“I don’t know. What do you want for dinner?”
Admit it, you’ve said all those things when being asked how you are, what’s wrong, and as simple as stating a meal choice.
Consider when a child is asked, “How are you?” what’s the usual response?
I paid close attention the other day when asking this very question to a 5-year old. She said (as best as I can quote), “Well you know my cat, and she was stung by a bee in her paw, I help put it in the water that makes it fizzy, it helps her paw get better, I don’t like the bees but Mom says they are good for food because I like peanut butter and honey on a tortilla all rolled up.”
That was all in one breath!
I smiled at such a great response, but realized she never answered how she felt. I exclaimed that her day sounded amazing and asked again, “So how are you?” She looked at me, head tilted to the side as if she was really considering the question and then blurted, “I. AM. HAPPY! I go to school, but sometimes my tummy hurts.”
And that was that.
Fair enough. She’s happy but sometimes doesn’t feel good. I totally get that. And it was an honest answer. It’s certainly more honest than our typical “fine.”
FINE IS NOT THE PROBLEM
I won’t get into the depths of why we respond “fine”, and when, and with who, that answer is perfectly appropriate and valid. Rather let’s just gloss over the fact that sometimes this IS the best answer. It’s an answer with good boundaries. It’s an answer for people who don’t need to know that your “tummy hurts.” Nothing is more awkward than a mere acquaintance telling you about their intestinal fortitude when all you wanted to do was be courteously engaging.
So when is “fine” is not fine? When you have a real relationship with someone and things are NOT fine. And hear this: “fine” is not the problem—the problem is you forgot how to honor yourself.
You dismissed “you” in a relationship that matters.
THREE THINGS THAT HONOR YOU
If you’re in a relationship where time is invested and matters of the heart…matter, then “fine” is rarely the right answer. Answering truthfully isn’t always easy because it requires honesty when honesty is difficult.
Honesty requires vulnerability
Vulnerability requires courage.
Courage requires honoring yourself.
And those three things are lacking. EVERYWHERE! We start thinking its normal and appropriate etiquette to not speak up for ourselves. Sometimes in our relationships that matter, a bad thing starts and never stops. That bad thing is this: somewhere along the way, and overtime, you stopped being honest about the way you felt. Your truth of what you want, need, feel became unimportant.
Because to speak those things required honoring yourself, which required:
Your TRUTH is important. Honoring yourself is honoring TRUTH.
THE FUNGUS AMONG US
This next bit will look much like the last “Bits of Truth” posted. But it’s worth repeating.
I recently read something that made me fall off my chair (aka: it was a soul-stirring spiritual spanking). It was a perfect analogy of this epidemic of shutting down in our relationships. And because I was personally dealing with this very issue, I considered it a God-send. Here’s what I read:
“Lying to yourself and other people about what you need, want, like, or do not like, is akin to having a bacterial fungus. It spreads quickly into all areas of your life and pollutes your very being.
“When you are polluted by the fungus of dishonor, it is difficult to speak up for yourself. The fungus seals your lips when people speak to you in inappropriate ways. The fungus clouds your brain when people behave toward you in an inappropriate manner. This lip-sealing, brain-clouding fungus always makes you doubt yourself. It makes you question what you are feeling when you are feeling it. It prohibits you finding the most appropriate way to respond when your sensibilities are offended…
“But like all bacteria, a fungus that is not treated will turn into an infection. The infection that grows when you do not honor yourself becomes anger or rage. Anger or range becomes what pours forth from you when…people say or do things that have gone unchecked by you for long periods of time.
“The fungus of not honoring what you feel, when you feel it, or saying what you need to say, when you need to say it will pour forth as anger and pollute your relationships. Family relationships. Professional relationships. Personal and intimate relationships. None are immune to the fungus that grows within when you do not honor yourself every step of the way, along the way, in your relationships with other people.” (I. Vanzant)
AND, HOLD ON, this is not license to go about spewing your feelings in reckless abandon. Rather listen to this wise “how to”:
“…how do you give [an honest] answer without hurting or offending the other person?…Honor what you feel by saying it the way you would want to hear it. When you say it honestly and with love, your job it over.”
HERE COMES THE PENICILLIN
It’s hard to recognize your own infection. Because sometimes the only indicator is just a weird feeling of “I just don’t feel good.” And if you are physically sick, you start to trace back to that sick kid on the airplane, or the grocery store clerk with the sniffles.
And if you are heart-sick you need to trace back to when you started trying to keep the peace and stuff feelings that you decided must be wrong and invalid. That’s where you can start to dig in and discover when you started being untruthful.
When I discover my own infections, it’s overwhelming. It’s hard to admit that somewhere along the way, I stopped being truthful. I stopped honoring myself. Which dishonors the core of who I am and my life and the Spirit that lives me in. Spirit and lies cannot co-exist. That internal conflict and infection feels horrible.
When a hardcore infection sets in, it’s time for a scary dose of penicillin. This means you get real and speak your truth. You gather your courage and become honest and…yes, vulnerable. This means risk. Being truthful about stuff that has gone unchecked could cost a cherished relationship. BUT better yet, it could begin a cure and healing to restore a self-and-God-honoring relationship. It’s risk worth taking.
That risk allows a place for healing to begin from the One who knows how to heal infections of the heart.
Yes, a shot of penicillin is scary. But it could be worth every ounce of scary.
Once you learn to honor yourself, you can always be on the watch for the smallest hint of infection. Catching it before it gets out-of-control holds the cliché true: “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” ~ Benjamin Franklin