Tips  on spiritual growth, emotional health, and relational healing.


The Power of Celebration: If You Want to Finish, Throw a Party!!

Nov 28, 2017

“People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state – it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle…. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”

-Abraham Joshua Heschel

celebration colorful balloons blue sky clouds


True celebration is a lost art. In fact, it’s the last thing we think of doing when we’re struggling.

But living with a mindset which can celebrate, in success and even in failure, enables us to finish strong.


Thomas Edison Used Celebration to Persevere

In the August 1890 edition of Harper’s monthly magazine, Thomas Edison made the following assessment of his pursuit of electric-powered light.

“I speak without exaggeration when I say that I have constructed three thousand different theories in connection with the electric light, each one of them reasonable and apparently true. Yet only in two cases did my experiments prove the truth of my theory. My chief difficulty, as perhaps you know, was in constructing the carbon filament, the incandescence of which is the source of the light.”

A 1910 biography quoted Edison’s friend and associate, Walter S. Mallory, sharing a conversation he had with the famed inventor.

‘Isn’t it a shame that with the tremendous amount of work you have done you haven’t been able to get any results?’ Edison turned on me like a flash, and with a smile replied: ‘Results! Why, man, I have gotten lots of results! I know several thousand things that won’t work!'”

Edison seemingly celebrated his way across decades and thousands of discoveries of what didn’t work.

What powered him through all of those “steps”? How did Edison persist through all of that failure?

He had a sense of purpose and he knew the power of celebration.

He celebrated how each step/discovery/failure brought him closer to his goal.


Celebration Can Feel Weird

I’m writing this article with less than 5 full weeks left in this year.

At this point in the year, some of us feel like celebrating, while others of us are crushed by all that we didn’t accomplish and how far we are from where we expected to be.

If you don’t feel like celebrating, then I feel your pain.

I recently pulled up a list of the goals I made for my writing side hustle back in January.

The list included some goals which were specific to months of the year and others which I knew I needed the whole year to achieve.

With 35 days left, I’ve completed 10 of 25 (40%) of my writing/blogging goals. This number would put me in the hall-of-fame if I was a baseball player, but it would also mean I was flunking a class in school.

Looking at my list of unfinished goals, the last thing I want to do is celebrate.

As I think about all that I didn’t achieve, if I’m completely honest, I don’t feel like celebrating – I feel disappointed.

While celebrating may seem like the least logical thing to do next, I believe celebration is a really good decision because it gives us the power to finish strong.

Over the last month, I’ve written about finishing strong. I’ve explored when to quit, when to keep going, and how to keep going when you feel like giving up.

The last piece of this series involves celebration and the benefits of celebrating.


celebration fireworks against black sky

10 Surprising Benefits to Celebration

Long before we had modern science, God knew the power of celebration. I think that’s why we often read about celebration throughout the pages of Scripture.

The Apostle Paul wrote extensively about celebration. In Philippians 4, he writes, “Rejoice in the Lord. I say it again – rejoice!”

In 1 Thessalonians 5, he describes three things we should do each day. “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”

Why should we rejoice (or celebrate) always? 

I made a list of 10 benefits to engage in celebration.


1. A planned celebration empowers endurance.

Have you ever planned out a vacation long in advance? Ever set a goal to save for a large purchase?

On numerous occasions, your mental vision of that vacation or the thought of enjoying the purchase powered you through a difficult day or week.

Planning out how you’ll celebrate your achievement works the same way. Spend time brainstorming the party or experience you’ll enjoy after you finish can help you endure today.

If this sounds silly or foolish, let me remind you of an important truth.

Don’t give yourself to something difficult if you’re not gonna celebrate your progress or achievement!

If it’s not worth celebrating, it’s not worth doing.


2. Celebration keeps us human and humble.

If you’re someone who has a hard time celebrating, you might need celebration more than you realize.

In his book, The Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster spends a whole chapter on the spiritual discipline of celebration.

Far and away the most important benefit of celebration is that it saves us from taking ourselves too seriously. That is a desperately needed grace for all those who are earnest about the Spiritual Disciplines. It is an occupational hazard of devout folk to become stuffy bores. That should not be. Of all people, we should be the most free, alive, interesting. Celebration adds a note of gaiety, festivity, hilarity to our lives. After all, Jesus rejoiced so fully in life that He was accused of being a winebibber and a glutton. Many of us lead such sour lives that we couldn’t possibly be accused of such things.”


3. Celebration clarifies our sense of purpose.

As I’ve shared earlier in these posts on the subject of finishing strong, having a clear sense of purpose helps us a persevere.

We need to identify the meaning behind our pursuits.

Does accomplishing this thing actually matter? If it does, why does it matter?

As many have said, people lose their way when they lose their “why.”

If there’s no reason to celebrate progress or reaching a goal, if that progress or accomplishment doesn’t really matter, then maybe we need to rethink our efforts or priorities.

Considering the purpose of an endeavor can save us from climbing a ladder, only to realize it was propped up against a wall that we didn’t want to scale.


4. Celebration reminds us of our power to choose.

Sometimes, we need to celebrate when it feels like there is nothing to celebrate.

Each of us has the power to choose our attitude towards the adversity of life. We need to remember this when we feel like victims of our circumstance.

Throughout history, we read the stories of people who faced suffering on a daily basis with unflappable joy and a spirit of celebration.

One of the English officers who was imprisoned with Dietrich Bonhoeffer (a German pastor involved in an attempt to assassinate Hitler) stated, “Bonhoeffer always seemed to me to spread an atmosphere of happiness and joy over the least incident and profound gratitude that he was alive.”

Bonhoeffer knew he was going to die, yet he chose to celebrate each day he was alive. You have the same power he did – the power to choose to celebrate your life, even when your circumstances feel more like a funeral than a wedding party!


5. Celebrate gives us perspective on our transformation.

Some of us are good at celebrating the big achievements, the times we crossed the finish line with a crowd cheering us on as we broke the tape.

It’s more difficult to celebrate the small moments of progress which are carrying us closer to our goals.

Dan Allender remarked on this challenge in his book, To Be Told.

“One of our greatest failures in our busy, driven culture is that we don’t celebrate the temporary untying of a complex narrative…What is your style of celebrating an ending? Do you only throw large parties after someone graduates, gets married, or dies? If so, then all the other endings in your story are lost in the wake of another day’s busyness. Perhaps one of the reasons you and I don’t party well, is that we don’t know what to do with the tragedies that linger in our life…Can you imagine receiving an invitation “JOIN ME IN A CELEBRATION OF NO LONGER BELIEVING I’M STUPID”?

I’ve never received one of those invitations, nor sent one of them.

But if I was open to it, not a day would go by when I would send and receive one.

(If you decide to throw that kind of party, send an invite my way!)


6. Celebration disciplines us.

In his book on spiritual disciplines, Foster referred to the act of celebration as a spiritual discipline, right up there with silence, solitude, prayer, and study.

I need this reminder because, on many occasions, the act of celebration will take sweat and feel like work.

It’s in those moments when I don’t feel like celebrating that I need to celebrate the most.

Foster remarked, “The decision to set the mind on the higher things of life is an act of the will. That is why celebration is a discipline. It is not something that falls on our head. It is the result of a consciously chosen way of thinking and living.”


7. Celebration connects us with others.

Some of us enjoy eating a meal alone or watching a movie in a theater by ourselves. The massive success of Susan Cain’s book on introverts showed the world that not everyone is bummed out when they dine alone or go to a movie by themselves.

Whether you’re introverted or extroverted, celebration offers us an opportunity for connection.

The philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard, once said, “humor is always a concealed pair.” I read a research study once about how humans laugh louder in comedic movies when we’re with friends as opposed to watching it alone.

Many have noted the way joy has of begetting joy, laughter begetting laughter.

Moments of joy invite connection, someone with whom we can share the celebration.


8. Celebration keeps our imagination alive.

Nearly 50 years ago, Harvey Cox stated his belief that “man’s celebrative and imaginative faculties have atrophied.”

Finding something to celebrate requires a mental agility which is essential to a thriving life. Exercising our celebration and imagination muscles keeps us moving forward with the possibility of finishing strong.

At a time when most adults allow their imagination to stay in their childhood, along with their favorite toys, we need the sense of wonder which imagination fuels inside our hearts and minds.


9. Celebration turns our lives into an epic story.

Each of us is telling a story with our lives. And we’re telling ourselves a story about our lives.

We often overlook the power we have to determine what those stories look like.

In her book, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Ordinary Life, Shauna Niequist explored this idea.

“But when you realize that the story of your life could be told a thousand different ways, that you could tell it over and over as a tragedy, but you choose to call it an epic, that’s when you start to learn what celebration is. When what you see in front of you is so far outside of what you dreamed, but you have the belief, the boldness, the courage to call it beautiful instead of calling it wrong, that’s celebration.”

Celebration is not weakness; celebration demands real strength.

celebration people partying confetti outdoor concert

10. Celebration feels good!

Who doesn’t love a good party?!

It’s not just experience which teaches us how good celebration feels; science back this up too.

In a recent podcast, Michael Hyatt, author of Your Best Year Ever, described the science behind celebration’s power.

“According to researchers Francesca Gino and Bradley Staats, your brain releases dopamine when you achieve goals. We kind of knew that. Right? Since dopamine improves attention, memory, and motivation, even achieving a small goal can result in a positive feedback loop that makes you more motivated to work harder going forward.”


So, whatever benefit gets your attention, I want to encourage you to find one thing to celebrate today, invite someone to join you, and get your dopamine flowing!


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