At Face Value

Therefore judge nothing before the appointed time; wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and will expose the motives of the heart. At that time each will receive their praise from God. (I Corinthians 4:5 NIV)

My late husband was constantly trying to read my face as an indicator of what was going on with me internally. What I thought was a blank face, he interpreted in a variety of ways and his speculation only served to worsen my mood. When I am preoccupied with the mechanics of my life, you can read it in my demeanor. There are people who can project happiness whether they are or not; I struggle with whether this is a virtue or simply artifice.

In my family we disparage this as being “an act”, the implication being such people are less true to themselves than those whose faces betray them. I confess I envy them the luxury of being able to hide behind a mask. I suspect in their public lives at least, they are generating less fallout to be held accountable for than those of us who don’t go to all that trouble. 

The ones who masquerade behind a forced smile are subject to different kinds of repercussions than those whose faces we initially think are more inscrutable. Instead of being confronted with an endless string of “What’s the matter with you?” questions like I faced at home, they are met with suspicion and resentment. Each posture is a form of adaptation to guard against further pain and rejection. Each has its downside, but it isn’t up to us to sort it all out.

While we may think such guesswork facilitates a better understanding of those we encounter, it isn’t our responsibility to ascertain whether their outer personas accurately reflect the state of their inner man. That formidable responsibility falls to God and fortunately for us, he is more merciful in his judgments than we are. God finds in each of us something to value beyond the superficial and we would do well to copy his example.

Dear Father, Please strengthen us to withhold judgment of others and to extend mercy in its place. Amen.

Carol (NC)