"How are you?" is a question I've never been too fond of.
Yet, I'm guilty of asking it, and of asking it often. For some reason it seems to be part of a a typical greeting for most of us. "Hi Meredith, how are you?"
You know how I usually respond when the question is asked of me?
"Oh, hi Lisa, I'm fine, how are you?"
The reason I'm not particularly fond of the question is because I think it's rare that we answer that question authentically?? It's just too easy to say "fine, wonderful, great" and move on.
Saturday night we were at a birthday party for one of our dearest friends. There were lots of people there, some were stangers and others were good friends that I haven't seen in awhile. As we were driving home and I was reflecting on the evening, I was struck by the number of people who asked me, "Meredith, how ARE you?" For some, their question wasn't flippant or unintentional. They were my friends and they really, really wanted to know how I was.
I think it's because a few years ago, I took a risk and assumed that if someone asked, they really wanted an authentic answer. I remember one afternoon at church when B, a brand-new friend, asked me how I was doing, and the weight of all that was going on in my life came crashing down. I told her that I wasn't fine...that I was a wreck...and shared my story of ministry-related pain. It felt risky for me, but I sensed that B wasn't just asking in the formality realm. B has become such a good friend to me. She asks me when she sees me how I'm doing, and I feel the freedom to tell her, "I'm doing really well", or "B, it's been a hard week". Bottom line for me is that I trust her with my heart and with my feelings. I know I can answer authentically because B loves me and will pray for me, and she'll remind me of truth when I need her too. She won't try to "fix" me or offer solutions, she'll just listen, and understand, and pray. And I have the awesome privilege of doing the same for her
I also remember another time that I took a risk when that question was asked of me. "Hi, Meredith, how are you?" The person asking that question was the source of my ministry-related pain. Things were extremely tense between us, and she already knew that I was anything BUT fine. In an attempt to be as honest with her as I could in response to a question that didn't feel genuine, I said, "You know, W, I don't know how to answer that right now--do you really want the truth?" Yeah, um, that went over like a lead balloon, and led her to promptly uninvite my family for dinner and hang up the phone. What??!??
I don't tell you that story to be mean. That's not who I am. I tell it only for the contrast. There is such a difference when a true friend asks how you're doing. You just sense it don't you? They really care about you and they care about your answer. But sometimes we sense that the person asking really doesn't care. Asking is just a formality.
I had three dear friends ask about me on Saturday. Three friends who really care about me and where I am, where my heart is, and what God is doing in my life. It felt good, it felt safe, and it made me realize that too much of the time, I ask that question without really wanting to know the answer or being willing to take the time to listen to what might be said.
It made me realize that I want to be intentional with a question like that. I want to ask out of genuine interest or concern. And I'm even trying to come up with a different question and response for casual situations.