April 22, 2024
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What does it mean when you lose your smile?

I once heard a “face reader,” a fellow who works with jury consultants, businesses (hiring personnel), and large corporations say that 40% of our facial “terrain” is inherited but 60% is what we’ve unconsciously made of it. He and his colleagues claim to be able to tell a fair amount about personalities and character traits by “reading” faces.

Oh, I know. Part of this sounds a little hokey. But I figure there’s also something really in play with part of it. (I won’t guess as to the percentage of truth versus moonshine.) But before we knock it too much, we should admit that we all “read faces” regularly and often. Consciously or not, we pick up on laugh lines, worry lines, stress lines, vertical “freight train” focus lines, “burnout” lines (whether we use those terms or not), and we make a quick evaluation. If we’re wise, we’ll change what were our initial impressions if more time and info support an alteration, but most of us aren’t such fools that we ignore our first impressions altogether. Yes, it can be judgmental; but it can also be wise discernment. And we all do it—or suffer unpleasant consequences. 

This is interesting stuff. But back to that smile. The lost one.

I believe what the wise man (Proverbs 17:22) tells us: “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a broken spirit saps a person’s strength.”

The loss of a smile can be temporary, of course, as our faces and lives are assailed by a particular grief, pain, illness, tragedy, anxiety, or difficult patch in the road.

But sadly, our smiles can also fade more permanently. And the harsh and stark truth we’d better acknowledge is that we have more choice in this than we tend to think. The reality that won’t give any of us a “pass” is that everyone occasionally faces the hardships I mention above, but not everyone loses their smile forever. Ironically, we face a choice as to what we do with our faces. Some of our various troubles and miseries we cannot choose (some we can), but we can choose our attitudes. That is both a hopeful truth and one that, when I’m wallowing in self-pity, I despise. But a truth it is.

It’s true in all of life, but one of the areas lately where I tend to “lose my smile” has to do with politics and world events. I need to unplug regularly and quit scrolling through the varied and often slanted news “reports.” I get focused on the mess as our politicians, for example, hand blood-bought territory back to terrorists for free and foolishly send terrible messages to friends and foes. Or since neither side politically will work with the other and make needed compromises to at least do something constructive about our borders, we do nothing. I’ve never been more disappointed in the majority of our politicians who only have ideas about how to be re-elected. No other real ideas at all as they pander to dimwits on both far ends of the spectrum and seem to consider character, integrity, and wisdom disqualifiers for any hope of winning high office. They hold in disdain their few colleagues who try to show such.

If I spend a good bit of time focusing on what I see as incredibly foolish failures, what do you think happens to my smile? How long until I lose it permanently? And what would that say about who I’m ultimately trusting in my life?

I wrote what follows a good while back poking fun at “progressives,” but it has a much larger application.

Strange to say,

Surpassingly weird in its own unsmiling way . . .

You never saw dark, stark Puritan folks ages ago,

Darker, starker, than “woke” blokes eight minutes ago.

Whaddaya say we nonetheless live life and smile?

And let them all marinate in their own bile,

Those lifelong members (with apologies to general genderocity)

Of that sad fraternity of the furrowed brow.

I hasten to say that the “fraternity of the furrowed brow” has club house chapters for both the left, the right, and even in-between.

I think that anyone can join it. Just focus on what is messed up in this world (it’s much easier to find than a smile) and forget who the King is. God’s people always have a reason for hope. The victory is his—and thus ours. It’s bought. It’s paid for. It’s won. Whatever happens here that is a matter for genuine tears.

If we lose our smiles for long or forever, we’ve lost our focus for far too long. I often need to be reminded of that.

Curtis K. Shelburne



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