As in, “How are you doing?” “I’m fine, thank you.”
End of conversation. End of communication. Except, “fine” hardly qualifies as an authentic meeting of minds and hearts.
“Fine” can be a one-word stand-in for a remarkable number of messages:
* I don’t really have time to do more than say hello to you right now.
* I don’t actually think you’re interested in the details of my life, so * I’ll play along and not reveal anything.
* I don’t believe my life is interesting or important enough to give you more than a superficial response.
* I don’t want to risk our relationship by telling you how I really feel.
Amazingly, the one thing that “fine” almost never means is “fine.”
Fine is a conversational cover-up, a socially acceptable lie, concerning things I have no intention of revealing in the context of a brief greeting.
How am I? I’m just FINE, thank you: Freaked Out, Insecure, Neurotic, and Emotional.
That’s what I might say if I were telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.
Most of us, at any given moment, are dealing with a number of less-than-fine realities in our lives. But that doesn’t mean they need to become public property.
It’s not necessary – in fact, it would hardly be possible – to pause every time someone asks pleasantly, “And how are you this morning?” to bravely reveal all our darkest thoughts. If your goal is always to ride the elevator alone, however, this might be a useful first step to take.
What’s a healthy way forward?
Start small. Open your heart to someone you already know. Instead of saying, “fine,” risk saying something like, “You know, the last few days have been pretty rough, and I’ve been struggling.”
That may or may not prompt a deeper conversation.
But at the very least you’ll have revealed yourself to be a perfectly normal imperfect human being. And that’s always a good thing.
Or try changing the question. Instead of defaulting to “How’s it going?” when greeting someone, pause and ask something like, “Anything new or different happening in your world today?”
Not only is it impossible to answer such a question by saying “fine,” you’ve at least provided an opportunity for someone to reassess the meaning of their next few hours.
Some of my friends, when asked “How are you today?” invariably provide a different one-word answer: “Blessed.”
To be blessed is a wonderful thing. It means to be loved, called, chosen, forgiven, and redeemed by God.
Best of all, even on those days when we are freaked out, insecure, neurotic, and emotional we can say, with complete honesty, that we know we are still blessed – because God will never change his mind about us.
And you have to admit that’s mighty fine.
— Authored by Glenn McDonald
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