Seeing Behind The Smile

A smile has a powerful message. It relays happiness, contentment, joy and love. It is a natural reaction as a result of one (or more) of these emotions. But sometimes we use our smiles incorrectly. Smiles should not hide sadness, pain, grief or loneliness.

Not only do we use our smiles to hide our feelings, but others do the same. How do we know when someone is truly happy or is using their smile to hide their real feelings? For most of us,we don't. Obviously the closer the relationship, the more you are going to recognize the attempt to cover up, but most of our daily interactions do not involve processing the true feelings of others. So is it suprising that we take the lead from others and plaster a permanent smile on our faces, too?

Today I have realized just how much that affects how I perceive other people. Being as it is the first Thursday of the month, we had a pot-luck dinner before worship tonight. It's always so much fun being able to socialize with everyone and enjoy some home cooked food. Tonight we listened to the testimony of one of the leaders of our group, and his rocky road with abuse, sexual addiction, drug use and pornography addiction, his breakdowns of multiple marriages, abandonment of his kids and the eventual path that lead him to church, God and to a seminar recommended by his pastor that introduced him to C.R. and lead him to begin this ministry. Listening to him go through his story, break down when he talked about how abandoned he felt as a young child, how empty he felt when he tried to use sex as a means to fill the hole in his heart, hit me hard. Not 30 minutes before, he was across the table, talking, eating, SMILING like nothing was wrong. And here he was before me, a flawed, hurt and broken person; just as every single one of us in that room is.

Why do we spend so much time hiding who we truly are? Why do we feel obligated to do this? Who are we protecting from our real feelings? When we split into small groups, all the women tend to break into sub-groups: one for general life issues, one for issues of abuse. Today we didn't really have enough to break apart, so we stayed together and for the first time I felt an absolute sense of security. Every week we come together and talk about our individual journeys with abuse, addictions, etc. There is no pretending that everything is happy behind our smiles. We all know otherwise. And for the first time I realized that I am safe with these women. I don't have to always have a smile on my face, or reply "good" when someone asks me how I am. I can take off my smile for a couple of hours a week and feel safe that no matter how I feel, I will be supported and loved.

Not everyone is given the amazing gift that I am just now realizing I have received. So the next time you put a smile on your face, I hope it is because you are truly happy, not masking your pain.


Patricia Singleton said...
September 4, 2009 at 12:08 AM
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Just Be Real said...
September 4, 2009 at 4:09 AM
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Wrapped up in Life said...
September 4, 2009 at 5:53 AM
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Madison said...
September 4, 2009 at 5:33 PM

A woman I really trust told me once to be careful about throwing pearls before swine. Meaning..think about who you're sharing your most precious memories with. If you found a trustworthy group, you are blessed. Outside that group, I say smile away.

imaginenamaste said...
September 4, 2009 at 11:58 PM

Absolutely amazing post. I've always been called out in group for smiling when crying or whatever! I feel you challenge about making your smile worth it and really letting your emotions show.

Harriet said...
September 7, 2009 at 7:37 PM

I am always faking it. Lately I've found myself opening up a bit, but ironically not with my closest friends. It seems easier to open up with people who I am friendly with, but not best friends. Maybe it's less dangerous?