An Unexpected Lesson in Joy

A while back, Daughter and I had great seats at the hottest ticket in town: Justin Bieber’s Purpose concert (!).

It was spectacular, larger than life, and employed every special effect one could possibly cram into a concert: water, fog, fireworks, lights, lasers, moving stages, dancers, costume changes, platforms which raised and lowered….and did I mention there was singing? Daughter and her best friend were bundles of excited tween-girl energy from beginning to end.

But despite the intensity and the genuine enjoyment of the evening, I felt something lacking. While he put on an amazing show, it seemed to me that this young megastar wasn’t enjoying himself. Something about his demeanor made me feel that his heart just wasn’t in it.

Maybe he was just playing it cool or keeping up a certain public image I decided, and I kept my thoughts to myself.

But it nagged at me, especially when I remembered a news report just days before the show noting that Bieber had cancelled his VIP meet and greet with fans due to exhaustion. Which led to further concern on my part because at one point during the show he mentioned that the tour had launched just two weeks prior.

Now, I can see how night after night of a performance such as the one he gave would render exhaustion. But after only two weeks? Plus, he’s still young, and hasn’t he worked so hard for this very moment? For the blessing of being at the top of his game?

The morning after the concert, I was really careful with Daughter to not mention my thoughts to her, and, as we were walking away a lazy day, we talked about our favorite parts of the show, and how amazing the whole thing was.

But then there was this from her: 

“Mom, he didn’t seem happy to me,” she stated, plain and simple. “He never even smiled.”

And that was exactly what I had noticed too. Not only did he not smile, he only addressed the audience in a most scripted way during song transitions, and I don’t remember him even seeming happy/excited/grateful that he was there. Or that we were. Instead of feeling that post-awesome-event high, Bieber’s lack of emotion left me feeling empty, and even a little shortchanged.

There’s something so exhilarating and fulfilling about catching someone else’s joy, but our young performer didn’t seem have enough to go around. Despite appearing to have the world at his fingertips, without joy, it felt pointless. Even a child could see that.

“…what do you benefit if you gain the whole world but lose your own soul?”

— Mark 8:36, New Living Translation

And to me, that’s the real take-away here, and what I want Daughter (and her brothers) to take to heart. Do what you love, and if it stops filling you with joy, do something else. Living a joyful life is at the very top of my wish list, for me, for my family, for us all. Imagine what the world might look like if collectively we were just a tiny bit happier.

And so, Daughter and I continued our walk, all the way around our block, chatting about joy, about Justin, and (me) taking advantage of the teachable moment. And we came up with a game plan: whatever you do, do it with passion, joy, honesty and wholeheartedness.

And to borrow from the concert tour: do it with PURPOSE. 



Daughter with JB (now there’s a smile!) at a different event, March 2015

Image Credit: Justin Bieber Facebook

Author’s note: I write this not as another voice in the noise against this performer. Because he’s not much older than my own teen sons, I happen to be in the camp of People Who Want To Give Justin Bieber A Break. I hope every next step for him, during his Purpose tour and beyond, is joyful.

This post first appeared on Prayers and Piazzas.





8 Comments Add yours

  1. Beth Cafagna says:

    There is a Bible verse which I need to track down that says, “The glory of God is a human being fully alive.” (something like that!). If we are not fully alive and aware of the people around us, then we are just in a “trance,” not fully using the gift of life. Another valuable quote from the ancient Greeks: “The unexamined life is not worth living.” In other words, examine yourself and your activities, and dedicate yourself to a worthy purpose that pleases God (and your neighbor): “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    Love, Beth

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Beautiful sentiments and very true. Love you!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Kimberlee Carlson says:

    Thank you… That really reminds us all to be grateful , smile while we’re doing what we love and not to take it for Granted..

    Liked by 1 person

  3. In my experience, no matter how young the performer, there’s always a certain level of jadedness when the same program is repeated over and over. It’s tough to keep it fresh, especially when as you mention, a big part of the “show” is just that – special effects, lighting, etc., and even background/accompanying music that moves to a fixed click track. It’s the entertainment business, often with an emphasis on the “business,” as much as the audience may be distracted by all the activity on stage. In many cases, there’s not much room for real expression amidst all the larger-than-life amplification, and the “artist” becomes just a cog in the big machine that just keeps moving forward and cashing in at the box office.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Very well said, Karen. That’s exactly right, the performer actually becomes a small part of a big machine. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sharon L. Cafagna says:

    Im sitting enjoying a cup of coffee and reading your prayersand piazzas. A beautiful story but mad me sad for him. If a nine year old is that perceptive, he abviously is not happy. Perhaps he heard some sad news or he just wasnt feeling well and just charged forward. Love you, Mom

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a thought, I didn’t think about that!

      Liked by 1 person

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