Cheer Up It Gets Worse
Being cheerful is an agreeable quality. Mostly, people appreciate a smile and sunny disposition. But the way some company keep it, you’d be forgiven for thinking you better be cheery or else. The positive at all costs brigade would have it that way. Believing you are nothing without a sparkling attitude, they insist that the only electricity worth having has got to be positive. But life isn’t always like that. People die. Lovers break up. People get hurt, lose jobs, get into trouble, go broke, and lose their health (and, sometimes, all at once). As a consequence, they experience grief and this needs to be accepted and respected. Merely steamrolling over people’s pain with glib scriptures and trite sayings may be well meaning. But inevitably, it’s unhelpful. There is a certain pace to the way each of us deal with grief and though it might not exactly “fit in”, it deserves to be given time and space to process. Attempting to jolly others on, saying:
- “Try a happy face for a change”
- “ Come on, get a grip” or,
- “Well your husband did die a few months ago. Isn’t it time you snapped out of it?”
is the verbal equivalent of repeatedly slapping someone in the face with a cold, wet fish and expecting them to smile in reply.
Besides, there is no rulebook of emotions that declares anything about feelings, much less when you are ready to surrender them. If anything, emotional life requires an entirely different kind of thinking. That’s why so many people stumble in their well-meaning attempts to help.
Consider the male of the species. Often as not he will try to contribute by finding solutions (believing that this is what a grieving person needs). While, this kind of “What’s your problem? Okay, do this. Sorted. Now why are you still crying?” approach has all the sensitivity of a concrete block, you’ve got to give points for trying.
For some of us, the emotional realm seems hazy and vague. It frightens us because we can’t be certain about other people’s feelings – even of those close.
Sadly, that’s often where the constant positivity mob comes in. Do a little shuffle here, dodging there, waves your arms, high five, smile and “Presto!” everybody’s happy.
Whether it is just inane, misguided, or cruelly insensitive is a matter of opinion. But, for me, a positive attitude is more about a kind of inner buoyancy. With a readiness to experience life and encounter people as they are, you don’t need to push people to do anything, much less smile on demand.
Cheerfulness that refuses to accept other people’s situation is kind of high-handed (as if to say, “my way is the right way and yours doesn’t make the grade”). So what looks like positivity can secretly mask a whole range of unpleasant behaviors about power… arrogance… and, often, fear of intimacy.
The guy brandishing that almighty smile might seem appealing. Yet, if he lacks compassion, merely pretends to listen, and only just tolerates the struggles of others, it’s nothing but an ugly sham.
The beauty in people is inevitably best measured by their qualities, not polish. While it’s a familiar theme, it’s good to be reminded, given we are being constantly bombarded with thousands of superficial images each week.
Whereas, there’s nothing plastic about wholeheartedness. While it presents well with a cheerful disposition and a gracious nature, sincerity is and always will be a beautiful thing. Meaning, whatever the times, and however your life is unfolding (be it low or on a roll), apply kindness and warmth to whatever state you’re in. Because you are always at your best when you are being genuine.
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