I suffer from a chronic illness. It’s called “Being Fine.” I have been fine a lot. Many days I tell people I am fine. In fact, a common response when asked how I am is, “Fine.”
What a crock.
Now don’t get me wrong: most of the time I am feeling pretty good. Most days I am able to cope with all that life throws at me. The majority of the time I am a well-adjusted man approaching middle age.
But when I say, “I’m fine”, chances are pretty good I’m lying through my teeth.
So why do I do it? Why do I tell people I’m fine? I blame two people: me and you.
I blame myself for obvious reasons. If I am struggling I should reach out for help. If I am hurting I should ask for relief. If I am in need I should ask people who have plenty.
But I don’t. I don’t want you to know that I am struggling, or hurting, or in need. I want you to think I am completely self-sufficient all the time. So I blame myself.
But I also blame you. Because when you ask me how I feel, you don’t want to know. You want to hear that I’m doing fine. Because if I tell you that I am fine you can tell me you are fine and we can both go on our separate ways. You see, if I dare tell you I’m hurting, you may just have to open up and talk about your hurts, too.
How much of our hurting could be lessened if we would all be honest? I’m not suggesting we all turn into a bunch of whiners and complainers, but when we are truly hurting perhaps we should admit it. Maybe if we stop thinking we need to put on a mask of invincibility we could avoid the pain that comes from isolating ourselves. And telling people we are fine is indeed a form of isolation.
So how do we overcome this vicious illness?
Be honest with your question. Only ask someone how they are doing when you are ready and willing to hear the answer. Don’t let people give you some brush off answer and get away with it. Look them in the eye and say, “How are you?”
Be honest with your answer. You don’t have to go into great detail. You don’t have to give your entire life story. But you can simply say, “I’m hurting right now,” or, “I just need a little encouragement.”
It amazes and saddens me to know that when I assemble with 2000+ people at church on Sunday morning, almost all of them will say they are fine. And maybe for the majority of them, that is probably true.
When I walk across the campus I attend with over 4000 students, everyone says they are fine. And most days, they probably are.
But how many people are hurting and putting on a mask for everyone to see? Am I paying attention? Am I missing the signs, the words, the clues that something else is going on? Am I too busy to concern myself with someone else’s life? Are my eyes set on where I am going instead of the person right in front of me? Am I one of the ones pretending to be fine when in truth I need someone to hear me, encourage me, cry with me, pray with me?
I suffer from being fine. I would venture to guess that you do, too. How about we make a promise to ourselves, to each other, and to God to start being honest with each other—it’s the only cure I know.