A “smile,” according to the helpful Wikipedia Encyclopedia, is a “facial expression formed by flexing those muscles most notably near both ends of the mouth.” The helpful online encyclopedia goes on to explain that a smile is also “found around the eyes.” I like the “eyes” part because I think it’s much harder to fake a smile with your eyes than your mouth.
I dug a little deeper and found that “social smiling” usually begins between the ages of six and eight weeks. And, while not in the article I read, chances are good infants are smiling without ever reading a Dave Barry article or watching the movie, “Dumb and Dumber.” It just comes—naturally.
I thought about the power of a smile this past weekend while watching an NFL football game. The game had ended and analysts were interviewing one of the players. I don’t remember who the player was, only that he was the size of a Volkswagen and appeared to have muscles on his earlobes.
The enormous man was furrowing his brow and speaking in low, sonic booms while trying to answer questions using complete sentences. The sports announcers, hiding safely in their booth hundreds of feet away, seemed careful to ask non-threatening questions lest they anger the giant.
Then, an amazing thing happened.
The behemoth smiled. Not just a little smirk, mind you, but a real, genuine, heartfelt smile. I watched in amazement as the fearsome giant transformed into a kind and possibly gentle human being one may actually enjoy having a cup of tea with. Providing, of course, one could find a teacup with a handle large enough to accommodate fingers the size of Polish sausages.
The interview reminded me of an NFL film special I saw a while back, on linebacker Joey Porter. The show featured Porter’s ferocious hits and intimidating glares at opponents. Porter spoke of how he played with “controlled rage and anger” against the opposing team—a concept the film crew seemed to capture well as helmets and bodies went flying.
But then the documentary shifted to the “softer” side of Porter who survived a random shooting in Denver while playing for the Steelers. Porter explained how players from the opposing team would come up and tell him they were praying for him and glad he was recovering. I call those “verbal smiles.” The problem was, Porter explained, “how can I play angry at them when they’re praying for me?”
It seems even the fearsome Joey Porter can be smitten by a “smile.”
Interestingly, the Bible often refers to “smiles.” In most instances, it’s a plea for God to “smile” on us once again after drifting away from Him. Psalm 67:1, for example, reads, “May God be merciful and bless us. May his face smile [or shine] with favor upon us.” After all, think how good life can be when God Himself is “smiling” on us.
As I reached for the remote to turn the TV off, I went to the mirror to see for myself what a smile does to my face. First, I made sure no one was looking, and then… smiled. At first, it was just my typical “fake smile” I use when someone is taking a picture I really don’t care to be in. But then, a strange thing happened…the smile started to turn real. Before I knew it, I was grinning from ear-to-ear and enjoying a good laugh.
About that time, my wife walked in and wondered what in the world I was up to. “Just smiling,” I said with a big grin. She gave me a strange, inquisitive look, shook her head, smiled, and said, “You’re a goofball.”
Another victim of the smile!