2nd October 2023

I love this musical story. One day Mozart and some other musicians were listening to a piano piece composed by his contemporary Haydn. At one point in the performance someone in the group, evidently wishing to show off his own cleverness and at the same time curry favour with Mozart, said ‘I wouldn’t have done that.’ ‘No’, said Mozart, ‘none of us would. None of us would have had such a good idea as that’. True genius recognizes genius elsewhere. It doesn’t seek to display its own brilliance by disparaging others’ efforts. Rather, it recognizes and applauds talents wherever they are found, even in people considered to be its rivals. Self-promotion takes second place to the praise of beauty and creativity.

Perhaps many of us will say, ‘This isn’t a problem for me. After all, I don’t pretend to be a genius.’ Nevertheless, how often do we like to pick holes in what someone else has said or done, simply because we privately envy their insight or ability, rather than simply affirming the good that is there? More gratifying to criticise than to praise.

Paul urges the Philippians: ‘Whatever is true, whatever is honourable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.’ And to the Corinthians he speaks about love, the greatest genius of goodness: ‘Love is not envious or boastful or arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth.’ Rejoicing at the wrongdoing of others is so very tempting!

Keith Clements