Looking for the Good in Others

“Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” Psalm 150:6

Our kids have enjoyed the PBS Kids show, Wild Kratts, for many years. The cartoon explores the creature powers of all sorts of wildlife, from sea anemones and harpy eagles to orangutans and swamp dragons (the biggest predator of mosquitos). I can’t tell you how much I have personally learned from this show about a variety of creatures I had barely heard of before. I love hearing my kids tell me about something they have learned on the show and the way they are learning to appreciate the vastness and greatness of God’s creation. 

Since we live in a culture of judgment, in the world where it is not uncommon to villainize the “other,” it’s sometimes easy for this mindset to get lost, or overruled. As much as might want to focus on the good, there is so much noise and negativity around us, we can get easily get swept up into it.

On top of that, I recently learned that the amygdala– the part of our brain that holds our fear response– lights up when we think of the “out group,” those people who look, think, or live differently from us. Unless we are intentional about recognizing this and centering ourselves in God’s loving kindness, the temptation is to keep fixing our attention on what makes us different from others, rather than on our shared humanity and what we might be able to learn from one another.

When I think about this, I’m reminded of Martin and Chris Kratt and the way they invite viewers to appreciate the amazing powers of the earth’s creatures, big and small.  As Psalm 150 puts it, “Let everything that breathes praise the Lord!” and the Kratt brothers have a way of helping viewers see the gifts, strengths, and uniqueness of each creature. As we read these words, we are invited to pause and ponder the same.

It’s fitting to me that this psalm is the conclusion of the songs and prayers included in the book of Psalms. In a way, the end is a beginning, an invitation to be on the lookout for and to give thanks for God’s presence in our lives through all of life’s twists and turns. What if we lived our lives in such a way that praise was never far from our lips and the way we ended our day?  

Granted, every interaction and every circumstance is not going to fill us with awe and a sense of wonder that leads us to praise. There are and will be times we are discouraged, upset, and filled with sadness. In those times, it may seem like a stretch to praise God with lute and harp, with tambourine and dance, and with loud clashing cymbals, as Psalm 150 extols.  

Yet in those times, Psalm 150 invites us to look for the goodness in the people and world around us. To turn our attention to the way the bees pollinate our plants, the sound of the crickets chirping (even if one is stuck in our garage), and to the ways the person who seems so different from us is using his or her gifts. As we do, perhaps we’ll be reminded of the psalmist’s words, “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord,” and be inspired to join our song of praise with theirs.