Mining the Gems of Virtues in our Children

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Art by Keith Kresge, Yellow Springs

Edited and extracted from a article by Linden Qualls*

“The Great Being saith: Regard man as a mine rich in gems of inestimable value. Education can, alone, cause it to reveal its treasures, and enable mankind to benefit therefrom.” ~Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 260

“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.” ~Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah, p. 287

Think about how much effort it takes to mine gems, how they need to be discovered, brought out of the depths of the earth, cut, and polished…

Because educating children to develop their virtues is the highest priority, it must be deliberately and systematically approached. The language and reinforcement of virtues needs to be interwoven into the fabric of children’s lives. They must become so familiar with them that these divine powers are readily accessible in their repertoire of responses. Especially in emotionally charged or stressful situations the lower self is likely to take over, so it is so critical that the child have a solid awareness of how to express virtues and which ones are appropriate for the situation. Otherwise impulses will have no resistance.

Eventually the experience/memory of the positive impact of virtues etches itself firmly into a child’s consciousness and then the child begins to more consistently choose to apply higher over the lower nature expressions based on the knowledge of the joy and positive feelings this creates, rather than based on fear of sinning, shame, etc….. the child is becoming wise and experienced.

Good parenting and teaching is the thoughtful application of virtues in our interactions and expectations. For example, the virtues of responsibility, wisdom, compassion, justice, patience, detachment, and sacrifice are all required to be an effective parent or teacher.

Applying virtues to our parent-child relationship is the best parenting and child psychology there is. Same goes with the teacher-child relationship. The virtue of moderation is essential in applying the virtues.

“Whatsoever passeth beyond the limits of moderation will cease to exert a beneficial influence.” ~Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah , p. 216

For example, children of parents who show too much mercy and not enough justice, end up being spoiled, self-centered, and unable to accept accountability for their actions. It is not merciful in the long run if we regularly rescue them from suffering the consequences of their actions.

On the other hand, children of parents who show too much justice and not enough mercy, often are insecure and fearful or feel victimized, misunderstood, and oppressed. And if parents show too much loyalty and not enough justice, they may defend their child unwisely and unfairly and blame the teacher when they learn of their child’s misbehavior.

In the amount of time we spend with our children, moderation is needed. Too much time and they become dependent and self-centered, thinking they are the center of the universe and can’t entertain or solve problems by themselves. Too little and they do not feel loved and miss out on all the guidance and pleasures we can bestow…

Beliefs, attitudes, and values are all intimately connected and related and they are also directly responsible for how we live our lives and the condition of our world. They guide and shape our lives and the lives of others in very profound ways, — ways that are sometimes graphic, sometimes subtle.

If we examine closely the root cause of all environmental problems, crime, corruption, violence, oppression, war, hunger, injustice, poverty, conflict, etc., we find certain negative attitudes—especially those of greed, self-exaltation and self gratification as a primary motive. These attitudes reflect a core belief that the purpose of life is to gratify the self under all conditions.

This belief and these attitudes generate destructive, materialistic and selfish values, –values which ultimately translate into the under-development of virtues essential to happiness, unity and justice. For example, virtues such as service, respect, humility, and generosity find barren soil in the human heart which worships & values the self and things above all else.

We live in a culture that worships self and things at the expense of spirituality. We therefore must be a hyper-vigilant watch dog on what our children are exposed to. They are highly absorbing sponges and have not yet developed the critical and detached thinking skills to shield themselves.

“The purport is this, that to train the character of humankind is one of the weightiest commandments of God, and the influence of such training is the same as that which the sun exerteth over tree and fruit. Children must be most carefully watched over, protected and trained; in such consisteth true parenthood and parental mercy.” ~`Abdu’l-Baha: A compilation on Baha’i Education, p.16

…Children need to become intimately familiar with the virtues, they need to understand that all of these beautiful qualities have been imbedded in their soul and that they have been given the power to bring them forth and illumine their lives and the world with them. We want our children’s primary identity to be a spiritual one, as a luminous child of God. Children need to understand that they have the choice and ability to express any virtue.

“Upon the reality of man…. He hath focused the radiance of all of His names and attributes, and made it a mirror of His own Self. Alone of all created things man hath been singled out for so great a favor, so enduring a bounty.” ~Baha’u’llah, Gleanings from the Writings of Baha’u’llah

* This article was edited and extracted by Susan Tower from 12 FUNDAMENTAL PRINCIPLES FOR the SPIRITUAL & MORAL EDUCATION OF CHILDREN: A BAHA’I PERSPECTIVE 2009, a transcript of a public talk delivered by Linden Qualls. The document is 29 pages, 13 of which are the talk, the rest constitute the handout. Note: Only about half of the quotes were actually used in the talk. Also see: Baha’i Education Resources by Linden Qualls

*Linden Qualls has taught spiritual eduction classes for children (ages 7-11) for over thirty years.

See also Successful Education Will Cultivate Virtue
For another great resource on teaching virtues see: The Virtues Project