“To what then will I compare the people of this generation, and what are they like? They are like children sitting in the marketplace and calling to one another, ‘We played the flute for you, and you did not dance; we wailed, and you did not weep.’ For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!’ Nevertheless, wisdom is vindicated by all her children.” (Luke 7:31-35)
WHAT WE APPRECIATE APPRECIATES
One of the easiest things to do in life is to stand on the sidelines and criticize others. It doesn’t take very much energy or even thoughtfulness to have an opinion and judge someone else, especially to point out their shortcomings.
Jesus gives a very concise summary of how much people enjoy criticizing when he talks about how the people of his day viewed John the Baptist and himself. “For John the Baptist has come eating no bread and drinking no wine, and you say, ‘He has a demon’; the Son of Man has come eating and drinking, and you say, ‘Look, a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners!” This is what my parents used to describe as “You’re damned if you do; you’re damned if you don’t!” The deeper point is this: In all of their criticizing, these folks missed the opportunity to hang out with and be transformed by the one who prepared the way for the Messiah and the One who was the Messiah.
There is a better way, and it is called the path of appreciation. Appreciation is a form of love, and love for God, others, ourselves, our enemies, and all of creation is what Jesus calls us to be about.
It takes a little more time, effort, and thoughtfulness to appreciate someone. You might have to pause for a few seconds and ask yourself, what does this person do really well? What do they bring to the world when they show up, which makes the world a little better?
I notice that many wise teachers in our world today have a version of this proclamation: “What you appreciate, appreciates.”
When you appreciate the earth, you take care of it more, and the earth appreciates in value. It becomes healthier, if you will.
When you appreciate something about your spouse or a child or a parent or a friend or a co-worker or a fellow church member or a stranger, that person appreciates in value - in your eyes, perhaps in the eyes of others, and maybe in that person’s own sense of self-worth.
Not only that, if you practice the art of appreciating, you will not only get better at this spiritual practice, but you will find more and more things to appreciate - from bees to beekeepers, from trees to park rangers and biologists, from technology to scientists, from children to parents, from students to teachers, from foster parents to social workers, from people who are honest enough to be vulnerable to the folks who reach out to offer them help. And on and on it goes. Your practice of appreciation will appreciate!
Here are my two concluding questions for today’s reflection.
What value can you add to the world today by appreciating God, appreciating another person, appreciating some part of nature, or appreciating yourself?
How would your life and your relationships be different if you spent way more time appreciating others and way less time criticizing or judging them?