58 Selected Writings 2: A Smile Is Like Lubricating Oil for Family Relationships

The following is a translation of “Egao wa katei no junkatsu-yu” by Kanehiko Kontani from Ohanashi goju hassen published in 2004 in Japanese by the Tenrikyo Young Men’s Association. Translation originally posted at Tenrikyo Forum on March 12, 2007.

A Smile Is Like Lubricating Oil for Family Relationships

by Kanehiko Kontani

Humans are blessed with the wonderful ability to smile. I believe that smiling enables our days to become filled with cheer; more cheer than we can ever imagine. Other animals do not have the ability to smile and laugh. I have never seen or heard of cows or horses smiling and laughing. Even chimpanzees, animals which are closest related to humans, are unable to smile and laugh. Animals can only vividly express their anger.

Sometimes we find people who seem to have forgotten how to smile and laugh. There are even a few unfortunate people who only know anger and never show a smile on their faces.

On the journey of life not every day is full of wonderful things. There are stormy days and rainy days. There are times when heated arguments are exchanged between a parent and child. Even married couples that usually get along well can spend a whole day fighting by giving each other the silent treatment. In times such as these, a smile or a laugh from either side has the potential to turn the situation for the better.

On a day when I silently go about my business with a disagreeable look on my face, my children stay away from me. They can tell that I am in a dangerous mood. When I am smiling, my children come near me and freely ask for handouts. I can only imagine how bleak life would be if smiles and laughter disappear from our home.

Humans need smiles and laughter like how a machine needs lubricating oil. Without lubricating oil, a machine would be unable to work smoothly. This is especially so for a machine than runs quickly like an airplane engine that spins more than two thousand times a minute. A smile is lubricating oil for family relationships. It is impossible to build a happy home without it. It also would be extremely difficult to achieve the Joyous Life, which God the Parent waits for in anticipation without the benefit of smiles and laughter.

On the author

Kanehiko Kontani 紺谷金彦 (1903–1972): Served as second head minister of Shikito Daikyokai (1925-1962), fourth bishop of Tenrikyo Mission Headquarters in Taiwan (1937–1939), and first head minister of Chikuzen Hakata Bunkyokai (1943–1945). Promoted to executive official of Church Headquarters in 1950.


But what about hyenas? Hmmm…… See this article that partially refutes Rev. Kontani’s claim other animals do not laugh.

*Note: This post has been revised since its original publication.