So often people come up to us and ask, “How are you?” and we answer, “I’m fine, thank you.” Yet we’re not fine. We’re sick. Struggling. Worried about all kinds of things. Stressed. Depressed. Trying to do our best, yet feeling as if we’re failing. And on and on.
When people ask us that ubiquitous question; “How’s it going?” or some derivative of it, how should we answer. I know I get worried they’ll get overloaded if I answer honestly. If I say, “Not great. I’ve been sick since Christmas.” Or worse, “I’ve been depressed for the past three weeks, or months, etc.”
Yikes. Depressed. What are they going to say? “Uh, sorry to hear that.” and then they drift on by to the next person. Or, maybe they’re courageous and answer, “I’m so sorry, can you tell me more?” and you start to list all the reasons why. You’ve been ill for weeks/months/years and you just can’t take it anymore. Or you have bills piling up and you don’t know what you’re going to do, you can’t pay them. Or your husband, child, mother is sick and you’re scared and worn out. Scared of the future. For all of the above reasons, or for other reasons. For reasons that seem reasonable or reasons that seem foolish.
I know I have a hard time with the question; “How are you?” I have a chronic disease–Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, so at any given moment i might be in a lot of pain, or have spent several nights awake with severe pain, and/or I might be terribly fatigued, the kind of fatigue you get when you have the flu. If I say those things I sometime see people’s eyes glaze over, and I feel like they’re thinking “Too much information.”
Or I feel they will think I am not “answering in faith,” or “thinking positively.” I do know that in Jesus I am healed, etc, but I may still not be fine at that moment. I may be experiencing such severe vertigo I walk like a drunk, or have bruising falls.
I really don’t want to be needy. A “black hole” that might suck the energy out of others.
Or we’re afraid we’ll be compared to someone else whose problems are so much harsher than our own, eg, my fibromyalgia compared to someone else’s cancer or loss of a loved one. My “problems” are hardly worth mentioning in light of those other huge crises. Yet, despite someone else’s monumental problems I still feel terrible. One can drown in four inches of water as in an ocean storm.
I think we’re sometimes also afraid of being too vulnerable. Of maybe starting to cry [and if you can’t cry in church amongst friends who will pray for you, where can you cry?]
So how do we answer truthfully, honestly, yet without being a heavy weight in the moment?
I recently watched a documentary on rock climbing and when you rock climb you often have to rely on a partner, a friend, especially if it’s a difficult part of the climb, or a technique that’s not familiar to you. Rock climbing is actually a good metaphor for our Christian journey. We have to be connected to a partner, and they are connected to us. and it’s not a question of if I might fall, but of when all rock climbers fall at some point or another. And not only are you connected to your friend, you are both anchored in the rock. Our rock is Jesus
Image from Google Images
I guess it comes down to being willing to be honest and transparent, but also to give short answers and allow the other person to ask for more info as to why you’re not totally fine right now. 2 Corinthians 12:7
I’ve had to learn this, especially as many people forget I have fibromyalgia and when I mention that’s the reason I don’t feel well they seem to have no memory of what I’ve said in the past. Which makes me wonder how many times I’ve forgotten something someone else has told me about their struggles.
Mercy, grace, patience. We have to always have these qualities with others and ourselves.
God bless your journey in Christ, whether it’s a difficult climb, a free-fall, or a smooth walk [for now].
I welcome all your comments