Why Is It Important to Smile?

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One of the things my wife constantly tells me is, “Don’t forget to smile!” It’s a simple thing, really, but something that I fail to do at times. You see, ever since I was born, I have a tendency to walk around with a scowl on my face—in fact, my forehead has been trenched with wrinkles since my late teens, given my scowling tendencies. I’m not angry—I’m typically deep in thought.

I’m not saying that my thoughts are always deep, but I am usually thinking about something; and when I think, I furrow my brow and scowl. Given my tendency to scowl, I’m not at all averse to having my wife remind me to smile. But why is it important to smile?

A smile can break a bitter attitude in a matter of seconds.

A simple smile can change your attitude. One of the things I try to do with my children when they’re upset or angry is get them to smile. I find that a smile can break their bitter attitude in a matter of seconds. There is something to the old cliché: turn that frown upside down. Now, one important point to keep in mind regarding smiling—it has to be sincere and real—the outflowing of a contented and joy-filled heart, which is something only Christ through the Spirit can provide.

Pastors need to remember to smile when they’re preaching!

Maybe it’s the weightiness of the task, the sublimity of the text, or the stress of delivery, but many preachers fail to smile when they’re in the pulpit. They could be preaching about some of the most joy-filling truths of Scripture, yet their faces tell a different tale. While they might have a number of facial expressions, a smile should definitely be high on the list when preaching. Related to this is the interaction that you might have with people in your church. If you’re speaking with a church member and you don’t smile, you might give the impression that you’re upset or unfriendly. If you’re greeting a visitor, you might convey the wrong impression that the church is a cold place. Believe it or not, a simple smile can address these possible pitfalls.

If pastors remember to smile when they’re talking with people at church (members or visitors), hopefully they will convey the idea that they are happy and filled with joy. If pastors smile when preaching the grace-filled truths of Scripture, they can easily convey to the congregation that they too should be filled with joy upon reading and hearing of God’s grace.

There are lots of good reasons to smile.

When my wife reminds me to smile, she’s not telling me to put on a fake smile—to pretend I am happy. Rather, she’s reminding me, “You’re preaching the gospel! Doesn’t that fill your heart with hope?” “You’re shepherding God’s flock; doesn’t that thrill you?” “You’re getting to meet new people; doesn’t that bring joy to you?” “Does this hope, thrill, and joy bubble to the surface in the form of a smile?”

One of the things I often respond to my wife, especially when meeting new people is, “I’m worried and nervous about meeting new people.” (I am, believe it or not, quite shy). Once again, my wife kindly reminds me, “Don’t you know that these new people are probably just as nervous as you are? If you smile, you’ll let them know that you care and are approachable. You’ll make the process of meeting new people a lot more enjoyable for you and others.”

So, whether you’re a pastor or not, don’t forget to smile! It’s a simple thing, but far too often we forget to let the joy of the gospel bubble to the surface. 

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This article by J. V. Fesko is adapted from “A Pastor’s Reflections: Smile.” For more helpful content by Dr. Fesko, please visit jvfesko.com.

J. V. Fesko is Academic Dean and Professor of Systematic Theology and Historical Theology at Westminster Seminary California. He has written numerous books on the Christian faith, including Word, Water, and Spirit: A Reformed Perspective on BaptismJustification: Understanding the Classic Reformed DoctrineThe Theology of the Westminster Standards: Historical Context and Theological Insights and the newly released commentary, Romans (Lectio Continua).

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