2016-09-06 - What People Say ~ Smile More
And What the Bible Says About It
As you guys know, during the last eight months, Richard and I have been on a challenging journey with his Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Now that he's doing a good deal better, I have a little more time and mental focus, which allow me to write. I hope that this series will help us all to be more mindful of our comments.
In one hospital, we overheard an insensitive comment that was aimed at a young man who had been suddenly struck down, paralyzed. He was understandably discouraged, as he learned to adapt to his new health status, which he has been told may or may not be permanent. The person chided him, "You need to smile more!" What is wrong with this comment?
From a Biblical standpoint, we are certainly reminded to be joyous and thankful however, we also have plenty of examples of men of faith, who don't go around with beatific smiles on their faces 24/7. My favorite example may be found in Psalm 6:2-3 (NIV):
Have mercy on me, Lord, for I am faint;
The Psalmists were very honest men. The Psalmists didn't put on airs; they weren't phony - which would have been dishonest. Remember who is the father of lies and dishonesty; it is not God. It's perfectly okay to be honest. Even Christ wasn't always smiling. After all, he asked God that IF it could be in His Father's will, to remove the burden from Him. Christ also surrendered to God's will. But he never pretended that all was well, when it wasn't.
But from another standpoint, telling a paralyzed person to "smile more" is simply not kind or loving. A person saying that certainly is not following the Golden Rule. Here was a young man who was now pretty much bedbound, unable to do anything for himself - reduced overnight from a fully functioning young man, to one totally dependent on strangers and family for everything. It was demoralizing; he couldn't even go to the bathroom by himself. His entire life and world had been turned upside down. To flippantly instruct him to smile more was thoughtless at the best, and cruel at the worst.
Before we say something like that to someone, as well as we are able, we need to stop and think about how we might feel in a similar situation. It could also be helpful to ask ourselves several questions, before speaking: Will this encourage the person? Will it bolster his/her faith? Will it help him deal with a tragic, overwhelming situation? It is very doubtful that under any circumstances, the words "smile more" would ever accomplish any of those goals.
Series to be continued.
Janice P. Moser
All scripture references are from the New American Standard Bible (NASB) unless otherwise noted.