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Unity in Diversity – Lessons from the Body


The concept of “Unity in Diversity” is a given in the Bahá’í Faith and a term that’s been bandied around so often, that we’re now seeing it in the non-Bahá’í world too.  The best known usage inside the Faith, is around the concept of the oneness of humanity, being likened to a garden, but recently I came across this quote (which I’ve broken in 3 parts) and had an entirely different understanding of what it means:

A unity in diversity of actions is called for, a condition in which different individuals will concentrate on different activities, appreciating the salutary effect of the aggregate on the growth and development of the Faith . . .

Think of the human body – a beautiful example of unity in diversity in action!  We need big toenails just as much as we need eyeballs and kneecaps and thumbs.  The big toenail doesn’t feel guilty it can’t see.  The kneecap isn’t depressed because it can’t pick things up.  Each part is important to the functioning of the whole (have you ever had a sore big toe nail?  The whole body suffers!).  Each part has a role to play, which is different from every other part.  We accept it without giving it any thought, because typically, the body functions without any conscious effort on our part.

That’s what our Bahá’í life needs to be like.

. . . because each person cannot do everything and all persons cannot do the same thing . . .

The Universal House of Justice has asked us to concentrate on 4 core activities:  Study Circles, Devotional Gatherings, Children’s Classes and Junior Youth programs, but that doesn’t mean that everyone has to do one or more of these activities the same as anyone else.

If you’re a big toenail, perhaps you will tutor a study circle, or put together the devotions, or teach the children’s classes and junior youth programs.

If you’re a kneecap, you might organize the activities (find the tutors, teachers and animators, order the books, call the students, parents etc.)

If you’re the eyeball, you might host the events or bake the cookies.

If you’re the thumb, you might provide transportation or child care.

If you’re the eyelash, you might pray for the success of the event.

If you’re the elbow, you might serve on the institutions that do the planning.

But how many of us try to do everything and either burn out or become inactive because they feel that what they have to offer isn’t appreciated, or isn’t what others are doing etc?

. . . This understanding is important to the maturity which, by the many demands being made upon it, the community is being forced to attain.  (Compilations, Promoting Entry by Troops, p. 17)

So the next time you are tempted to do it all, remember that it’s a sign of maturity to know which part of the whole you’re best at, recognize that you are a big toe  nail, and leave the work of the eyeball to the eyeball.

What are your thoughts?  Post your comments here: