The Pain Behind The Smile

May 13, 2013 by ashan1614  
Published in Women

It took me all of what, seven months to be able to compose myself enough to type up this short article without crying…. It was a moment of discovery and revelation for me.

I attended a women’s weekend retreat with a group of ladies from my church last October. The topic for the weekend was “Women Mentoring Women; Each One Teach One”. The purpose of the three days of discussion sessions and fellowship was to show us that we all have something to offer other women by way of mentoring, be it professionally, personally or spiritually. As one of the exercises on Friday evening, we were separated into small groups, each handed a mirror and asked, “What or who do you see?” and “Would I mentor this woman?” We were told to discuss it amongst the group members and then designate a spokesperson to relay our findings to the others.

I looked in the mirror for all of thirty seconds, and my eyes immediately welled up with tears. Then the stream began and there was no damming the flood. The women in my group looked at me, sympathetic, and then one of them finally spoke. “You’re on the edge of a breakthrough. You are going to speak for us.”

I used the remainder of the time to try to compose myself while the other women talk animatedly all around me. When the facilitator announced that time was up, I took several deep breaths while I waited for her to go around the room and finally arrive at my group.  She asked who was speaking for the group and all eyes (and pointing fingers) went to me.

“Okay,” she said. “When you looked in the mirror, what or who did you see?”

I took another deep breath before answering. “I saw my mother. Not only do I look more like her every day, but we are very much alike. We have both been through so much and we are both experts at hiding our pain. Whenever anyone sees either of us, the first thing they note is that we have beautiful smiles are always smiling. But no one, except those VERY close to us, knows anything about the pain behind the smile.”

“So, would you mentor that woman?”

“Yes, on a personal and spiritual level. I would have to.”


“Because I could look beyond the surface; look into her eyes and see that she’s been hurt and disappointed repeatedly, that her spirit and soul are wounded. I could see that she needs a friend to confide in and someone to show her how God can heal the damage that’s been done to her. So yes, I would definitely mentor her.”

For that, I received a huge round of applause and after that evening’s session, as we were preparing for dinner, I received so much love from my sisters in Christ. As I assumed, many approached me to say that no one would have ever known I was going through any sort of struggle.  I stand before the congregation each and every Sunday singing as though my heart is full of joy, trying to uplift others spirits while my own spirit is broken. Yes, I suppose at my mother’s feet, I learned my lesson well.

I guess the lesson here is not to judge by what we see on the surface. The woman who appears to have it all and have it all together may have problems we haven’t even dreamed about.

  • A negligent or abusive husband
  • Financial difficulties
  • Rebellious children
  • A slave driver of a boss or co-workers who try to undermine her
  • Back-stabbers she thought were friends
  • A terminal disease

We just don’t know. Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, so we need to get beyond the surface appearance of others. We have to learn to recognize the pain behind the smile.

©2013 – Andrea J. King-Shannon

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