The Smile Experiment

“Don’t smile so much,” she warned me, “you’ll get wrinkles.” The woman, whose name escapes me, suggested that I relax my face muscles, draw my chin slightly downward while softly raising my eyebrows in order to bring a pleasant look to my face without actually smiling. You’re trying that right now, aren’t you? C’mon… I know you are. It’s so weird! Feels weird. Looks weirder. Alas, our faces were not meant for that sort of pose unless we are in repose. Our faces were meant to smile.

When I was in the 3rd grade I won the Dental Association Smile Contest for Orange County, Florida, along with a kid named Ronnie Smith. I won a bicycle: a sparkly green Schwinn with a white banana seat and high handlebars with streamers, and my name written on the sissy bar. It was cool. I was not so cool. But I did smile a lot (though not quite as much as Ronnie).


This past week, my devotional contained a quote from Mother Teresa that made me do some deep thinking about the God-given smile we each possess. She wrote,

“Some people came to Calcutta, and before leaving the begged me: “Tell us something that will help us to live our lives better.’ And I said: ‘Smile at each other; smile at your wife, smile at your husband, smile at your children, smile at each other—it doesn’t matter who it is—and that will help you to grow up in greater lover for each other.”

–A Gift for God by Mother Teresa

I rather prefer Mother Teresa’s advice on smiling.

The fact is, God created us to smile. Interesting- even though babies don’t regularly start smiling until about 6 weeks old, sonograms have shown babies smiling in their mother’s womb, where each of us are woven together by God with precise facial muscles and wired with nerves that give us the ability to smile—a tangible, physical response to what delights and pleases us, or makes us laugh. We were born knowing how to smile because God created us to smile!

Some Benefits of Smiling

There are hundreds of statistics on the benefits of smiling (just google it)—from helping us to live longer to boosting our immune system. Scientific and psychological research reveals that while you can’t smile your way to happiness, smiling does appear to elevate your mood, and it’s contagious; when you smile at others it can elevate their mood, too. Think about that and the fact that God made us to be people who smile. Christians, above all, have more reasons to smile—and ought to radiate the smile of God through their lives…and on their faces. God made us to smile, and since we are created in His image, and for His pleasure, I’m certain that 1) God smiles, too, and 2) our smile pleases God, and it can also be pleasing to others. In fact—our ability to smile is not a gift God gave us, but an act of grace we give to the person we’re smiling on.

The Smile Experiment

There’s a young person who works in a market that I frequent. Personal pronouns were written on their name tag along with a gender-neutral name. I attempted to engage them with a, “Hi! How’s your day going,” and a smile, receiving little to no response in return, and no eye contact. I thanked them, by name, smiled and headed out feeling grieved. I wanted this young person to know that they were loved and valued in God’s eyes—even if I never said the words. And so, I prayed, and decided to purse them each time I came to the store, smiling and greeting them by name and continuing my attempt to engage in something that solicited more than a monosyllabic answer. I kept at it, and eventually conversation began to happen. Little things at first, incidental—the weather, the change of season, etc. I always smiled, intentionally but genuinely, trying to look them in the eye. Slowly we began to connect. Finally, it happened, and they looked up…and smiled. Shyly, but it was a smile!! Recently we made a big connection about a trip they were planning to take to an obscure location I’d been to many years ago and we had a legit conversation about it! I was so excited! And now, even if I’m not in their lane to check out, I will call out to them by name, smile and wave as I leave. I’m keeping at it, because this smiling thing works—and I want them to know the smile of God.

My husband loves when I smile. Next to God, no one is more deserving of my smile than my husband. He loves for me to smile—and says, “You light up the room when you smile.” I’ve been through seasons where I lost my smile, or forgot I had one; when life has been harder, when my load has been heavier, or when I’ve been overwhelmed with stuff…and John’s gotten the brunt of that. I can muster a smile for others, but not for him.

After reading Mother Teresa’s words, I decided to try the Smile Experiment at home, with John. IT WORKS! My facial expression made all the difference in my mood, and his mood—in how he’s received when he walks into the house to a smile at the end of the day.

❤️ Something to Think About

What Makes God Smile? I have a favorite picture of Jesus on my desk—and he’s smiling big. I love to picture him that way, and to think of him smiling on me. What brings a smile to God’s face? I believe it truly delights God when I’m mindful of Who He is and what He’s done for me on the Cross of Christ; when I’m obedient to what He’s told me to do; and when I’m grateful for all He’s blessed my life with.

So, smile because:

  • He’s made you alive!
  • Jesus saved your life!
  • You have God’s beautiful Word, the Bible, to hear from Him!
  • You can talk to Him anytime!
  • You’ve been given another day!
  • You belong to the Lord God!
  • You live in His presence!

Yes—smile at your friends. Smile at your husband (the one you prayed for, for a bunch of years). Smile at your kids (the ones you prayed for, for another bunch of years). Smile at your family. Smile at your neighbors, your coworkers, the delivery person, and checkout clerk. SMILE— it enlarges your capacity to love others, and you’ll be amazed at how your day, your mood, and your world can change if you just smile.

One More Thing

Our faces were created to smile. Not a cheesy, fake smile, but an expression of genuine delight, joy, peace, and thankfulness that stirs the heart, mind, and muscles to respond with a smile—big or small, gentle or broad. God created us to smile. It’s the most inexpensive, powerful gift you can give someone…without even saying a word.

Who will you give your smile to today? Try The Smile Experiment and let me know how it changes you!

Until next week, don’t forget that you are greatly and dearly loved by The King. And let’s live our beautiful, ordinary lives like it!

I love you!
xo – P❤️