The Bahá’í Writings teach us that as children, we are to learn to obey our parents, so that as adults, we will know how to obey God. In this sense, our parent’s role in our lives as small children is that of “god”.
Parents must exert every effort to rear their offspring to be religious, for should the children not attain this greatest of adornments, they will not obey their parents, which in a certain sense means that they will not obey God. (Bahá’u’lláh, Bahá’í Education, p. 6)
Unfortunately, most of them didn’t do a very good job representing God to us, and as a result, we have a hard time translating our allegiance to a loving God as adults.
As children, we were supposed to have parents whose job it was to pray for us and look after us even when we were still in the womb:
The great importance attached to the mother’s role derives from the fact that she is the first educator of the child. Her attitude, her prayers, even what she eats and her physical condition have a great influence on the child when it is still in womb. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)
They were supposed to love us and protect us from the time we were born:
Thus, ere thou didst issue from thy mother’s womb, I destined for thee two founts of gleaming milk, eyes to watch over thee, and hearts to love thee. (Baha’u’llah, The Persian Hidden Words 29)
Children must be most carefully watched over, protected and trained; in such consisteth true parenthood and parental mercy. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 263)
They were supposed to show us physical affection:
Embrace twice thy children. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v2, p. 359)
They were supposed to educate us:
Although the mother is the first educator of the child, and the most important formative influence in his development, the father also has the responsibility of educating his children, and this responsibility is so weighty that Bahá’u’lláh has stated that a father who fails to exercise it forfeits his rights of fatherhood.
(The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)
And provide us with financial security:
Similarly, although the primary responsibility for supporting the family financially is placed upon the husband, this does not by any means imply that the place of woman is confined to the home. (The Universal House of Justice, 1980 Dec 28, The Relationship Between Husband and Wife)
And look after our health:
This matter of protecting the health of the child is essential, for sound health leadeth to insights and sense perceptions, and then the child, as he learneth sciences, arts, skills, and the civilities of life, will duly develop his powers. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 293)
Our mothers were supposed to breastfeed us, and train and nurture us in the earliest days and months of our lives:
When the child is born, it is she who has been endowed by God with the milk which is the first food designed for it, and it is intended that, if possible, she should be with the baby to train and nurture it in its earliest days and months. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)
Our mothers were supposed to be closely associated with us during our formative years:
The mother is usually closely associated with the baby during this intensely formative time when it is growing and developing faster than it ever will again during the whole of its life. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)
Our mothers were supposed to put our education as their first importance:
Let the mothers consider that whatever concerneth the education of children is of the first importance. Let them put forth every effort in this regard, for when the bough is green and tender it will grow in whatever way ye train it. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)
Our mothers were supposed to provide us with spiritual training:
Thou didst ask as to the education of children. Those children who, sheltered by the Blessed Tree, have set foot upon the world, those who are cradled in the Faith and are nurtured at the breast of grace—such must from the beginning receive spiritual training directly from their mothers. That is, the mother must continually call God to mind and make mention of Him, and tell of His greatness, and instill the fear of Him in the child, and rear the child gently, in the way of tenderness, and in extreme cleanliness. Thus from the very beginning of life every child will be refreshed by the gentle wafting of the love of God and will tremble with joy at the sweet scent of heavenly guidance. In this lieth the beginning of the process; it is the essential basis of all the rest. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 280-282)
Our mothers were supposed to establish within us faith and certitude; the love for and fear of God, and all good qualities and traits:
Therefore is it incumbent upon the mothers to rear their little ones even as a gardener tendeth his young plants. Let them strive by day and by night to establish within their children faith and certitude, the fear of God, the love of the Beloved of the worlds, and all good qualities and traits. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)
Our mothers were supposed to praise us and cheer our hearts; and correct our behaviour with reason and counsel rather than through physical or verbal abuse:
Whensoever a mother seeth that her child hath done well, let her praise and applaud him and cheer his heart; and if the slightest undesirable trait should manifest itself, let her counsel the child and punish him, and use means based on reason, even a slight verbal chastisement should this be necessary. It is not, however, permissible to strike a child, or vilify him, for the child’s character will be totally perverted if he be subjected to blows or verbal abuse. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 289-290)
Our fathers were supposed to love, pray for, care for, educate and provide for us:
This does not mean that the father does not also love, pray for, and care for his baby, but as he has the primary responsibility of providing for the family, his time to be with his child is usually limited. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)
As we grow older, our fathers were supposed to take on a more active role:
As the child grows older and more independent, the relative nature of its relationship with its mother and father modifies and the father can play a greater role. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 626)
Our parents and teachers were meant to praise and encourage us:
They must be encouraged and when any one of them shows good advancement, for the further development they must be praised and encouraged therein. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í Education, p. 73)
We were meant to participate in decisions and accept consequences:
It is suggested that the children should be made to feel that they are given the privilege and opportunity of participating in the decisions as to the services their parents are able to offer, thus making their own conscious decision to accept those services with consequence for their own lives. Indeed, the children can be led to realize that it is the earnest wish of their parents to undertake such services with their children’s whole-hearted support. (Universal House of Justice, Lights of Guidance, p. 231-232)
Our homes were meant to be places of unity:
Note ye how easily, where unity existeth in a given family, the affairs of that family are conducted; what progress the members of that family make, how they prosper in the world. Their concerns are in order, they enjoy comfort and tranquility, they are secure, their position is assured, they come to be envied by all. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Selections from the Writings of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, p. 278)
We were meant to be taught that it was OK to tell adults when something wasn’t right or frightened us:
As part of the education of children and youth, they should learn that it is important for them to tell any responsible older person when someone has done something that feels wrong or frightens them, that such telling is not tattling, backbiting or gossiping. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 138.)
We had a right to be surrounded by a loving and caring community, protected from the misbehaviour of others:
They have a right to be protected from the misbehavior of others. Children and youth should be enabled to initiate intervention for their own protection and should feel that they are surrounded by a loving and caring Bahá’í community. (National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá’ís of the United States, Guidelines for Spiritual Assemblies on Domestic Violence, p. 138.)
With this kind of training, we’d have been safe from all tests:
If such be their training, they will remain safe from every test. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 274-275)
Without this kind of childhood, our bodies are feeble and we don’t flourish:
For example, if a child is not properly cared for in the beginning of life, so that he doth not develop a sound body and his constitution doth not flourish as it ought, his body will remain feeble, and whatever is done afterward will take little effect. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Lights of Guidance, p. 293)
Without this kind of childhood, we become afflicted with innumerable defects:
Truly, if a babe did not live at all it were better than to let it grow ignorant, for that innocent babe, in later life, would become afflicted with innumerable defects, responsible to and questioned by God, reproached and rejected by the people. What a sin this would be and what an omission! (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)
Without this kind of childhood, we’d be better off dead:
. . . they have made that poor babe a wanderer in the Sahara of ignorance, unfortunate and tormented; to remain during a lifetime a captive of ignorance and pride, negligent and without discernment. Verily, if that babe depart from this world at the age of infancy, it is sweeter and better. In this sense, death is better than life; deprivation than salvation; non-existence lovelier than existence; the grave better than the palace; and the narrow, dingy tomb better than the spacious, regal home; for in the sight of mankind that child is abased and degraded and in the sight of God weak and defective. In gatherings it is ashamed and humiliated and in the arena of examination subdued and defeated by young and old. What a mistake is this! What an everlasting humiliation!
When our parents fail in their duty, ‘Abdu’l-Bahá says it is an unpardonable sin, for which they will be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of a stern Lord!
Should they neglect this matter, they shall be held responsible and worthy of reproach in the presence of the stern Lord. This is a sin unpardonable. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Bahá’í World Faith, p. 398-399)
I’m not blaming our parents! This kind of poor parenting is pretty universal! Our parents didn’t know how to parent us because their parents didn’t know how to parent them, and so on, and so on, back through the generations.
Because many of us didn’t have these kinds of “loving parents”, we have no concept of how to turn to or trust in a “Heavenly Father”.
Learning to believe in God’s love isn’t easy!
We read all kinds of wonderful Writings about God’s role as our Father in Heaven, but can’t understand or relate, because our own parents failed so miserably in teaching us about Him.
The Father has willed for him glory eternal and he is content with blindness and deprivation. The Father has built for him a royal palace but he is playing with the dust; prepared for him garments of silk but he prefers to remain unclothed; provided for him delicious foods and fruits while he seeks sustenance in the grasses of the field. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 64)
Though thy father was not kind to thee, praise be to God thou hast a Heavenly Father. If the earthly father forsook you, it was the cause of your obtaining the mercy and kindness of the Spiritual Father. All that father can do is to be kind to you, but this Father confers upon you eternal life. That father will become angry for the slightest disobedience, but this Father forgives the sins, overlooks the faults and deals with Bounty and Favour. Thank thou God thou hast such a Heavenly Father. (Diary of Juliet Thompson)
‘Abdu’l-Bahá wants to introduce us to Him:
The Divine Providence hath chosen thee, made thee the object of favors and guided thee to the Heavenly Father. He bestowed upon thee the eternal outpouring and granted thee the life everlasting. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá v3, p. 521)
Our Heavenly Father provides us with everything we didn’t get as children:
The fatherhood of God, His loving-kindness and beneficence are apparent to all. In His mercy he provides fully and amply for His creatures and if any soul sins He does not suspend His bounty. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Foundations of World Unity, p. 14)
We can trust our Heavenly Father to give us the strength to meet and overcome every test:
Our Heavenly Father will always give us the strength to meet and overcome tests if we turn with all our hearts to Him, and difficulties if they are met in the right spirit only make us rely on God more firmly and completely. (Shoghi Effendi, Lights of Guidance, p. 417)
Learning about our Heavenly Father and how much He loves us is what we need in order for our wings to develop so we can take flight:
Indeed could ye but know how dear ye are in the presence of your true and heavenly Father, ye would stretch forth your wings and take your flight. (‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Fire and Light, p. 23)
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