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Fake Smiles

I remember meeting people and being greeted with a smile – “Hello, how are you. So nice to meet you.” But the instant the person turned away - the smile disappeared from their face! What was that? I wondered… The ease in which the mouth curved up and then down. Fake smiles. Those expressions that are given out of obligation, politeness or shade. Was that person mean or disingenuous in their interaction with me? The visage wasn’t necessary; I would have been fine without their forced courtesy. As I progressed through life I realized that fake smiles weren’t limited to immature college students but made their appearance in the workplace, social gatherings, church services and events, state fairs, award dinners, firework displays, art galleries, chance meetings on the street and train platforms. They were everywhere.

Where was the sweet savor of a true smile?

I’ve always believed that a smile is the expression of the heart. An outward demonstration of something words cannot describe. Children have difficulty smiling on cue. Without practice, it is hard to conjure a natural expression of joy. In those moments of unprompted felicity, the bright eyed smiles of children can awaken our own feelings of unfettered delight. This is the power of the truth. Awakening. Realization of the untainted thing we are not currently experiencing. It pushes us into a place where we cannot un-know what we have seen- a true expression of the heart.

I often ask people, what is your resting face? How do we look when walking down the street or sitting quietly on the train? Would someone be afraid to ask us for directions because they are unsure if we would respond with a growl? What level of grace resides on our faces? Grab a mirror and take a look.

What’s behind a fake smile? Disrespect, sorrow, jealousy? Is it a learned behavior that comes from a desire to get the interaction out of the way? Is it that we don’t realize the value of the person we are speaking to? They don’t rank high enough on our importance scale for us to find honor in the interaction?

I’ve long since committed that I will not distribute fake smiles on cue. If I don’t mean it, I won’t give it. Instead it is my hope that even after I smile and greeted another, the residue of joy will remain on my face. So it is clearly understood that what I gave was sincere and given with love. I want you to know that I love you. I want you to know that I am unafraid of real interaction—the kind that sees beyond the mask you might wear. I want you to trust that when I ask about your strength, I am also offering to help you bear the load. I want you to confidently believe that you are not walking in this world alone but God and I will happily walk on either side. Yes, I admit, it is an audacious thing to pack all of that sentiment into a smile but I believe each smile, each day will send a message that will penetrate the heart.

I want you to know I love you.

Our endeavor is to be a light shining in the darkness. An external display of internal truth. The little things done with sincere intention are a wonderful demonstration of the love and light of God living within. So today I challenge you smile- AND MEAN IT!

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