How Are You…Really?

This week, when friends and acquaintances greeted me with the standard “How Are you?” I answered honestly. My answer wasn’t the standard “Good, good. You?” Our family has had more than our fair share of bad news of late, and it has begun to take its toll. Add a new baby and my spouse finishing his graduate program and a dual job search and I had a lot to say to the question that has become a rote greeting.

I felt self conscious though, about actually answering the question. “It’s a tough time,” I said, slipping in an “I’m sorry” and even an “I’m sorry for answering you honestly,” and when I did share some of what’s going on, a sheepish “That’s probably more than you wanted to know!” I am so grateful that more than one person thanked me for answering honestly, for being real, for being myself. They thanked me and they listened.

I wonder why I felt the need to apologize. Was I really so worried that people didn’t care how I actually am? Is it really that hard to cross the line between social convention and intimacy? It’s got me thinking about how we all have the opportunity to minister to people in our lives. It starts so simply, with asking “How are you?” And really wanting to know.

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  • Kathleen McGregor

    I appreciate your post. After what seems like a relentless four years of hardship, one thing after another, I still find it difficult to answer honestly. Often, I think the “How are you?” is a formality, with the enquirer not necessarily wanting an answer besides, “Good, you?” It is politeness. When I do say something, the person looks away, or looks to get away. I find it interesting that my partner’s Mennonite minister will look into my eyes and ask, “How are you, really?” He genuinely cares and wants to know.

    I, too, tend to apologize, or say something along the lines of it’s really hard, but assure them it’s is going to be okay. They will look relieved. I tend to wonder if it is being female, or learning early to put on my best face even when things are rough, smiling through the tears if you will. You are not alone in the apologizing.