SPIRITUAL MATTERS: Applause matters

The last note died away. It had been a breathtaking performance. For a second no-one moved. A great hush enveloped the concert hall. Then the violinist stood and bowed gracefully whereupon a cacophony of applause erupted from the appreciative audience.

An instructor once explained that one of the first things children learn when being coached in performing for an audience, is how to take a bow. "If the children just play and stop, people may forget to show their appreciation," he said. "But when the children bow, the audience invariably applauds. And applause is the best motivator we've found to make children feel good about performing - and want to do it well." 

Some years ago I was involved in a wonderful Christian retreat programme called the Emmaus Walk. As part of the preparation for the 5-day retreat, the leaders and those sponsoring participants approached family members and friends and asked them to write letters of appreciation and encouragement to the their particular participant. These letters were then presented to each pilgrim at the closing ceremony of the retreat.

Many of those receiving the letters were surprised to discover that they were held in such high esteem - for we will seldom record our appreciation of others in writing or convey our love so clearly and thoughtfully. Perhaps the exception to this is in a eulogy - and the sad thing about that is the subject is not able to hear it!

Observing the tearful responses to these letters was one of the most moving experiences of my life. And as a leader with more than twenty such retreats under my belt, I witnessed this hundreds of times! Tears always flowed freely and the impact of the letters was to prove life-changing for virtually every participant!

It's an irrefutable fact of life that from the cradle to the grave, we all love applause!

Being affirmed makes us feel wonderful. It brings out the best in us. Being appreciated is more effective at lifting us out of the doldrums than any synthetic or liquid drug we may mistakenly rely on to make us feel that life is better than we think.

If a couple wish to rekindle, or keep the flame of love glowing in their marriage through the years, they need only to show and express frequent and sincere appreciation for their partner. Putting mutual applause into marriage will always work to strengthen bonds and grow relationships exponentially. We really do need to be loved and appreciated.

I feel genuinely sorry for our politicians. In an adversarial political system, there is an expectation - nay, an entrenched imperative - to tear down the reputation of others in a different political party. Politicians cannot bear to acknowledge that there's good in everyone. And for many journalists, this attitude too is their bread and butter, and they encourage it!

Not so Jesus! He lifted the spirits of the ordinary people everywhere he went. He healed the sick, accepted and loved the outcasts and constantly assured people that God really loves them - that as our heavenly Father, he wants nothing but the very best for his children. That was a message that resonated with the people of his day - and has always resonated with subsequent generations.

When we live lives that please God, it  makes him smile - and applaud!