"..self-love is kneaded into the very clay of man, and it is not possible that, without any hope of a substantial reward, he should neglect his own present material good. That individual, however, who puts his faith in God and believes in the words of God -- because he is promised and certain of a plentiful reward in the next life, and because worldly benefits as compared to the abiding joy and glory of future planes of existence are nothing to him -- will for the sake of God abandon his own peace and profit and will freely consecrate his heart and soul to the common good."~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Secret of Divine Civilization, p. 96
as much as each of us is on a never-ending, ever-evolving, inter-generational progression of spiritual progress -- not merely material progress -- it is made inexplicably difficult to transform our lives unless we exert conscious, tireless effort toward overcoming our ego.
"..the spirit is the bounty of God, the water is knowledge and life, and the fire is the love of God. For material water does not purify the heart of man; no, it cleanses his body. But the heavenly water and spirit, which are knowledge and life, make the human heart good and pure; the heart which receives a portion of the bounty of the Spirit becomes sanctified, good and pure -- that is to say, the reality of man becomes purified and sanctified from the impurities of the world of nature. These natural impurities are evil qualities: anger, lust, worldliness, pride, lying, hypocrisy, fraud, self-love, etc.
Man cannot free himself from the rage of the carnal passions except by the help of the Holy Spirit.
~ Abdu'l-Baha, Some Answered Questions, p. 92
if we are not making a conscious effort toward subduing our ego, we adorn ourselves with layers and layers of self-conceit, pride, and vanity. godliness and purity are soiled or nowhere to be seen or felt. daily life becomes all about one's image or attention received from others.
it is in this place of self-love that a soul never finds inner peace -- there is always a desire for more from the material world, more things, more attention, more physical adornments, more degrees, more money.. at its worst, self-love is a place where addiction, obsession and suicide reside.
this very materialistic world feeds the ego instead of nourishing the soul. as we strive to raise our children to be spiritual human beings, we are bombarded by the excesses of self-love that pervade most areas of life. this is especially true in the world of music and entertainment to which children are much attracted. these industries bombard us with vulgarity and indiscretions of all kinds. it is a very difficult task to help them find anything worthy of their spirit. they are easily enticed, also, by what they see people wearing, saying and doing in public, on advertisements and at school, most of which, even in sheltered environments, give them messages of loving themselves.
parenting plays a crucial role in influencing how their children develop and strengthen their spiritual capacity while learning how to subdue their material nature:
"The forces at work on the hearts and minds of the young...are pernicious indeed. Exhortations to remain pure and chaste will only succeed to a limited degree in helping them to resist these forces. What needs to be appreciated in this respect is the extent to which young minds are affected by the choices parents make for their own lives, when, no matter how unintentionally, no matter how innocently, such choices condone the passions of the world—its admiration for power, its adoration of status, its love of luxuries, its attachment to frivolous pursuits, its glorification of violence, and its obsession with self-gratification." (December 28, 2010 Universal House of Justice)
we are constantly striving, through our own example, to bring out the light of a good character in our children. through counsel, we are helping them develop their capacity to attain moral and spiritual excellence which subdues this self-love. as they make progress in their efforts, we remind them that their abilities and talents are gifts from God, not from themselves; they are to be developed and used to serve humanity in ways that are conducive to the spiritual advancement of civilization.
we encourage them to utilize all of their God-given potential and capacity with humility before God to protect their egos from swelling with pride and vanity. we also encourage them to discern the destructive nature and emptiness of how self-love affects people in this life. educating a soul to know itself as a noble human being is the most significant job we have in this life if we care to bring about a spiritual civilization.
"O God! Enable us to conquer self and overcome desire. O Lord! Deliver us from the bondage of the material world. O Lord! Quicken us through the breath of the Holy Spirit in order that we may arise to serve Thee, engage in worshiping Thee and exert ourselves in Thy Kingdom with the utmost sincerity. O Lord, Thou art powerful. O God, Thou art forgiving. O Lord, Thou art compassionate."
~ Abdu'l-Baha, The Promulgation of Universal Peace, p. 458