Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The Best Smiles

“…and every one said to his brother, Be of good courage.” (Isa.41:6b)

Looking through pictures from a recent family (or, at least, a part of the family) get-together, I commented to one of my grandsons who was nearby that in one picture he is looking quite sober, but in the next he is all smiles. He explained, “That’s because I’m standing next to Glory (his sister), and she always gets the best smiles out of people.” I considered this to be a high compliment for her, and well-deserved, I might add. I was reminded of something I read recently: “One way to change people is to give them something different to react to.” This may not be a fool-proof tactic, but it works enough of the time that the wise man has postulated, “A soft answer turneth away wrath” (Prov.15:1).

I have observed through the years that one way of categorizing people is to put them in one of two groups: those who bring out the best in others, and those who bring out the worst. This can be done by overt provocation, but it can also be accomplished with subtle insinuation. The first group is easy to spot and hopefully avoid, while the handiwork of the second is sometimes never noticed till he or she is gone from our presence. Insidious discouragers, sowers of discord, and untiring critics come to mind. No doubt, the greatest harm comes when these people are family members, but they also lurk among those we loosely call “friends,” and both groups put a drag on our lives—especially our Christian lives—that is hard to overcome. Obviously, the best defense is limited contact, but in some cases, this is impossible. This would be a good place to throw up a shield of faith and dull the barbs with the joy of the Lord. When these people threaten to wear us down, the promise is that “the joy of the LORD is [our] strength” (Neh.8:10b).

Perhaps, though, the greatest challenge for us would be to align ourselves in the ranks of those who bring out the best in others with words of encouragement, assurances of love, gentle rebukes, and, yes, sincere smiles. Are you, like our Glory, good at getting the best smiles out of others? It may seem like an insignificant achievement in the great scheme of things, but to the extent that it makes us more convincing messengers of the “gospel of peace” and “glad tidings of good things” (Rom.10:15), it becomes a worthy enough goal.

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