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The Faces of Heaven and Hell

By       Message Richard Mathis     Permalink
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Which face is yours? That 's a question as a psychologist I 've asked many children. I show them a poster of cartoon faces with many different emotional expressions. Children are experts at recognizing faces. Young children tend to have better memories for faces than do adults. The verbally based part of the brain has yet to come to dominate their cortical activity and the non-verbal parts of the brain are not overridden.

As a whole, we are all wired to be able to recognize different emotions on the human face. A Mongolian child can recognize anger on an Italian face. An aborigine child can spot love on a Zulu face and vice versa. Even with adults, new research shows that women read faces to pick their mates. Without even knowing that they are doing it, women non-verbally read men's faces to help determine who would likely make the best father. While reading faces can be made into an exacting science, reading faces is so simple that even a child can do it.

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Moreover, very young children are remarkably honest. They quickly find and directly point to the face with which they identify. Nearly all young children pick the happy face. That is the natural state of affairs. Young children are happy. Even congenitally blind children smile, even though they have never seen a smile. Sad and mad children worry me.

As they get older, children learn to lie. They 've come to feel that it is bad to pick the mad or sad faces. So they pick the happy face and try to convince me that 's their true feelings, even if it is not.

Even so, one thing that both young and older children have in common is that they always tell the truth when asked to pick the faces of their mommies and daddies. The same is true when asked to pick the faces of their teachers and preachers. While many would like to think that behaviorally troubled children don 't make it to church, my experience working in the rural south is that the majority of the children have attended church.

I don 't recall a young child who picked a mad or sad face that didn 't pick similar faces for his father and mother. For troubled children, mommies often have a lot of scared, sad and frustrated faces. Daddies tend to have a lot of mad and rage faces. The rage face looks remarkably like a devil face. Maybe the idea for a devil face came from seeing someone 's enraged red face. Sadly, too many kids have also picked angry faces for preachers and teachers. At least it 's been true of many responses from unhappy and behaviorally disturbed kids that I 've seen.

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The parents don 't know what I 've asked their children, who are invariably right about their parents ' basic emotional states. For example, the father might try to come across calm and composed but the strain shows. Underneath, it is easy to sense the rage and strong need to control. The mom tries to smile but the fear and desperation shows in her eyes. But no matter how much they try to hide away their negativity like a light under a basket, it blares out.

As Jesus said at Matthew 11:25-27 "O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, thank you for hiding the truth from those who think themselves so wise, and for revealing it to little children. Yes, Father, for it pleased you to do it this way. "

Little kids see. They have yet to lose faith. No one has hurt them enough yet. No one has caused them into exodus from their childhood Eden. Their hearts are not hardened from being broken too many times. Nor have their ears closed to people yelling at them or their eyes stopped seeing people with faces like devils scolding them. They have yet to start living as if in a slumber waiting for the dream to end. They have yet to become deluded that what they think and believe are the absolutely most important things in all creation.

That innocent and pure way of seeing and trusting is what I think Jesus was talking about when he said at Mark 10:14-15 "Let the children come to me, do not hinder them; for to such belongs the kingdom of God. Truly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it. "

We are rather like swinging doors in that wherever we stand, we can open the portal to the love and peace of heaven, or we can swing the other way to set loose the hounds of hate from hell. And whatever doors we are opening is as clear as the looks on our faces.


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B. 1952, GA, USA. D. To Be Determined. Beloved husband, father, grandfather, lover, confidant and friend of many from bikers to Zen masters; American writer and speaker, known for his criticism of Mammon's unholy trinity of big business, big (more...)
 

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