There’s a person in my life who has a hard time interpreting facial expressions. Simply making eye contact is scary for him because he is often unsure what feelings someone else is expressing. I try to remember to greet him with a big smile, because smiles are easier for him to understand. “To love is to be happy with,” says Barry Kaufman. That definition comes close to what the Writings say: “To love is to feel the joy of another as joy in oneself.” (Divine Love and Wisdom 47)
When I am uncomfortable or upset, my natural inclination is to complain about how other people are behaving. Too often my complaints are directed to people I care deeply about. I inadvertently give the message that I am not happy with them—that I don’t love them.
We can do this with the Lord as well. When the people of Israel were in the wilderness, they complain about how the Lord was treating them. Apparently, their complaints made the Lord angry (Numbers 11, 14). But we know from the Teachings for the New Church that the Lord is never angry with anyone, though people who are hateful experience the Lord’s compassion as anger.
“You can see how insane people are who think that God can condemn anyone, curse anyone, throw anyone into hell, predestine anyone's soul to eternal death, avenge wrongs, or rage against or punish anyone…. In reality, God cannot turn away from us or even look at us with a frown.” (True Christianity 56)
Can we be happy with other people and have a cheerful face even when we are in pain and things are going wrong? Swedenborg said, “When I had a chastising spirit with me, angelic spirits were then also present, keeping my face constantly cheerful and smiling…. Angels are easily able to do this by their influence, when the Lord permits.” (Earths in the Universe 73)
The Lord said, “When you fast, do not be like the hypocrites, with a sad countenance. For they disfigure their faces that they may appear to men to be fasting…. But you, when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, so that you do not appear to men to be fasting, but to your Father who is in the secret place.” (Matthew 6:16-18)
The Lord has compassion on all people. Love is not only feeling another’s joy, but also feeling their pain and grief. The Lord knows our sorrows (Exodus 3:7). He is acquainted with our grief and pain (Isaiah 53:4). And we can find some healing by openly sharing our sadness with others and listening deeply to their grief. But we can share our pain without adding criticism, contempt and complaint about other people.