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Cheerfulness, True Faith And True Face

The suspicion that to be cheerless maybe meant to be unchristian was held by John Calvin, the great Protestant reformer. He suggested that stingy or reluctant participation in the charitable Christian community is the mark of Catholics, whom he saw as decadent and fearful of papal authority, whereas good Christians give cheerfully, with a glad visage. A bit later, the poet and preacher John Donne extended this idea, noting in a sermon that God gives his holy word to us, “not in a sour, and sullen, and angry, and unacceptable way, but cheerfully”.


80 reads


The Relationship Of “Cheer” And Face

The Relationship Of “Cheer” And Face

This trajectory of cheerfulness through the self is linked to the history of the word “cheer” itself. “Cheer” comes from an Old French word that means, simply, “face”. The term comes into English and spreads through medieval culture in the 14th century. In Geoffrey Chaucer’s ...


133 reads

God Loves The Cheerful Giver (ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεός)

God Loves The Cheerful Giver (ἱλαρὸν γὰρ δότην ἀγαπᾷ ὁ Θεός)

In the Geneva Bible (1560), from Saint Paul’s “Second Letter to the Corinthians” we learn that to participate in the Christian community you must practise caritas , or love. “As every man wisheth in his heart,” says Paul, “so let him give; not grudgingly, or of necessity, for God loveth a...


108 reads

Cheerfulness Informs A Well-Lived Life

If cheerfulness is healthy and social, even morally upright, we can understand why the philosopher and poet Ralph Waldo Emerson understands it as a kind of power. Cheerfulness can condition our mood, but it also inflects our social being. It is essential to a healthy soc...


74 reads

Cheerfulness: A Bright Face And A Cheery Word

About the same time as Marden, the Boy Scouts of America published its first handbook, combining advice about such practical skills as how to build a fire in the woods, with moral encouragement toward a better life. The development of the self is governed by a “Scout Law”, consisting of 12 virtue...


56 reads


Actions seem to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to che...



73 reads


Actions seem to follow feeling, but really actions and feeling go together; and by regulating the action, which is under the more direct control of the will, we can indirectly regulate the feeling, which is not. Thus the sovereign voluntary path to che...



75 reads

Cheerfulness: Vision And Creativity

Emerson’s celebration of the cheerful sensibility brings the social vision of the moralist together with the creativity of the poet. He suggests not only that cheerfulness links people together in communities, but that he who controls cheerfulness can remake the world. Cheerfulness is...


70 reads

The Relationship Of Cheerfulness And Melancholy

It is no accident that the English philosopher Robert Burton mentions cheerfulness in a book about melancholy. In much writing about emotion, cheerfulness is presented as the antidote to the dark emotions of the melancholic. Medical thinkers up into the 19th century assumed that ...


189 reads

Do You Have A Cheerful Self If You Have A Cheerless Face?

Commentators on the Bible struggled to grasp the meaning of Saint Paul’s famous phrase. Erasmus of Rotterdam, the greatest intellectual of the day, linked the cheerful body to community, saying: ‘let thy thankful gift be increased and doubled with a merry look and cheerfulnes...


95 reads

Cheerfulness (Re)Locates Us Socially And (Re)Links Us Communally

Modern readers might be struck in these early accounts by the extent to which cheerfulness is much more than the superficial performance of the upbeat colleague or the annoying salesman. A social quality, it shapes and defines a particular moral community. It emerges between peop...


88 reads

Cheerfulness Sets Alight

Anyone who has ever passed an evening with “serious melancholy people”, Hume points out, can surely acknowledge that, when a good-humoured or gay person enters the room, “cheerfulness carries great merit with it, and naturally conciliates the good will of mankind … others...


76 reads

Cheerfulness: Happiness And Money

The turn of the 20th century saw a proliferation of what the philosopher William James called “mind-cure” movements – that is, approaches to living that assumed the influence of mental states on everyday productivity and social interaction. These movements swept cheerful...


64 reads

Power Dwells With Cheerfulness

Power Dwells With Cheerfulness

“Power dwells with cheerfulness,” wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. Though we often think of cheerfulness as the opposite of power, as an insincere urge to liven things up, Emerson knew it to be a resource of the self, a tool for shaping our emotional ...


504 reads

Cheerfulness Is A Modest Power, But A Power All The Same.

With cheerfulness, we see a rise in emotional energy, a sudden uptick in mood. It is fleeting or ephemeral, in that it comes and goes. But we can control it. We can “cheer up”, just as we can “calm down”. As the English philosopher Robert Burton put it in Th...


323 reads

From Face To Expression, To Mood, To Emotional Quality

In the 16th century, the Protestant Reformation sparked intense debate over the meaning of spiritual community. At the same moment, when the Bible begins to be widely translated into vernacular languages, the simple noun “cheer” expands to encompass the adjective “cheerful”and, eventually...


125 reads

Cheerfulness Envelops

During the European Enlightenment, as the great religious debates of the early modern period begin to wane in Europe, the theological dimension of cheerfulness falls away. Yet its essential social dimension remains, as the characteristic of enlightened gatherings.


85 reads

“Without Cheerfulness No Man Can Be A Poet”

In his essay “Shakespeare, or the Poet”, Emerson asserts that poetic genius requires two things. First, the ability of the poet to see natural phenomena as moral phenomena – that is, to turn things in the world into metaphors of our inner lives. The poet turns things into signs that convey “a cer...


66 reads

The Relationship Of Cheerfulness And The Body

Medical thought and practice aside, it is clear that cheerfulness is deeply linked to the body, and, in particular, the face. Indeed, it begins in the face and moves inward. As the French writer Germaine de Staël pointed out at the beginning of the 19th century,...


155 reads

Cheerfulness Is Largely Elective: We Choose It; We Can Manage It

Perhaps it is because of the modesty of cheerfulness that philosophers have largely overlooked it. They tend to focus on more dramatic emotions such as anger and melancholy, viewing human emotional life as a battleground of unconscious drives or overwhelming passions. The classic...


256 reads




“An idea is something that won’t work unless you do.” - Thomas A. Edison

A cheery mood, we might think, is a terribly self-absorbed response to serious times. But history tells us otherwise.


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