Managing our time on wings of joy
“One always has time enough, if one will apply it well”, said a famous writer (1). This may seem a questionable statement to Bahá’ís coping with many weekly demands from family, work or school, and service to the Faith.
But the issue is inescapable: how can we coherently balance the various dimensions of life to give them all their due? This skill of applying our time well, like other skills, has to be learned and patiently developed.
Bahá’ís are motivated to do better with their time management because of their love for the Cause. The Bahá’í community draws to its ranks “those from every walk of life eager to dedicate their time and energies to the welfare of humanity”, says the Universal House of Justice. (2)
An example of the dilemmas that can come up is the balancing act that Bahá’í high school students perform in giving full attention to their studies while also participating in activities such as intensive institute training camps. Worries over this specific dilemma recently came to the attention of the National Spiritual Assembly, who invited the Regional Institute Boards for the North and South Islands to offer their thoughts on the matter. Below is a combination of the wise thinking and experience of these Boards, and some relevant guidance.
The scheduling of Ruhi intensives for October, overlapping with school holidays that are an opportunity to cram for NCEA exams in November, might appear to impose a conflict of priorities on high school students. The Regional Institute Boards acknowledge the situation is a challenge, but they believe the challenge can be overcome.
In the end it is up to each student (and their family) to determine what they can fit into their schedules, yet this might be more than they first think. Drawing on the spiritual resources of the Cause can strengthen our powers and bring a disciplined harmony to all our efforts.
As the Regional Institute Board for the North Island points out “preparation for the future” should be placed “within the context of a life of service; youth must develop their intellectual and spiritual capacities to be well-equipped to shoulder the responsibilities of the spiritual rejuvenation of humanity.”
Moreover, the transformative power of the Word, in which Ruhi participants immerse themselves, enriches all dimensions of life, such as work and study. Material and spiritual education are complementary parts of an organic whole. The Board writes:
“Intellectual faculties are sharpened and understanding increases greatly: ‘when study and service are joined and carried out concurrently... There, in the field of service, knowledge is tested, questions arise out of practice, and new levels of understanding are achieved.’ (3) The Ruhi institute campaigns should, therefore, be rightly viewed as complementary to exam preparation and a means by which the youth’s intellectual knowledge can be readily applied and begin to bear fruits in the arena of service to humanity.”
The Regional Institute Board for the South Island adds:
“We do acknowledge the challenges that some young people (and adults) may have with time management, and that this will always be an ongoing conversation between youth, their parents and those serving on institutions and agencies.
“Time management is a skill and capacity that everyone can learn and will require constant encouragement, patience, love, and the strengthening of relationships of the three protagonists —and in this case, with youth and their parents. Through regular reflection, consultation, action and studying of various guidance, such a process of learning can only assist with making the necessary adjustments to meet the needs of the Faith, as well as learning to live a coherent life.”
Emerging from reflection and consultation in the South Island, some practical steps are envisaged to ensure that high school students in “Ruhi intensives” receive support for their school studies. They include:
homework time every evening for youth to use for their school studies
providing tutors for specialised school subjects, if suitable volunteers are found
workshops on time management skills which provide tools for youth to critically assess their own use of time
The expectation is that youth will learn to avoid fragmented thinking while creating new habits that will be translated into action and service that continues into their adult lives.
A key theme that the Institute Boards want to convey is expressed in the words of ‘Abdu’l-Bahá: “Joy gives us wings! In times of joy our strength is more vital, our intellect keener, and our understanding less clouded. We seem better able to cope with the world and to find our sphere of usefulness” (4) The spiritual uplift obtained from participation in the institute process and other core activities is a potent source of such joy.
Learning about time management has special significance for youth, for as the Universal House of Justice writes: “To every generation of young believers comes an opportunity to make a contribution to the fortunes of humanity, unique to their time of life.” (5) Patterns established in youth can continue to underpin effective service for a lifetime.
But all age groups can benefit from learning about how to apply our time well. It calls for prioritising certain aims that deserve focus and finding creative ways to give those aims the attention they need. Every individual, family and community have their own unique set of circumstances, on which they should prayerfully reflect, rather than following any rigid formula.
Whichever way each of us chooses to balance out our priorities, we are all aligned as a community to a single vision and work together within a single grand framework. Let the Universal House of Justice have the last word:
“It is the ardent hope of the Universal House of Justice that the believers will appreciate the potentialities that exist within the current pattern of their organic activities for the realization of Bahá’u’lláh’s highest aims for humanity and that they will seize their chance and commit their time, their resources, their energies—indeed their very lives—to these critical efforts for the betterment of the world.” (6)
(1) Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, The Autobiography of Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe, trans. John Oxenford (1974), vol. 2, book 10, p. 16
(2) Universal House of Justice, Ridván message 2008
(3) Universal House of Justice, Ridvan message 2010
(4) ‘Abdu’l-Bahá, Paris Talks, chapter 35
(5) Universal House of Justice, letter to the Bahá’ís of the World, 8 February 2013
(6) Letter on behalf of the Universal House of Justice to an individual believer, 10 April 2011
Header image: Antonio Doumas on Pixabay.