We, as a culture, highly regard authenticity and of course we do! We don’t want to play guessing games with ourselves and others, we find it refreshing when people are transparent, and we want to engage in the transformational stories of others. But let’s be real — and at the end of the day, our culture loves drama. We crave juicy news about people’s lives which is why we love social media and reality TV.
We take our high regard for ‘authenticity’ (aka -being in the know) into our face-to-face encounters and struggle to respect people’s privacy. We each, myself included, have ranted a time or two about people saying they're ‘fine’ when we know they aren’t.
Here’s a handful of reasons why people say “I’m fine”:
- Their life is none of your business.
- They don’t want you to know their business.
- They don’t trust you with their business.
- They don’t want you talking to other people about their business.
- They don’t want you judging their business.
- They know that you can’t handle their business.
- They don’t want to burden you with their business.
- They hardly know you or have only met you a couple of times.
- They’ve watched you mismanage your own business and don’t want you mucking around in theirs’.
- They get to choose who to share info with and are wise to keep their inner circle small.
- You’re not entitled to their business simply because you’ve known them a certain amount of time, you work with them, go to school or church with them, are friends with their friends, are in their church small group, etc.
- They have countless bloody wars happening internally.
- They don’t want the person standing nearby to hear.
- The people closest to them have broken their trust so they don’t trust people.
- The people closest to them have broken their heart so they close themselves off.
- They feel like no one will understand their pain.
- They are simply trying to process life and just getting out of bed in the morning is a huge accomplishment.
- They feel lonely, unlikeable, unlovable, unacceptable, or dirty.
- They aren’t ready to talk about it or don’t know how to talk about it.
- They are protecting their family, their paycheck, or their community.
- They feel shame for their coping mechanisms.
- They’ve opened up before only to be harshly judged, ridiculed, or gossiped about.
- What they’ve gone through or are going through is so crazy that if they say it out loud, people will simply think they’re crazy.
- They don’t want another trite answer, pat on the head, or simple solution from someone who hasn’t walked the road they have.
- They are wondering where a good God has been in the midst of the evil that has occurred in their life.
- They are crumbling on the inside, wanting to escape everything, clawing for answers, and only have enough energy to say two words; ‘I’m fine.’
These reasons are real. Very real. I’ve lived every singe one while my life appeared pretty on the surface yet monsters raged beneath.
A few of the lessons I’ve learned along the way:
- You never know what someone else is going through no matter how tidy they look on the outside.
- No one just ‘falls off the deep end.’ There is always a tragic backstory. Check on people who disappear off the radar or act in ways contrary to their norm.
- People with very good and loving intentions tend to pry in an effort to help and only further wound the other person because they are inadequately prepared to handle deep issues. I’ve both wounded others and have received woundings from others. Know what you know and know what you don’t. Chances are really good that you know less than you think you do so be tender with other people’s hearts, pain, and situations.
- When someone does share, ask them what they need from you. It could be a hug, cup of coffee, counsel, or it could be they want nothing more than for someone to hear them without judging them. Sometimes presence is the most powerful gift you can give.
- Unsolicited advice can be very demeaning in a tender moment. Just because you can say something doesn’t mean you should. Ask first.
- When you aren’t sure what to do, love.
Love is patient.
Love is kind.
Love isn’t envious or boastful.
Love is not arrogant or rude.
Love does not insist on its own way.
Love is not irritable or resentful.
Love does not rejoice in wrongdoing.
Love rejoices with Truth.
Love bears all things,
believes all things,
hopes all things,
endures all things.
To understand trauma, practice healthy compassion, have resources for helping self or others (for anyone!): Arizona Trauma Institute
For Faith communities, a FREE upcoming event: A Framework for Trauma-Responsive Faith Communities
Online quarterly, private support groups and resources for men, women, and children who have been abused or live with someone who has (trauma-informed, cutting-edge neuroscience, Bible-based): Door of Hope Ministries
Books: (These two belong on everyone’s shelf!)
Boundaries; When to Say Yes, How to Say No to Take Control of Your Life (Authors have also written Boundaries in Dating, Marriage, With Teens, With Kids, Learning to Trust Again). This one link will take you to all the titles. Simply scroll down the page.