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November 22, 2013

Question: What is the greatest human quality?

 If we have already a strong favourite in mind, today’s question will appear to be deceptively simple. But for the following reason, caution is justified.

All the spiritual virtues and qualities exist in synergy. We cannot practise any one spiritual virtue in full integrity without practising the others. The virtues work in co-operation. They reinforce one another.

If, for example, we say that hospitality is the greatest human quality, we would readily understand that in order to be hospitable, one would have to show love, caring, sharing, generosity, kindness, and so on. But we could also maintain that love creates hospitality.

I suspect that a common answer would be divine love, which is usually viewed as the foundational virtue and the supreme good in the spiritual lexicon. The holy books affirm this truth.

Those of an intellectual bent would say that reason or the rational soul is the greatest human quality because it distinguishes humans from animals and makes civilization possible. Others would say that the greatest human quality is faith because it grants eternal life. The list of greatest human qualities goes on.

Today’s question is likely to be interpreted as applying only to the individual, but in a broader perspective, the question can be applied also to humanity as a collective. To make this point clearer, we should think of our worst collective vice.

To wage war and to destroy others is arguably the worst human vice. On that basis, our greatest collective human quality would be to live in peace with one another as members of one human race. Our greatest human quality would be to demonstrate the oneness of humanity and to work strenuously to usher in the great age of peace as promised in all the holy books.

‘Abdu’l-Bahá (1844-1921), the son and successor of Bahá’u’lláh (1817-1892), the Prophet-Founder of the Baha’i Faith, said: “Truthfulness is the foundation of all human virtues. Without truthfulness progress and success, in all the worlds of God, are impossible for any soul. When this holy attribute is established in man, all the divine qualities will also be acquired.”  
-  Jack McLean

Printed in the The Ottawa Citizen November 22, 2013
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