflessly throughout His life, forgoing marriage and the establishment of a family of her own in order to care for Him. She was elevated to the rank of one of the most distinguished among her sex, and therefore, a model for selfless service for us to consider and emulate.

Whether in the management of the affairs of His Household in which she excelled, or in the social relationships which she so assiduously cultivated in order to shield both Bahá’u’lláh and `Abdu’l-Bahá, whether in the unfailing attention she paid to the everyday needs of her Father, or in the traits of generosity, of affability and kindness, which she manifested, the Greatest Holy Leaf had by that time abundantly demonstrated her worthiness to rank as one of the noblest figures intimately associated with the life-long work of Bahá’u’lláh.  (Bahiyyih Khanum: The Greatest Holy Leaf, pp. 34-5).

And in her own words:

In this Day nothing is so important as service. Did not `Abdu’l-Bahá voluntarily call Himself the ‘Servant’ of Bahá . . . We, wishing to follow the commands left by Bahá’u’lláh, . . . can take no greater step toward the Heavenly Kingdom . . . than that of loving service to all mankind.
Bahiyyih Khánum: The Greatest Holy Leaf, p. 224.

Sometimes I wonder what her life was like, and what she did in moments when she didn’t think she had the ability to meet the need of one more demand? Presumably she relied on prayer but did she ever resent having to be so self-less? What about HER life? Did she ever have time for herself, to do something just because she wanted to?

And then I think about how to apply this to my life: is it possible to be selfless to the point of erasing myself so I don’t exist? Does God really expect us to give every last ounce of our time and energy to other people? Where does selflessness overstep the bounds of moderation and become codependency? Why is it they look so much alike that it’s hard, almost impossible to tell the difference? How can we know if we are truly being selfless, or if it’s only being codependent?

It seems to me that one is ego-based and the opposite is other-based.

When we are ego-based, we want to help others because we want them to like us, or we want something from them. It’s somewhat manipulative. I don’t think God wants us to be a martyr to other people’s whims.

One definition of sacrifice is to “make sacred”, and surely this is the example the Greatest Holy Leaf is trying to teach us.

How do you “make sacred” the everyday chores in your life? Post your comments here: