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How Are You?

14 May 2012



How are you? Before they came to America, my foreign exchange daughters were told that Americans ask this question never expecting an answer. It’s just a conversation starter. We’re internationally known as insincere that way. It doesn’t help that our canned response is an equally-insincere “Fine!”

How are you? You may be struggling with something, but most people don’t want to air a list of problems, so we move on quickly. But in some cases – from a spouse, close friend, or exceptional acquaintance – we yearn for the question to be genuine… for someone we trust to actually care to hear the real answer.

How are you? There is intense therapy in being heard. I’m letting the cat out of the bag, but most of behind-closed-doors talk therapy is actually just letting the person be heard clearly and openly. The Struggle That Must Not Be Named takes on a life of its own; we call it the Boogey Man. I suspect that’s why James wrote, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.” (Jas 5:16) As usual, John takes a more abstract approach. “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.” (I Jn 1:9) Confession is the first step to healing.

How are you? Living in God’s grace has given me the freedom to peer deeply into myself for the answer. I’ve found that I tend to be ugly and nasty when put on the defensive, unintentionally rude because I’m socially awkward and self-absorbed, and mean and angry when I’m frightened. And these aren’t even my worst qualities! I’ve tried to fix these traits, but such an overhaul is way over my pay grade. My job is to confess the truth.

How are you? Some of us have gotten past the culturally-expected self-promotion and actually know our deeper, darker natures. Do these define us? No. But we refuse to sweep these traits under the rug and pretend to be better than we are. It’s only in the context of our true, sinful natures that grace shines so brilliantly! Forgiveness and grace mean little to those who sin little. To great sinners like me, grace is astounding! I am a sinner, but I am forgiven, I am loved, and I am even liked by the Father!

How are you? Confession takes two. Some people can bear to hear you confess your true nature and be trusted not to misuse that information, but they are rare. They are generally those who have plumbed the depths of their own souls and quit masquerading behind a practiced smiley face. They may smile readily, but it’s not because they’re supposed to. It’s because they genuinely feel like smiling. Find these folks and talk a while. You’ll feel better for it.

So, how are you?

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Mike Pulley

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