The Gift of Appreciation
[From an article by Dr. George H. Morrison. In: The British Weekly, London, England. 1926]
Few gifts are more helpful than the gift of appreciation. It is like rain on the mown grass, or sunshine falling on the flowers. A recent essayist has divided people into minus and plus people. The minus people are those who leave us poorer, and the plus those who leave us richer. Among the latter, in the common ways of life, where there is little applause and many a weary hour, are those who have appreciating grace. It helps folk wonderfully, when things are difficult, to know that somebody appreciates. It is always easier to march to music. A little word of appreciation now and then would make all the difference to thousands whose day's round is very largely drudgery. One must distinguish true appreciation both from flattery and praise. Flattery is veiled insult, and praise may be condescension in disguise.
Newman has said that people shrink from praise because the right to praise implies the right to blame; and Scripture warns us with no uncertain voice against coveting the praise of man. But genuine appreciation is different from praise or flattery, and for it every heart is hungering. A story is told of Robert Browning, how once at Oxford he got a great ovation, and when someone hinted that he must hate all this, he said, "Why, I've been waiting for it all my life." Men of genius, who would scorn to stoop to the passing fashions of the hour, are as eager for appreciation as the rest of us. Just as everybody yearns for love, so everybody yearns to be appreciated. The drudgeries of life are always lightened when there is somebody who understands. There are few nobler heroisms in the world than that of those who have to toil for years without a single appreciative word.
This gift of appreciation is always the mark of a noble, generous nature, just as the constant habit of depreciating is the sign-manual of littleness. To depreciate is not to criticize, for true criticism has an eye for beauty. To depreciate is to betray an uneasy feeling of inferiority. But generous natures are always self-forgetful, and are touched with a certain sweet serenity, and so have the heart at leisure from itself. ''See," said Nelson, "how that gallant fellow Collingwood takes his ship into action." There is nothing harder than to appreciate richly the men who are doing the same work as we are.... Little souls delight in faultfinding; big ones in appreciating. Mean folk are always minus folk; it is the great hearts who are the plus ones. They add to life and make it richer; they call out all that is best within us by the sunshine of their appreciation.
Then one turns to the story of the Master, and sees how gloriously Christ [Jesus] appreciated. That was why life blossomed in his company. When the woman broke the alabaster box, he alone appreciated what it meant. When the widow cast her mite into the treasury, he saw in a flash the splendor of her giving.... Hating sin as no man ever hated it, because he knew the Father with such perfect intimacy, the wonderful thing about our Lord is how he appreciated the common heart. He saw the worshiping woman in the harlot, the disciple in the despised tax-gatherer, the rock in the unstable will of Simon (...). The love of woman, the wonder of the child, the fine things Iurking in the pagan breast, our Lord appreciated them all. No wonder folk came to their very best with one who could appreciate like that, and so they are doing at this hour. It only remains to add that love is the secret of appreciation. Love is not really blind; it has the most generous of eyes. Prof. Henry Drummond used to say that if you buy a box, it must be flawless. But if your little son with his rough tools makes you a box, very probably it has a hundred faults. Yet you appreciate that clumsy workmanship far more than what you purchased in the market, because it is the work of the little chap you love. Love wildflowers, and YOU come to appreciate what to other people are but weeds. Love the hills and you find beauties in them that other eyes are powerless to see. When love reigns, as it is going to reign when God's kingdom is established on earth, there will be such appreciative grace abroad that life and labor will be set to music.
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In my work as Christian Science practitioner and writer I draw on listening to God and listening to people.
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