The other day some one asked how I was. My response was “I’m fine” with a smile to boot. As I walked away, I thought about my response. To be honest, I was not fine. I had stuff going on that I was stressed about. Some, that I would have loved to talk about with someone… and yet… here was the question and there was my reply – ‘I’m fine.’ It was automatic. I did not even have to think. It just came out. Why was that?
I thought back to growing up. That is where it started. When we were taught greetings and how to be respectful. When you met an adult or someone older, you said “good morning” or evening or afternoon depending on the time of the day. The adult’s response was usually “good morning my son/daughter/child” followed by “how are you?” and the only response to that, that we were taught was “I’m fine. Thank you.” The convo could end there or the person could go on to ask about your family, friends, school, holiday, and whatever else they saw fit to ask about and your answer remained “Fine, thank you.” Usually by now you were itching to run off, but your parents made you stay and ask the questions. Now you had to ask about the adult’s family especially their kids and they would respond with “we are all fine” As we grew the ritual became a part of us. You asked, “how are you?” without even caring to know and you expected to hear “fine” no thinking just a well-oiled ‘respect’ machine.
No, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the ritual. It was meant to show care for your neighbor, loved ones and even strangers. It is great and I would not end it. But somewhere along the line, we lost the spirit behind those questions. Worse still we learned to not really express ourselves concerning what we were going through. We ask ourselves, ‘if I say, “I am not ok”, would that be an acceptable answer?’ Would I be considered weak or a failure? Would I become the topic of the next gossip cycle? Does he really care? Can I trust her? Can this person help me?… and so on. Many times, by the time we decide to follow up the “I’m fine” with “actually…” the person has (usually) already moved on to something else… and we shelve the problem and just smile.
I realized that I had been guilty sometimes, of asking ‘How are you?’ and not really be interested to know. I decided to change that. Try to care more. Of course, I get hit with some christianese every now and then. With new responses cropping up. Responses like ‘We thank God’ or ‘God is faithful’ I have used these too. Sometimes when I was not sure I could truthfully say ‘fine’ or I did not want to speak negatives over my life.
The truth is sometimes we do need to talk to someone. Sometimes we need to just come out and say “No. I am not fine” “I’ve got issues that I’m dealing with” “I need someone to talk to so I do not go crazy” Can we be honest? Can we be the ones that others can be honest with? Can we be the ones who care. Can we be the ones who can pause and listen without judgement. Listen with empathy. Even if we cannot solve the problem, we have, in giving our time and hearts brought some relief to our brother / sister.
So next time you ask, “how are you?” mean it. Be ready to be the ear the person needs. Let us bring back the spirit behind the greetings. The love for our neighbor. Imagine what a great way it would go to help people’s mental health. The Bible says that God has given us a tongue of the learned, to know the words to speak in season to the weary. Pray that and be the channel through which God touches others even as you allow God to touch you through others. ~ AdaJesus 🌻