Behind every smile….lies a beating heart. It could be a joyful heart, a hurting heart, a terrified heart, a thankful heart OR the worst of all… a hope-LESS heart. The smile, for each of these heart conditions, looks the same on the outside. We equate a smile with happiness. However, we need to delve a little deeper to find out what really lies there. This week I lost a former colleague with a smiling face. Life was apparently too much for her and no one knew.
Our culture trains us to put on a great front. A front is like donning a mask…a mask to conceal our real identity. A mask has a fixed expression. We shout through that smiling mask … Everything is great! Life is great! I’m great! Our marriage is great! These are the mantras of our world. It was hard enough before, when we only wore our mask as we carried out our daily lives in our respective environments. But now…..we have only to look at our social media sites with their happy pictures of beautifully behaved children, unbelievable vacations, exciting adventures, Pinterest perfect parties, and daily prepared gourmet meals to see these mantras visually played out before us in technicolor. Life looks easy, fun, and Greeting Card Perfect! We look at these examples daily, or even hourly and can’t help but think…Why is my life not like that? What am I doing wrong? Am I not good enough to have a life like that? The heart behind the smile allows itself to become entangled in the comparison trap and falls desperately short. So we sit behind our mask in misery. My heart is heavy that somehow we miss that in people, because perhaps we are too busy with our own smile PR. I know I stand guilty.
Here’s the reality… Everyone is struggling with something. They….just….are! Life isn’t always easy. It is just a component of the human condition. However, it is when we let our guards down and show our vulnerability and our authentic selves that we can truly get the help…support…and most of all LOVE we need from those around us. “A joy shared is doubled…a sorry shared is halved? Being real enables us to have real community…the kind that sustains you…the kind that lets you know that you are not alone in your struggles…the kind that prays for you… the kind that heals hurts, repairs relationships, salvages marriages and may even saves lives in the long run. Our culture somehow tells us that being vulnerable is weak, but culture gives us SO many erroneous messages for living a good life doesn’t it? In actuality, I think it is really one of the bravest things one can do. It is wading through our weakness that we find strength. I find that authenticity is contagious…in a good way….because being vulnerable helps others to do the same and the result is staggering in its potential to change the trajectory of a life….for the better. I think I have found a Tree Star to cling to in this tragedy!
“Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ” ~ Galatians 6:2