Behind the Smile
This poem and its title, “Behind the Smile,” are very personal to me. When I was a young girl in 8th grade, I was a student at a new school. I was very self conscious, as I didn’t have the wealth of my friends at this academically excellent private school. My idea was to always smile and appear happy to have friends. The first week in science class, my teacher asked everyone on an index card to share what they thought about the person they were given, then the class was to guess who it was. She read a card about a girl that always had a smile on her face, and the writer wondered what was really behind that smile and what it was covering up. The girl she was describing was me.
It embarrassed and hurt me that others could see behind my smile. I worked so hard to keep on that happy face. After all, I was from a divorced home, my dad was an alcoholic, my mother worked hard to help pay my tuition. This didn’t leave a lot left over for pretty clothes like the other girls. My home was comfortable, but modest; my mother hadn’t been a society debutant. There was a lot to hide behind that smile, but I put it on everyday no matter the circumstance. I thought if I tried hard enough that smile would be permanent and real.
It took many years of tough life experiences, some therapy, and much growth in my faith to have the courage to remove that mask. I’m now not ashamed of who I am and where I came from, as this journey has made me the person I am. God doesn’t waste a single tear or any of our pain and hurt. He uses them to mold us into something beautiful. With that said, I stand and walk in transparency today, being the only person I could ever be, and that’s the “me” God created me to be. I still smile a lot, but it’s no longer the fake mask I used to wear.
Behind the Smile
What lurks in the mind’s corners, behind the smile?
Pain, hurt, shame, guilt, thoughts that self defile
One may not see, but they live there all the while
You tell yourself put on your best face,
And you must make it in haste
For time is fleeting, don’t let it waste
You must keep that smile, no allowed tears
Day after day living with uncertain mocking and fears
A toll it takes on the soul over the many years
As fog-stained mirrors, the truth it eludes
That painted fake grimace will cover the mood
If the veracity were known, you, it would exclude
Somber, secret sadness creeps behind the pretend mask
Keeping it hidden is a relentless burdening task
God can heal this if you can and will just ask
Clocks keep ticking on toward the future so very fast
But with honesty and acceptance, a new destiny can be cast
When surrendered to the truth. as no smile can forever really last
-Dr. Rhonda Milner
"..and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair."
"For you created my inmost being; you knit me together in my mother’s womb. I praise you because I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well."