Spreading Smiles

spread a smile

I’m a girl. I have grumpy, self-centered days. The end. (Or not.)

On yet another dreadfully difficult, supercharged emotional day, I wasn’t exactly living like Pollyanna. My heart heavy, my mind foggy, my words muddled. Seeing people and smiling at them was the LAST thing I wanted to do, but I had to make it through one more phone call, another couple emails, and a (hopefully brief) meeting.

Sitting at my laptop, the emails had piled up. Grumbling, I braced for tedium and opened the first email. It ended with a surprising salutation: ‘You’re keen. It’s been a pleasure to work with you.’ Oh wait. A compliment?! I got a compliment from a complete stranger based solely on email interaction? Enter smile number one of the day. The angst eased, just enough.

Later on, at that dreaded meeting, my friend laughed at one of my jokes and brought compliment number two (and genuine smile number two): “You’re so hilarious! I like you! High five!” After our shared high five, we continued the conversation with more decorum, but not before a stranger poked into our conversation and inspired smile number three: “You look so cute today. I love your outfit!”

I’m fully aware that I have much to be thankful for, that I am an extremely blessed girl with a lot of wonderfully delightful experiences and possessions. I know that “the joy of the Lord is [my] strength” (Nehemiah 8:10) and that I should “Enter his gates with thanksgiving and his courts with praise; give thanks to him and praise his name.” (Psalm 100:4) But sometimes I fail, and I end up grumpy and un-rejoicing, un-thanking, un-joyful. Too often, truth be told.

In those moments of forgetting my blessings and wallowing in my frustrations, I am thankful for little acts of kindness and words of encouragement that help center my thoughts and remind me of happier things and pull me out of my self-inflicted funk. In little ways, the simplest of compliments can make the biggest difference in my emotional world.

Realizing how much I benefit from even the most superficial of compliments, I have started an experiment of trying to compliment everyone I interact with. The Starbucks barista needs someone to affirm the drink recommendation was spot on. The flight attendant needs to hear that her extra deliveries of water have not gone unnoticed. The cashier needs to hear that her speedy scanning is appreciated. The younger teen needs to know that her carefully chosen outfit really does look nice. The young mom needs to hear that her kids were exceptionally helpful, without being asked.

Spreading smiles through compliments is an easy, non-painful, no-cost way to spread a few smiles: the cheapest way to immediately improve someone’s day and an incredibly easy way to share love with a stranger. During my experiment, I have to think about others instead of just wallowing in whatever ordeal my own day has involved. As I spread smiles and share compliments, I’m forcing myself to be others-focused instead of me-focused.

And, ironically, as I spread smiles to others, I’m bringing smiles to myself. What a beautiful circle.


  1. Absolutely loved this. Thanks for sharing! I think we all have those days when we feel self-centered and don’t want to “people”. This was a pleasant reminder to use those days to smile and look outward instead of focusing on myself. 🙂

  2. This was very refreshing and encouraging to read. I’m not exempt from grumpy days as well. 🙂 Focusing on the Lord instead of myself often brings the same results: I’m more prone to share smiles with those around me instead of focusing on my problems.

    Thanks for sharing this! 🙂

  3. What a good reminder, Jennifer! Just think of all the people you have inspired through your article to start their own “compliment experiment.” I’ve done it on random occasions, but what a great idea to be intentional for an entire day with everyone you meet! (Can’t wait until my next trip to town!)

  4. Oh oh oh!!! Yes! Never underestimate the power of a kind word, comment or question. A real smile shined at a stranger having a bad day can work wonders, too. Thank you for this beautiful reminder!

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