Reading Reflection:

Loving Well, William P. Smith (New Growth Press, 2012) I am enjoying this book as my mind and heart are being well-stretched by Smith’s warm prose. I would like to do a full review on it, but am only about half way done at the moment. (This is the part where I wonder whether to share how I started another book but couldn’t get into it, which pleasantly led me to the church library…) So, as I have been one busy mama lately, I thought I’d give a short reflection on a particular line that got me thinking. It is in a section about truly sharing our inner struggles with others. Smith addresses the whole “How are you?” greeting and our usually closed off responses. He suggests that if we confess our own struggles it may help us to make more genuine connections in relationships. The author gives us an example of how he has done just that and it was a stepping stone for a deeper friendship:
It happened simply because I was willing to be slightly open about what was happening beneath my smile (47).
You know that smile he’s talking about—the plastic, “My life is great” smile. I don’t realize how often I give off that smile until someone makes a comment about how well I’ve got it together. That’s when I know I must be doing some shucking and jiving. Smiles have many messages. You can really make someone feel good with a smile—the “I’m so happy to see you” smile can really be encouraging. But we can even hurt people with a smile—take the “You’re full of malarkey” smile for example. There’s also the “I’m better than you” smile. We can read many smile languages, but the “My life is great” smile can be pretty deceiving. It may cause others to feel like they don’t compare. Mostly, it achieves its purpose of keeping others at arms length. It’s the same as when you ask your teenager how their day was and they disinterestedly reply, “fine.” Translation: “I don’t want to tell you.” In being loving toward others, Smith suggests that we should take the lead in sharing. This leaves us a bit vulnerable, and even uncomfortable, but Smith explains it like this:
Friendships in which people feel free to share their difficulties give them permission to drop their guard and ask for help as they grow into the fullness of Christ. But if you want to have those kind of relationships, you have to take the lead in sharing your difficulties. Look for these opportunities and intentionally share yourself to others (46).
Is this a challenge for you? Do you find it easier to listen to another’s struggles than to share your own?  Do you think that a person in a leadership position should not share personal matters? Well, Smith is a counseling pastor at his church and he is not above it. But he gives an even greater reason why we should reach out in this way:
Jesus…in his awesome majesty was unafraid of earthly humility. He talked to his creatures about his inner life. The creatures were infinitely below him on every conceivable scale, yet he didn’t treat them that way. He invited them into a relationship far beyond their imagination, sharing himself in ways they never could know otherwise. And he has done the same with you. In doing so, he points the way for how we ought to share ourselves with each other (48).
So I encourage you to be more inviting with your smiles—by sharing what is beneath them.