One Mean Chick? Or Just an Unfortunate Alignment of Facial Features?

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Does the person who creates an air of discomfort with the RBF have a level of moral culpability?

stylish woman in hat standing on rocky hill
Photo by Dmitriy Ganin on

The RBF: resting bitch face.

An innocent and harmless expression?

Or a culpable and harmful one?

I started wondering about that after reading Jacques Philippe’s observation in Real Mercy that a look can give life or give death. There’s a way of looking at people, says Philippe, that gives goodness, mercy, encouragement, and hope. And there’s a way of looking at people that accuses, closes, judges, and rejects.

If there’s a way of looking at people that is so full of moral implications, is there a way of looking in general that does the same thing?

I used to think, “What I do is between me and my God. I mean no offense to anyone else, so my moods, tempers, and outbursts are my affair.”

Then I read Francis Fernandez’s observation that “gloominess does great harm . . . to those around us.”

Mere gloominess does that?

“Frick,” I remember thinking. “I wonder what throwing the stapler against the wall and referring to a form of prison bonding does to those around us.”

It was an “a-ha” moment, but an embarrassing one. I had become fully conscious of something at age 40 that most people intuit by age 17 and understand by age 22.

So what about the RBF? Is she innocent or guilty of a moral wrong?

And what about the RBFer with the real heavy, hurried, pounding walk? Clomping forward like they want to kill everyone? Rushing, Robin Daniels noted, is a form of aggression. Everyone around you can hear, feel, and see it. It exudes, “F you. Get out of my way.”

So yes, the foot-pounding RBFer is definitely morally culpable, like the gloomy guy.

But the woman who just sits there, gazing into space . . . with the look of Ayn Rand without the winsome charm?

I’m inclined to say “no, she’s not morally culpable.”

Current science indicates that the RBF results from the physiology of a person’s face, which the person can’t control anymore than she can control, say, the size of her hand. The stomping walker can simply slow down or take lighter steps. The RBFer would need plastic surgery.


They say ministers can walk around the worse urban neighborhoods without getting harmed, as long as they’re wearing their collars (this was before the Muslim invasions and the rise of the Antichrista). I’ve found that a similar thing works: a smile. A bad or potentially-bad situation is disarmed by a smile. I’ve often referred to it as the “layman’s clerical collar.”

It seems the RBFer could try it.

There’s little doubt that the RBFer makes other people uncomfortable. Famous RBFer Anna Kendrick says people have been begging her for years to smile more. It’s pretty obvious that the RBF causes discomfort in others and the fix is easy: smile. Heck, you can probably just smirk or grimace a little. At a very small price, you’d improve everything around you.

I feel bad that the RBFer is saddled with such a burden, but it’s just the way it is. None of us are perfect. We all need to do what we can to change nature’s imperfections that make us a nuisance or painful to others.

The guy with bad body odor needs to shower more and wear cologne.

The loud talker needs to tone it down.

The guy with the bad temper simply needs to stop it.

The close-talker needs to . . . well, get the hell away from me. Those bastards simply don’t get it.

We all have an obligation to make the room better when we enter it. If we don’t, we’re morally at fault, at least a little, especially if we could meet that moral obligation with very little effort.


A lot of Jacques Philippe. I bit the bullet and bought the entire Scepter Publishing collection.

For years, I’ve eschewed contemporary spiritual writers. Mostly because I’m just arrogant. I figured that only the great ones can teach me anything, and you don’t know who’s great until they’ve been dead for at least 25 years.

I also avoided contemporary spiritual writers because when I think “contemporary spiritual writing” I think Chicken Noodle Soup for the Soul and I’m an efficiency-holic. I want to go straight to the good stuff. If you screw around with authors who may not be that good, you’re wasting effort. Go straight to the proven great.

But Thomas Merton first made me see that my approach might be wrong. And then I read Dorothy Day and Catherine Doherty.

I started to see that modern spiritual writers speak to the modern man in a way the classical writers can’t.

Great literature of any genre always remains relevant: it speaks to the human condition, which doesn’t change.

But contemporary literature speaks to the current circumstances, which are always changing.

So you need both: the classic as well as the contemporary. Together, they give you the full perspective you need to survive . . . and keep your soul from getting squished.

And if you can find a contemporary writer who is destined to become a classical author in the spiritual tradition?

Well, in that case, you’ve hit the jackpot.

That writer might be Jacques Philippe. He has resonated with millions. When I was in the Catholic arms of Denver, I saw his books all over the place.

I’ve dipped heavily into three of his books so far. I’m not convinced he’ll be deemed a classic spiritual writer someday.

But he’s good. Very good.

Not Watching

The second season of Ted Lasso.

That charming freshman TV series from last year turned into complete crap its sophomore year. Simply awful.

Terrible new characters. The resurrection of two middle-aged women who call each other “Sassy” and “Stinky.” A masturbation scene. Plot developments that don’t make sense. Stupid storylines.

Simply awful.