“A man is known by his appearance, and a sensible man is known by his face, when you meet him.”
It is the main thing that people see. So much about us, about our disposition toward those around us, is enshrined in our face.
We simply owe to others a certain kind of look on our face.
Perhaps we have all had an experience like this: you find yourself in unfamiliar surroundings, and a signficant part of your insecurity comes from the forbidding look on the faces around you. And then your eyes fall on that one face in the midst of the others. It changes everything; nothing even need be said. All will be alright.
How often might a smile from us be a source of comfort, renewed hope, even renewed faith, to someone we meet. Perhaps it is someone we don’t even see but who sees us.
It’s not that we should have a perpetual smile. Some circumstanes certainly call for other looks. We should cultivate an awareness of our countenance, and we should seek to align it with the appropriate dispositions we should have toward those around us in various circumstances.
Are we listening? Do we have respect? Do we care? Are we willing to enter-in to the feelings or needs of others? Do we have confidence in ourselves, in others, in life itself? So will people judge from our face.
But not only is our countenance that by which others will judge our interior disposition; it is also the lens through which we look out on the world. Surely the very look on our face is a real factor in how we will experience life.
But what if we don’t feel hopeful, or happy, or sympathetic, etc? We can strive to have the face that expresses the feelings we know we should have, even if we don’t have them, yet.
This is the second in the series: Reclaiming Manners.
Image: John Singer Sargent (1856-1925), portrait of George Henschel