Inappropriate Affect: When a Smile Is Out of Place

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The wisdom of King Solomon recorded over 2,000 years ago in the book of Ecclesiastes prevents inappropriate affect by reminding us that there is a time for everything:

“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…”

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Related Briefs

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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

Jason B. Ladd

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Christian, husband, father of five, and Marine fighter pilot. Seeking Peace, Waging War, Defending the Faith. What are you fighting for?
  • Holly Ross

    Ok, I think my blond hair from my childhood was showing. It took me quite a few moments to figure out how the first photo fit- then I cracked up.
    Great post.

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Wait for it. . .

  • arkenaten

    No basis for morality
    No ultimate meaning
    No ultimate justice

    The type of one dimensional diatribe I would find highly offensive it wasn’t such drivel.
    But maybe what I should find offensive is that you truly believe it, don’t you?

    The Ark shakes his head in disappointment at the incredible credulity of some people.

    If, however, you are able to identify and produce evidence for the basis of your morality, Jason, I will take that statement back

    • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

      Ark, Thousands of years in graveclothes have done nothing to stifle your spirit. I didn’t know mummies were so fiesty. But I do prefer passion over apathy, so I welcome your challenge give support for why morality (and the implied belief in the reality of evil) must have an explanation grounded in theism. (That is not to say morality cannot be displayed, which is a common confusion between moral epistemology and moral ontology.)

      Ravi Zacharias puts it well in his book Why Jesus?: Rediscovering His Truth in an Age of Mass Marketed Spirituality:

      “The problem of pain and the problem of evil are inextricably bound. However: When we assume evil, we assume good. When we assume good, we assume a moral law. When we assume a moral law, we assume a moral law-giver, but that’s whom the skeptic or atheist is generally trying to disprove. Why does assuming a moral law necessitate a moral lawgiver? Because every time the question of evil is raised, it is either by a person or about a person. And that implicitly assumes that the question is a worthy one. But it is a worthy question only if people have intrinsic worth, and the only reason people have intrinsic worth is that they are the creations of One who is of ultimate worth. That person is God. So the question self-destructs for the naturalist or the pantheist. The question of the morality of evil or pain is valid only for a theist.”

      • arkenaten

        When we assume a moral law, we assume a moral law-giver,

        This is a blanket statement that I and every other atheist will dismiss out of hand. I do not assume a moral lawgiver. Otherwise I would believe in a god/s

        Gods and Atheists would be the oddest of bedfellows, I think you would agree?
        There is a no evidence to suggest such an entity. But there is evidence to suggest morality is a genetic trait, born out of evolution.

        Ooops, there I go using the ”E” word. I hope you don’t get too upset over bad language?

        And I find it a poor argument when the theist immediately resorts to either quoting biblical text or saying, “Yeah but look at what so-and-so says….”, as if they have no mind of their own and are unable to justify a particular statement they have made or adhere to.
        If you cannot explain it yourself, then you probably don’t understand it. Simply say, I don’t know.

        Evil and sin are ( religious) words used to frighten young children and credulous adults who believe Jesus watches when they go to the bathroom or sneak a cookie.
        I never ever use the word sin and will only use the word ”evil” if I am sporting an ‘evil’ grin.

        • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

          Ark, I am interested in hearing your evidence for how evolution leads to morality. Although, you will have to give it to me based on things you have only observed yourself, since you seem to have an aversion to referring to any kind of external authority. Then you will have to explain why you should be considered any kind of authority on the topic, and how you achieved that qualification without leaning on anyone else’s study or pursuit of knowledge. I think you have your work cut out for you.

          • arkenaten

            Your worldview is based on the premise that your deity is responsible, and this is gleaned from a collection of ”books” which are largely based on bronze age mentality.

            I am not an authority on such scientific matters but will readily defer to those who are.

            There is nobody that can be an expert on a deity and claim it is truth. This is a preposterous claim, as everything such people claim knowledge of is based solely on hermeneutics and exegeses from the texts they deem holy; and these can easily be shown to be fallacious.

            Furthermore, if it is a tossup between considering the opinion of someone who’s religion readily embraces those that support such notions as herbivorous dinosaurs becoming carnivorous solely because of the capricious nature of a deity who wished to punish humans because of sin, then I think the choice would be a no-brainer, except to those that might have ”no brain” and have, sadly, been indoctrinated to the point that to avoid cognitive dissonance have been trained to compartmentalize such nonsense merely to enable them to function in society.

            Sadly, such nonsense is taught to defenseless children as ‘fact’ and ‘truth’ and the rot is perpetuated.

            How are such beliefs any different than believing in any of the hundreds of thousands of gods and religions that have flourished and gone extinct since man first appeared on the horizon?

            For what its worth, evidence of morality has been observed in other species of primates.

            If you are truly interested, there is enough credible information a mere ”click click” away.
            However, I will provide citations and links if you are serious about considering the alternative to superstition?

          • http://www.jasonbladd.com/ Jason B. Ladd

            It is a good thing to talk about facts. The “fact” is that it takes faith to believe in God, just as it takes faith to believe that the universe created itself out of nothing, non-intelligence can bring forth information, and evIl and free choice are illusory. I–along with Dr. Norman Geisler and Dr. Frank Turek who penned a book by the same name–Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist. Your faith is strong that there is no God. I wonder how it got that way?

          • arkenaten

            I was always ambivalent about the Christian god. I accepted Jesus was a real person and the bible was a history of ancient Semitic peoples. The more outlandish stories, Adam and Eve, the Flood etc I assumed were simply analogous, or myth.

            In fact, religion never entered my thoughts much at all, even though I was raised in the Christian faith.

            Only when I began doing research on Moses ( ironically for a fictional character I was developing) did I discover there was no evidence outside of the bible for this famous biblical character. None whatsoever. This is how naive and ignorant I was to assume there would be some sort of biography! Lol.
            Probably there are many people who believe the same as I once did? I wouldn’t be surprised.

            Later, I discovered the Pentateuch is a work of fiction, composed,(probably) during the Babylonian captivity.

            My research included reading the bible cover to cover, and further ( limited, but still more than most)study of the gospels etc. I discovered biblical archaeology, ( such as the complete lack of evidence for Nazareth during Jesus’ supposed ministry), evangelical Christianity and a whole host of stuff I had never encountered before. I discovered Finkelstein, Allbright, Kenyon, Herzog, Devers etc.And not so savory characters like William Lane Craig, who I must confess I detest with a passion, especially since I discovered he is an advocate of Divine Command Theory.
            Along the way I also met Young Earth Creationists, including such luminaries as Ken Ham, and frauds like Ron Wyatt, with their 6000 year old earth, global flood crap and dinosaurs running about with humans nonsense; well, a weirder bunch I had previously never encountered,

            Cut an already long story short, Jason, it is all pretty much make believe.
            Maybe you will discover this yourself one day? Many deconvertees I have conversed with made the oft times traumatic crossover from the nonsense of god belief to he enlightenment of non belief.
            I have never encountered a deconvertee who regretted ditching god belief and almost all express a huge sense of relief to be away from the inculcation and lies.
            Especially those who were brought up in a fundamental religious environment.
            I do sympathize, it is almost impossible to see the wood for the trees when one is caught up in any form of addiction – I was a smoker for 30 years – and you undoubtedly think I am nuts or lost or in desperate need of ‘saving”- or whatever the religious feel compelled to believe.

            Also, let me make this perfectly clear.
            I have never said, “There Is No (Creator)God.”

            No atheist will state this as it cannot (currently) be proved either way
            However, based on the evidence provided so far, and especiallythe evidence provided for the Abrahamic god Yahweh and the divine character of Jesus of Nazareth one can comfortably say, No there is definitely no god

            That is all made up. And any cursory investigation into church history and the compilation of the bible will very quickly dispel any nonsense notions that state otherwise.

            As for the other stuff – what came before the big bang etc – I am perfectly happy with admitting, I don’t know…..yet.
            But to posit a god, and worse, the god each individual religion believes in, into the gap, is utterly preposterous and dishonest. Worse, the religious teach this as a probable fact to children.
            Disgusting!