Peel back your lips and expose your teeth

Andy Schleck at Tour of California 2009.
Image via Wikipedia

Depending upon your point of view, you imagined one of two images:  clenched teeth or a smile.  Are they merely facial expressions?  Or do they expose something deeper?  What if a simple facial expression could change your day?

What if we clenched our teeth?

The reasons:

We hold this facial expression in reserve for times when we feel adrenaline pumping through us or wish to produce more adrenaline.  It could show anger or irritation or drive.  Athletes often use clenched teeth as a driving force to push them toward their goal of success.  A pregnant woman clenches her teeth when it’s time to push that baby out of her body. 

The results:

Over time, if this facial expression becomes prevalent, it develops into other things.  It causes excessive tooth wear and decay, jaw  and neck pain, headaches and even sleep disorders.

Within the Bible, the expression “weeping and gnashing of teeth” is associated with the pain of hell.  Considering all the pain clenching can cause, the hellish connection makes sense.  

What if we smile?

The reasons:

We smile to show happiness, joy, embarrassment, nervousness, energy, excitement, and much more.  Comedians itch to produce that perfect smile in someone else.  Smiling expresses victory at the end of a race.  A smile conceals concerns or ignorance.  Actors smile for the camera, and it makes people want to watch them.  Regardless of its reasoning, a smile makes us approachable and enjoyable.  Some researches believe it increases how attractive we seem. 

The results:

While scientifically there’s a bit of debate on the topic, smiling has shown various pluses.  It can change our mood from sour to light.  Smiling may relieve stress, boost the immune system, and even lower blood pressure.  Subjectively, it can make someone seem more successful.  Some indicate smiling makes people look younger.  As I mentioned, the debate continues, but based on the research I read, no one claims any negative effects from smiling. 

Even Job, who experienced great personal tragedy shared this: “When I smiled at them, they scarcely believed it; the light of my face was precious to them.” (Job 29:24)

Which do you prefer?

No matter the circumstance we face, we can choose our expressions.  Today, I watched a bicycle rider named Andy Schleck climb three extraordinary mountains in the Alps.  Occasionally, he clenched his teeth and slowed down.  But when he rode with a smile even up steep terrain, he flew. 

We can choose how we respond to the difficulties of life.  Years ago, I watched news broadcasters interviewing people whose homes caught fire on a Sunday morning.  One woman had been at church while her home burned.  She could do nothing to stop it.  She sat on the steps of her sizzling home, holding her Bible, while a reporter interviewed her on her loss.  At one point, a smile crossed her lips and she said, “Now I know you can have peace that makes no sense even when tragedy hits.”  I believed her.

In the book of Nehemiah, chapter 8, Nehemiah said, “Do not grieve, for the joy of the LORD is your strength.” If we choose a facial expression which exposes the depth of our belief, we may discover more depth than we originally knew. 

My choice today:

Smile.


 

 

 

 

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