Why Smiling Isn’t Something You Should Forget

Feb 21, 2012

This past Sunday we had a guest worship leader at church. He came from a community up north, only for one day, to lead worship in all four of our church services. With a guitar strapped over one shoulder, an early 30-something look, and the normal jeans-and-tshirt attire, he didn’t appear to be any different from our normal worship leader. In fact, most of the songs he chose were part of our regular line-up. Nothing unusual, nothing new really. Except for one key difference:

He smiled.

From the first note until the fading echo of the last, his face lit up. Our normal worship leader is great, I have no complaints. But he’s often serious. This guy was different. Seldom have I seen someone enjoy their private worship as he did — publicly. In fact, he looked as if he couldn’t be happier anywhere else in the world. He was exactly where he wanted to be. I have a feeling the rest of us could’ve slipped out the back door and he would’ve kept going, smiling all the while, just for the sheer love it.

As a result, my own worship went up a few notches. His enthusiasm filled the room with an electrifying presence, my skin tingling in response. I’m not talking overdone acrobatics on the stage, or even cheesy plastic entertainment. He smiled. A genuine inside-to-out, head-to-toe radiation of his pleasure in that moment. The result was contagious.

Sometimes we forget to be happy about our spirituality. In all the seriousness and suffering, we neglect the glee. Why does smiling matter?

  1. Smiling Can Change How I Experience This Moment. There’s a host of scientific data to suggest smiling changes brain chemistry. Just as a frown can reinforce negative feelings, smiling can reinforce–perhaps even drive–positive feelings. If happiness came in pill form, we’d be popping it three times a day and at bedtime. As it turns out, happiness might be even easier to come by. And free!
  2. Smiling Can Change How Someone Else Experiences This Moment. No doubt about it, smiling impacts those around us. If I asked you to list the top three people you love being around, I’d bet each one smiles more often than not. We are drawn to happiness like moths to a light. Choosing to smile, then, makes us the kind of person other people want to hang around. It creates opportunities for influence, a platform for life change. Want another interesting tidbit? Smiling even impacts vocalization, meaning a smile may be heard as much as seen!
  3. Smiling Reflects A Part of God’s Character. Every good gift is from God (James 1:17). That means He’s not just a refuge in grief, but the giver of anything that solicits true joy. To see Him as only serious and sober is to miss a part of His character. He is a fountain, the waters of which are good for both soothing and splashing. Beth Moore, in her study on the book of James says this: “We will run our race on one leg if we only engage with God in our suffering or sickness.” He is life, and life is as much about smiling as it is about crying.

Sunday I experienced an unusually sweet and precious time of worship in part because the guy with the cool guitar didn’t forget to wear his smile. Makes me want to pass it on to someone else today.

By the way, I’m smiling.

“I’m thanking you, God, from a full heart, I’m writing the book on your wonders. I’m whistling, laughing, and jumping for joy; I’m singing your song, High God.” ~ Psalm 91:1-2, MSG

Can you share a time when the simple gesture of smiling changed your day?


  1. Rhonda

    SO true and such a good reminder. I’m glad it made you smile…maybe you should tell him!

    • Michele

      Good thought. He was a guest worship leader. But if I can track him down, I’ll try to do that.

  2. suzy

    This is a funny practice I’ve been embarking on for a few years. If we’re smiling when we encounter all the passersby throughout our day, everything changes about those glances, don’t they? We forget that our deep thoughts and distractions play out on our faces and we look so serious or detached as we’re rushing into the grocery store. We can be brighter for everyone around as well as ourselves!

    Here’s another one: when someone has something visually unique about them (giant tatooes, blue hair, a pair of crutches, or whatever), we can be smiling and it’s not misinterpreted as critical glances, but rather a kind acknowledgement of their expression or situation. A smile changes the whole vibe.

    Thanks… I’m new to your “world” and it’s fun to get to know you.

    • Michele

      Isn’t it interesting how intentionally smiling at those we pass changes both our perception of that person and even the potential of some kind of interaction? Such a simple gesture with big results. Thanks for sharing your insight, Suzy. And I’m so glad you left a comment so I can get to know you, too!

  3. Jerolyn

    Great post. Just today a guy came into the our food bank with a t-shirt that read something like this: Life shouldn’t be taken too serious, none of us make it through alive anyways! That just made me laugh. But I was quick to remind him that we need to take very serious where we are going when we don’t make it out alive.

    • Michele

      As long as you know where you’ll be in eternity, that shirt is a good motto! Thanks for sharing it, Jerolyn. Made me smile, too!


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