Think back to the last time you caught a glimpse of yourself in the mirror when you were stressed. Did you look approachable? What message did you send to others around you with your distressed facial expressions? What type of reaction did your family or co-workers have when they engaged with you while you were in such a state? Ever ponder the misunderstandings that may have arisen because your friend or spouse interpreted your frustration as directed towards them? Let us reflect on the power of the smile not only in the face of adversity, but also during prosperity.
The concept of spreading good cheer in Islam is, at times, neglected and/or forgotten. Abu Dhar, may Allah be pleased with him, narrated that Prophet Muhammad ﷺ (peace be upon him) said, “Don’t underestimate any good deed, even meeting your brother with a cheerful face.” (Muslim). Prophet Muhammad ﷺ also said, as narrated by Abu Dhar, may Allah be pleased with him, “Smiling in the face of your brother is charity.” (Tirmidhi). So if smiling is charity, why are some of us so miserly? Why don’t we see more people meeting others with a welcoming face? This question has puzzled me for a long time. I once asked a person who is “smile-challenged” about this phenomenon, and he simply shrugged. After much contemplation and observation, I may have come to an understanding.
Once, a family member and I went to a restaurant. After sitting at the table for some time, I was enjoying the simple experience and smiling while my dining partner was just straight-faced. I asked what he was thinking, and he said he was analyzing how the waiter interacted differently with the people sitting at the next table than how he interacted with my dining partner. I suggested that perhaps his own reserved facial expression prevented the waiter from engaging in a more amiable manner. He couldn’t help but agree. Two important points regarding smiling should be considered:
- You reap what you sow. The level of positive energy you exude through your facial expressions (not to mention your overall body language, tone of voice, etc.) often dictates the level of positive interaction you receive in return. Anticipating positive interactions with others before they actually happen also helps to breed friendly experiences.
- Your facial expressions reflect your inner feelings. If you catch yourself spending your day with a frown, reflect on your thoughts. What negative feelings are you harboring? Consider reflecting on the positive side of each situation you encounter. Once you modify your way of thinking, you will see a change in your facial expressions and may even find yourself smiling.
To put it quite simply, smiling creates a positive cycle of good feelings. The act of exercising your facial muscles to smile helps to lighten your own mood, which reflects happiness on your face, which brings about a more positive response from others, which creates a deeper positive experience. So, what if you are not inclined to smile? Here are some tips:
- Be conscious of the fact that you have a tendency to withhold your smiles and check yourself.
- This may sound vain, but make a few mirror checks when you catch yourself frowning, or straight-faced. Reflect upon the negative message you are sending.
- Put on a smile, even if you are not in the greatest mood (especially when you are around your loved ones).
- Make a conscious effort to watch others’ expressions and reactions when they see you with this lightened expression on your face.
- Don’t think about the possibility of someone not returning a smile. Someone else may be having a bad day, and may be completely oblivious to his surroundings. The positive effect you have on one person can never be overestimated.
- Reflect upon the fact that smiling is charity. You are actually donating happiness to others when you flash your pearly whites. And as is with all business in which we engage with Allah; when we give charity, we actually receive much more in return. Aside from Allah’s reward, the reward of smiling is often returned with another smile, creating good cheer in a matter of seconds.
Making a conscious effort to smile at others is not only pleasing to Allah, but it helps to create a friendly atmosphere. When you smile at your family and friends, you are letting them know you are happy with them and you love them. And when you smile at someone you don’t know, you are offering a piece of happiness. Spread good cheer, a little bit of effort goes a long way.