To Youth in the Bahá'í Faith

You have all been hearing, countless times, about your responsibilities and capacities as youth, and how the future of the Faith rests on your shoulders. You have heard it enough that the message can get tiring, and I have been wondering why this is so. Why should it ever tire a person to learn that the future belongs to them?

I think it is because the meaning of this responsibility has never been fully explained, and in fact has been used to mean something other than what was intended. It is not the idea of your destiny that makes you feel weighted down, but the way in which it is being said.

You see, this duty that you have is to yourselves, not to the community. When you look at the world, and see that it needs changing, you are responsible for making that change, because no one else is doing it. But you are responsible to yourself, not to the world. What is the difference?

The difference is that when you wake up and take a look around you, you must ask yourself whether you like what you see. If you don’t, make a plan to change it, get other people to help you change it. At the end of the day, the only person you have to ask about whether you succeeded or not is yourself. You do not have to ask the community if it approves, or whether they also want the same changes that you want. You go build the world you want, and the rest of the world will follow you.

The opposite of this is the idea that you must ask the world what to do, that you must win their approval before acting, and that when all is said and done, they get to decide whether things are better now than they were before. In that sense, the community wishes to use you to build the world that THEY want, not the world that you want. It must feel like someone wants to put a big harness on you, and tell you which direction to go. That is maybe why the idea of a spiritual duty seems burdensome.

But what the Writings say is that you are the inheritors the world, and that the shape of its future is the shape you give it. You have the ideas and the energy, and what you set out to accomplish something it will be very hard for the world to stop you. Youth have an excitement and mobility that older people do not have, and this is your strength. That is why you are the ones who can build the Kingdom of God, because you can get it done.

Instead of a harness, it is like being showing a vast, fertile valley, and being told that now you own that valley and can plant in it whatever you want. You want to plant wheat and feed the hungry? You go right ahead and do it. It would be wise to learn from the experiences of those before you, but you do not need to wait for them to tell you what to do; you do not need their approval to begin; you do not need them to tell you whether you are succeeding or not. If you have a dream in mind, you will know yourself when it has come true.

So your responsibility is really an opportunity, and your duty is the duty of someone who has inherited a vast fortune. What ideas do you have, what are you thinking needs to be done? You can go do it. If the Assembly is not asking you to plan Feast, create a plan yourself and present it to the community at the next Feast. See if they say no. If they don’t approve, maybe they are the ones who need to change their idea of what Feast should be, and not you. Youth can move the world, and that will mean moving it from where it is now into a better future.

I hope that the idea of your destiny brings you joy and a feeling of power, because that is what it represents. Seize the day! In a few decades, you will be living in whichever world you decide to start building right now.