Inappropriate Affect: When a Smile Is Out of Place
“A time to be born and a time to die,
a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance” (Ecclesiastes 3:2-4, NIV).
Part of growing up is learning how to respond appropriately to situations. Failure to do so might be described as displaying inappropriate affect. Recent events have confirmed that Justin Bieber still has some growing up to do.
You smile, I smile.
That is the promise that the Canadian-born pop singer delivers to legions of “Beliebers” in his bubblegum ballad “U Smile.”
The Wrong Time to Smile
Never missing an opportunity to practice the perfect Bieber beam, and with every bang standing at attention, he even made “like” to the camera that snapped his mugshot. Could the now-infamous grin have been triggered by a fawning fan-girl excited to get his digits (not those kind–the kind she was about to roll in ink).
You smile, I smile…
But was this a time for smiling? Was giving the fans what they wanted — ostensibly 24 hours of Bieber bliss — the most important consideration at the booking station? In an article titled “The Narcissist’s Inappropriate Affect” Sam Vaknin writes:
“The narcissist fakes feelings and their outer expression in order to impress others, to gain their sympathy or to motivate them to act in a manner benefiting the narcissist and promoting his interests.”1
Bieber wasn’t smiling in an interview (caution: slight language) when comedian Zacharias Galifianakis asked him the questions that everyone thinks, but never asks. Although, the authorities may have smiled after they arrested Justin for allegedly driving drunk and resisting arrest. Every parent sees a little bit of their boy in the Biebes, and his recent misadventures have sent dads across North America reaching for their belts (reference the Galifianakis video).
You smile, I smile…
He might not just have trouble with the law, he might have to wait more than forever and a day to return to America. His counsel would do best to advise him that “I’m always going to do what they say” is not the appropriate response to peer pressure from destructive influences. After all, in prison he can’t come running from 1,000 miles away when people need him. We can only hope that the thought of singing “your world is my world” to prison inmates will help him turn a new leaf – one without seven leaflets.
Does he know that prison will take more than his heart, and everything is conditional? It would be best for J-Bieb to embrace the virtuous nature of community service, because there ain’t no way he’s ever going to get any less than he should.
There’s a time for managing your brand, and there’s a time for responding with honest emotions.
Another Smile Misplaced
I’m reminded of another group of people trying desperately to manage their brand: the New Atheists.
Atheists can, and do, smile as they dance to their DNA. They simply lack a good reason for cheer given the implications of their worldview:
- No basis for morality
- No ultimate meaning
- No ultimate justice
One way to make up for a weak product is to give it a great name. Dissatisfied with the “New Atheist” moniker assigned by their detractors (what’s not to like about a worldview which led to the bloodiest century in history?), they have tried to assign themselves the nickname of “brights.”
Every fighter pilot knows you can’t assign your own callsign (although some do try). Same thing with handles in the NFL. You just don’t do it. In fact, it’s the one surefire way to ensure your nickname will be rejected.
The “brights” might be smiling about their self-assigned pseudonym, but their smile—like Beiber’s—is out of place.
Even though I’m not a “Belieber,” there’s one line I would like to sing to Justin:
“You smile, I groan…”
- Smiley Face Courage: How Emoticons Wash Away Our Guilt
- Stop and Play: Appease Your Toddler and Stay Sane
- Alcohol Abuse: Changing Attitudes to Change the World
1 Sam Vaknin, “The Narcissist’s Inappropriate Affect: Frequently Asked Question # 41,” accesed 24 January, 2014, http://samvak.tripod.com/faq41.html.
Photo credit: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Justin_Bieber_mugshot,_front.jpg
About Jason B. Ladd
Jason is an author, speaker, Marine, and father of seven. He has flown the F/A-18 Hornet as a Marine Aviation Weapons and Tactics Squadron 1 (MAWTS-1) Instructor Pilot and the F-16 as an Instructor Pilot. His award-winning book One of the Few: A Marine Fighter Pilot’s Reconnaissance of the Christian Worldview has been optioned for film adaptation. He is represented by Julie Gwinn of The Seymour Agency.