PSA: Re: Smiling in Public

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Josef Stuefer.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Kierstyn King’s blog Bridging the Gap.  It was originally published on May 22, 2015.

Just because someone is smiling in public does not mean everything in their life is happy, perfect, and healthy.

I’m reminded of this, in light of the Josh Duggar situation, because both parent-like sets of people in my life see the Duggars as The Best Family Ever. And because the Duggars are good at being The Best Family Ever, it makes it hard for their fan base to see past the barrage of smiles and actually listen to what’s being said and taught and what the consequences of those are for the Duggar kids.

My family was a poorer, less popular, less business-savvy version of the Duggars. Bill Gothard aside, they believe basically the same things the Duggars do. As much as the Duggars want to tell you they just love kids and are totally not quiverfull, their line about just “doing what God wants them to do” re: breeding is quiverfull ideology, and my parents (like the Duggars) are quiverfull.

My parents spent my and my siblings childhoods training us to always smile and look/act/be happy even when that wasn’t the emotion we were having. Happiness was godly, happiness meant no one thought anything was wrong, happiness made my parents the go-to parents in our local community for child-rearing tips and advice.

So it pains me when people don’t see that the smiles are fake. They look at families like mine, like the Duggars, like countless others, and say “But look, they’re smiling! they’re happy! everything is obviously great!” as if the mouth is not a series of muscles that can be willed into an upside-down frown on demand, or out of necessity.

A smile does not indicate a healthy, happy situation. It doesn’t take much to see past the plasticity and into the tired eyes behind the upturned lips.

Just because a family is smiling on tv doesn’t mean it’s happy. Us quiverfull kids are great at smiling. Listen to our words and our silence, not our masked faces.

Use your empathy.

6 comments

  • I think this is a tough issue. I was not brought up in a Christian or quiverfull or home school environment. But I do have challenges with feeling blue to depression. I make myself smile and it improves my attitude. I have tough my kids to smile too. I also encourage them to think and speak about other emotions. But the act fo smiling There are studies about that too – a lot of them. Although it is not good to be fake, it is also not good to be going around feeling sorry for yourself or whining all the time either. There is a time to talk about your feelings and a time not too. There are people to share with and there are people not to share with. So part of it is just about learning boundaries and self-control. IN dealing with lots of foster kids, I need to teach them to smile. Smiling and being cheerful is just a better way to live and to get what you want/need.

    You can not like the fact, but you do catch more flies with honey. Just a fact.

    • In this situation, you’re not allowed to have/acknowledge any other emotion besideshappiness or contentment. You’re not allowed to be honest with yourself or anyone about how you feel, and at least for me – it takes years to identify all of the emotions you shut down because of it, let alone feel the vast breadth of them. You are emotionally stunted.

      This scenario doesn’t teach boundaries or self control, it’s not a healthy or better way to live, it’s a prison.

      • Also, no one wants to catch flies, except to kill them. And we would all rather they just not be around, anyway.

      • Yeah, constantly lying to others, and worse, yourself, about your emotions isn’t healthy.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/you-need-to-smile-more

      And a couple years ago, Psychology Today had an article discussing the same subject. Their column head illustration was a corpse in a coffin SMIIIIIIILING ear-to-ear.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      P.S.

      “Hell has no torment worse than Constant Forced Cheerfulness.”
      G.K.Chesterton, “Three Tools of Death” (Father Brown Mystery)

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