Admittedly, I am not an art aficionado. I do not know a lot about art, nor am I particularly interested in it. I would not say that I am “fond of art.” However, I would say that I am able to appreciate art. I have been to several art museums, including some in other states and countries. And while only the most famous pieces are familiar to me, I enjoy admiring the artwork that demonstrates the artist’s ability to capture the essence of an individual, situation, place, or thought. As my own artistic ability is incredibly limited, I am especially in awe of those creations that seem as real as a photograph, or even as real as life itself. In this sense, what I am admiring isn’t so much the painting, drawing, or sculpture, but the person who created it.
Yet as I wander through art exhibits, there are other pieces that I do not admire. I am particularly disturbed by those that I judge to be “nothing special”; those that leave me thinking, “I (in my complete lack of artistic ability) could have done that!” Some appear as though the artist simply splattered several colors of paint over the entire canvas, and then somehow walked away with thousands of dollars for their supposed effort. Others may be simply a series of squares, or simplistic line drawings that barely resemble the subject that is being featured. Some look eerily similar to the artwork my five-year-old brings home from preschool, without the benefit of sentimental attachment.
I know that I judge those pieces too harshly, likely because I am not an art aficionado. I do not know the value of such pieces, nor do I know the “back story” of how the artist got to this point. I do not understand the emotions the piece is supposed to evoke, or the commentary it is supposedly making on life in general or a specific person or topic in particular.
Which raises a question…as we interact with other people, are we “social aficionados” or “people aficionados?” Are we interested in, knowledgeable about, and appreciative of each family member, student, co-worker, client, supervisor, neighbor, landlord, bus driver, or service provider that we encounter on a daily basis? Are we fond of the people with whom we live, study, work, and play?
I assume that most of us view the people around us much the same way I approach art. There are likely some whom we esteem for their abilities, physical attributes, personality, dress, or material possessions, or perhaps for the positive emotions they evoke in us. There are likely others whom we view as “nothing special.” We have decided that there is nothing about them for us to admire or respect, and nothing more we need to know about them to change our opinion. We may not like the emotions evoked when we spend time with these people.
Do we then go on to play the role of an “art critic,” proclaiming the attributes of a select few, while noting the deficits of others?
My challenge to all of us this week is to become an aficionado of the people around us; to deliberately appreciate and to become knowledgeable about each one. Rather than separating them into two categories (positive and negative), we can ask ourselves, “What is the value of this person? What am I missing if I think this person has no value? What is this person’s “back-story” which has brought him or her to this point? How can I increase my appreciation for this person? How do my thoughts about and responses to this person either build him/her up, or tear him/her down?”
The process of becoming “social aficionados” will likely enrich our lives and the lives of those around us!
Here is the ultimate challenge…can we approach each person asking ourselves what that person (complete with strengths and challenges, dreams and fears, looks and personality, haves and have-nots, and whether they make us feel good or not so good) can tell us about the character of the Creator?
The Bible tells us that we are each a “masterpiece,” (Ephesians 2:10) created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27) Are we looking for that in ourselves? In the people around us? Are we giving thanks to the Creator of each masterpiece (Psalm 139)?
If we are tempted to think that a particular individual might be lacking in the attributes of a masterpiece, I encourage us to remember that the Bible tells us that even Jesus had nothing particularly admirable about him, no cause for people to esteem him. (Isaiah 53:3)
I suppose, in a sense, we have all been given the responsibility of being art critics. But along with the job title comes a specific job description to guide our daily work:
John 13:34-35 New Living Translation (NLT)
34 So now I am giving you a new commandment: Love each other. Just as I have loved you, you should love each other. 35 Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.”