Sometimes it's good to go back to the basics, to reconsider and ponder those so-familiar texts. Lately, I've been going back to stuff like the Tablet of the True Seeker, and Seven Valleys, and I realize that I've been religious one way or another my whole life, but I'm still really at the beginning. It's not that I haven't made progress; it's just that I have so far to go. I mean, right at square one the seeker must "cleanse his heart". Well, hell, that alone is a lifetime job. At least, I know, I'm still working on it.
What we end up doing instead is sort of settling for a pasted-on holiness, or worse, self-righteousness. We aren't half as interested in really being good as we are looking good. If we are in a religious community, we try to act like we think a religious person is supposed to act. First thing I had to do when I became a Baha'i was give up cussing -- then I was allowed to do it again when I got among Baha'is online!:-) Smoking was always a big issue -- not because it's my worst flaw, but because it's such a visible one. Baha'is are very into proper appearances -- it's one of the reasons for conflicts online. When I first came to Beliefnet, the big panic was about that somebody out there might get the "wrong" idea about the Faith because of what I was saying. It's like we're all expected to be walking advertisements for the Faith, but the real spiritual work, the inner work that will result in us *really* being a center of attraction goes undone. We can all quote 'Abdu'l-Baha' about how none of us are faithful to the Covenant unless people can tell we are Baha'is without our saying a word -- but we don't do a lot of thinking about how we get there. We just try to act like we're there, and it's fake -- and people know it. Better to be an honest sinner than a fake saint.