It’s a great word. It says, “the way a person looked like they were feeling” all in three little syllables.
I’ve been thinking about MY countenance lately. I know that I am a positive, usually cheery, very friendly person. I also know that most of the time, I don’t LOOK like it.
I squint a lot, sometimes even when I have my glasses on. Squinting automatically gives the impression of being disagreeable. It was worse before I got my glasses again. Imagine me, singing on the worship team, squinting at the monitor trying to read the words — and looking grumpy while singing praises to God!
I frown while I think or ponder things – even if I’m not thinking about something unhappy. I might be trying to think of a good gift to give my husband but you’d never know it by looking at me. I often realize in the middle of listening to a pastor that I’m frowning at the pastor! I immediately try to switch to something that appears like interested listening, but I’m sure most of the time I look like I’m disagreeing with what the pastor is saying!
When daydreaming, I stare off into space – often in the direction of some other person without realizing it.
It’s a little unsettling because I’ll suddenly realize I’m staring at somebody (probably with a frown on my face!) and then try to cover it with a big smile so they don’t think I was glaring at THEM. Oy.
And then there are times that I just flat out am not really thinking of anything or feeling particularly anything and for some reason just don’t have a very happy look on my face. I often caught myself, while nursing or rocking one of my children, staring at their little face, not really thinking anything, and then realizing that I probably looked unhappy while staring at my child – not the picture I want to present. It’s a good thing that very young infants haven’t learned to interpret facial expressions yet. 😛
I don’t think there are any direct biblical passages talking about keeping a pleasant face. But I do know that there are other passages that speak of our character and our witness. And I’ve come to the conclusion through these experiences that I’m not giving a good impression of my character and witness if I have a sad or grumpy countenance.
If you think I’m grasping at straws suggesting some kind of biblical support for pleasantness, consider the practical applications as well. More times than I can recall, my countenance caused some kind of issue with my spouse. My frown was misinterpreted and my husband felt like I disagreed with him when I really didn’t.
Imagine how many confrontations you could avoid by keeping a pleasant face. Imagine being remembered by your children, spouse, and other people you met as someone “with a kind face.”
When I think of Jesus, I imagine him with a kind face. We know there were a few times he got angry at sin, and I’m sure there were a few times he felt sad, but I’d like to think that most of the time he had a kind countenance. He was after all, sinless, and there would have been no cause for grumpy, unhappy or disagreeable looks.
I realize that most of the time I make grumpy faces unintentionally, but no one else knows that. It gives the impression of things that aren’t there, and that’s the part I don’t like. I don’t want to give the IMPRESSION of sinful attitudes – especially if they’re not really there!
So how can I work on keeping a kind countenance? It’s something I think about frequently, and whenever I think about it I give myself a countenance check. I think it also takes practice, like keeping good posture. So I practice keeping a pleasant countenance while listening to my children tell something, while teaching them, while talking with my husband…. I haven’t mastered this yet, but I’m betting that’s the big one right there: Practice, practice, practice. I’m hoping that with enough practice, over time, it becomes a habit.