I think about things like this quite a bit. I wonder how many of our social nuances got started. For example, why did people start clapping to show approval? How do you get from “man, I liked that” to “I shall make smacking noises with my hands to let that person know they did a good job”? That makes no sense to me. Don’t get me wrong, though. I enjoy applause as much as anybody. I love the fact that everyone claps when I enter a room. Or is that when I leave? Hmmm…
You know what I don’t approve of so much, though? The standing ovation. Like I said, I am all for applauding a worthy performance or even a moving public declaration of some sort. But I feel like standing ovations are used far too often and are quickly losing their impact, much like the use of the term “just sayin’”. Seriously. Please stop saying that.
Standing ovations should be saved for special occurrences. They should be valued and kept sacred. It is for this reason that I am declaring myself to be the Standing Ovation Commissioner. Somebody should really step up and establish guidelines for when and how standing ovations should be utilized, and I believe I am just the person for the job. So from this point forward, please abide by the rules below and feel free to contact me if you have a question about whether or not a situation is worthy of a standing ovation. Here are a few basics to get you started.
1. No obligation. – There is never a time when you must give a standing ovation. It does not matter who is involved, what they are doing, or how well they are doing it. A standing ovation should never be anticipated. It is something you should be moved to do. It should be organic, natural, and truly inspired. Unless, of course, it is Kentucky basketball. Then everyone is obligated.
2. One per event. – Look, I wanted to go with one per month. But I am nothing if not reasonable. If we are truly saving standing ovations for the most special of occurrences, there is no reason to stand up and clap more than once during any event. (Note: I realize that sporting events may be a possible exception here. However, for the more exciting sports the standard position is standing and fans only sit to take a break. Just use your best judgment here.)
3. No pity. – If a 12 year old girl gets on stage and belts out a real stinker, even if she sings her little heart out, no standing ovation. If a super shy young man faces his biggest fears in singing in front of his viscous peers and does a pretty solid job, that is still not good enough for people to stand up and clap. The Standing Ovation Commissioner will not permit ovations that are rooted in pity.
4. No animals. – I do not care what the animal does, how cute it is, how many legs it has, or how brave it is, never give an animal a standing ovation.
5. Do not be a sheep. – Far too many standing ovations start with a few sappy folks up front standing and refusing to sit. Then two or three others behind them don’t want to be left out and begin a standing trickle that quickly becomes a full blown ovation. Don’t be a sheep, stay in your seat. That’s my motto.
6. Church exceptions. – To be completely honest, the overuse of standing ovations at church is a primary reason for creating this list. It's like we have to stand up and clap every time somebody sings or does an interpretive dance or speaks very loudly. Those ovations usually violate rules 1, 2, 3, and 5 on this list. Unless you are a snake handling church, I doubt rule 4 is an issue.
However, there are certain situations at church that call for all out celebration regardless of the above guidelines. Any time somebody dedicates his/her life to Christ or follows in believers’ baptism, feel free to stand up and clap, jump for joy, break into song, or dance your way around the sanctuary. If the angels are rejoicing, you are more than welcome to join in the fun.
Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Jesus, “Teacher, rebuke your disciples!” “I tell you,” he replied, “if they keep quiet, the stones will cry out.” (Luke 19:39-40 NIV)
In conclusion, please think before you stand and clap. These rules provide a solid basis for determining whether or not a situation is worthy of a standing ovation. But you must be ready for circumstances that may not be covered by this limited list. If you need a determination in a pinch, I am usually available via Twitter, Facebook, and Email. As the Standing Ovation Commissioner, I am here for you. Together, we can change the world.