I am learning to be honest (primarily with myself) about my emotions. I’ve actually been in denial most of my adult life that I even have emotions! Somewhere in my southern, Steel Magnolias upbringing I bought into the lie that we (Bible-believing, genteel, southern women) aren’t really supposed to express our true feelings. If we did it might hurt someone’s feelings or worse make someone look bad. This may actually be a chemically induced problem by all the lipstick and Aqua Net I grew up with, but that’s a whole other issue. The result is that when I am asked how I am doing most of the time my answer is, “Fine.”
F-I-N-E…a potentially deceitful four letter word. On the surface those four letters seem quite innocuous. When used appropriately they convey the correct message. According to “Webster’s 1828 Dictionary” (available free online and in my opinion the gold standard of dictionaries), fine (adjective) is defined as follows:
1. Small; thin; slender; minute; of very small diameter; as a fine thread; fine silk; a fine hair. We say also, fine sand, fine particles.
2. Subtle; thin; tenuous; as, fine spirits evaporate; a finer medium opposed to a grosser.
3. Thin; keep; smoothly sharp; as the fine edge of a razor.
4. Made of fine threads; not coarse; as fine linen or cambric.
5. Clear; pure; free from feculence or foreign matter; as fine gold or silver; wine is not good till fine.
When I limit the state of my well-being to simply “fine” then I take away the full dimension of who I am. I reduce my life to small, thin, slender and minute. I give it the appearance of being clear and pure and free from foreign matter and refined.
To be honest about how I am would be to admit that there is a LOT of “foreign matter” (I think that is a polite way of saying dirt) in my life and I am not refined. It would mean that I am not perfect and in dire need of help! In fact, I am often common or worse, vulgar and rough around the edges, even though I try cover it up with lipstick and hair color.
What’s wrong with admitting we have dirt? What’s wrong with being common, rough around the edges? Absolutely nothing! Those are the things that make us human. They give dimension to our lives. They make our lives less, “small”, less “thin”, less “tenuous.” They also demonstrate our need for Christ.
When I pretend I have it all together I am telling the world and God that I can take care of myself and I don’t really need a Savior.
To admit that I have dirt in my life, that I am not always (in fact most of the time) fine invites people to see who I really am. It opens the door to relationship. Who wants to be friends with someone who always has it together, or at least appears to (because we all know they are faking, right)? Grace says it is ok to be honest. Grace says I am loved and accepted even when I am not fine. Grace invites me to freedom from the confining prison of fine.
And the next time I ask how you are, I am expecting more than fine. Wear all the lipstick you want, but answer me truthfully.
How do you respond when people ask how you are? Is there anything that keeps you from being honest? What do you expect to hear from others when you ask how they are? How do you invite others to be real with you?