I really appreciated this comment to the Take Your Kids to Mass post.
Scowling is not inherently uncharitable. Sometimes it is the only silent way to communicate such necessary but unspeakable messages as “Your kid has been screaming his head off for five minutes straight [much more than the ‘minute or so’ Dr. Popcak recommends] and you are not doing anything but patting him on the head and trying to giving him a binkie. Get the kid out of here right now so the rest of us can pray.” If a scowl clues in an oblivious parent that the crying has passed the point of “fussy” and moved into “intolerable,” I will not be sorry if it inspires that person to scoop up his or her kid and tend to the kid’s needs outside.
Can I tell you how much I would love things to be that simple? I LOVE the idea of scowlvangelism. I can think of so many amazing uses for this technique. Anytime I disapproved of something or someone, I could just scowl at them and…poof! They would immediately resolve the problem to my satisfaction. This would have to be the superpower to beat all superpowers.
Except, as many times as I have personally indulged my scowlvangelical tendencies, people stay remarkably unchanged. Now it is possible that I have not hit on exactly the right facial expression or twitch of the eye. Perhaps my brow is not furrowed severely enough or, alternatively, perhaps it is furrowed too severely to be taken seriously. It may well be that I have not yet mastered that correct balance of scornful disdain combined with charitable indifference and haughty self-aggrandizement that melts the heart of my erstwhile foes. I admit this is a difficult balance to strike.
But I don’t think so.
To be honest, I think that no matter how much I have mastered the exact pitch of my right eye-brown muscle, that creating change takes a lot more effort. That, of course, stinks, because I happily admit that I am lazy by nature and not particularly interested in complicating my life. Nevertheless, I cannot think of a single instance of successful scowlvangelism perpetrated by me or anyone else. The only way to create change in anyone I know is to 1) form a genuine relationship with them (as opposed to an agenda-laden relationship that makes them feel like a project. 2) work to show them that I really do care about them and their life. 3) Be willing to share my wisdom and experience if my example somehow inspires the person to ask.
I admit scowlvangelism is much easier and self-satisfying but I think we all need to face that as tempting as it is, it is hard to reconcile it with the gospel. If I really want to effect change, I have to be willing to follow my savior’s example and pursue a deeper a deeper relationship with the person who’s good I want to serve. And if I’m not willing to do that, then I should use the temptation to scowlvangelism as a cue to practice an even better spiritual exercise, and offer it up.