In our culture, people ask questions without truly expecting, or caring about a real answer. One of my favorite examples of this is when people ask, "How are you doing?" Honestly, most people don't really want the true answer. They just want to hear, ‘Fine,’ and move on. I dislike this superficial aspect of our lives. Yet, I'm sure we are all guilty on some level. Because let's face it... we aren't usually 'fine.’ We live in a complicated world that is ripping us apart. ‘Fine' is often the least accurate of all the words that could describe how we are at any given point.
I get it. Many things with which we are struggling are not easily remedied in the checkout line at the grocery store. So, when asked, "How are you?" we only have time to grab our change and get to the car. Another problem is, some things are just too deep and private to share with the delivery guy. And even if you told the convenience store clerk your issue, she isn't prepared to help you. But all of those issues do not give us the right to lie through our teeth
When I feel that something is wrong, I ask, "How are you doing?" You might say, "I'm good." I then follow up with, "But really... how are you doing?" You may tilt your head, smile and say, "No. Really. I'm fine", after which I say... "Don't lie to me. How are you doing?" Trust me... If I don't want to know. I won't ask. If I ask, it means I really want to know. To know does not mean I can fix it. But it does mean I can pray about it, give some feedback, or just listen. I actually love it when people answer with, "Do you really want to know?" Yes. Yes I do.
At a restaurant once I asked our waitress how she was doing. She kind of stuttered and said, "Well, I just got here. So we will see." I got the feeling that something wasn't right. The meal progressed. She seemed distant, at times acting like we were an inconvenience to her day. She messed up my drink order. Others had to help fill in when she didn't bring certain things to the table. In the end, she even gave us the wrong bill. Overall, it was a poor experience for us. We left the building. But before we left the property, I sent my wife back in to let the manager know about the situation.
The reality is, the server didn't have to see how her day was going to progress. She had recently lost her baby while it was in the crib. Her therapist suggested she be around people to get through the loss. She was at work to cope. That wasn't going very well. The manager apologized for the situation, and I left my contact info to offer the server in case she wanted to talk.
There probably isn't a scenario in which our server would respond to a stranger's question about her well-being with an open answer about the loss of her baby. Maybe it is our fault for making "How are you doing?" the question of choice when we meet someone. Maybe we should ask, "Hi, what is your favorite color?" Then everyone could be honest. Or maybe, we should only ask when we truly want to know. And maybe we should be honest about our needs. Even if she had said, "I could really use some prayer right now about a personal situation", the spiritual ball would have been rolling. Satan would be put on notice, God would be invited into the mix, and human relationships would be legitimized on a whole other level. So much can happen when both parties mean what they say.
I’m not encouraging nosiness, or airing out dirty laundry to strangers. This is simply a call to be human today. To be who we were meant to be. Because you never know what someone else is going through, but you can bet it’s something.
Scripture is full of admonition to share life with other believers. Jesus was the Master of relationships because He designed relationships. Here is the instruction He left for us, “This is My command: Love one another as I have loved you.” (John 15:12)
Find more of David’s work at Heart Of Ministry.
My name is David, and I want to know God more, and help other people find Him.