And you're really not doing great. In fact, you're pretty down under and tears might even be just about to flood over the gates you've barred up. But you don't want to tell them all that, because in reality, they don't want to know. For them it's just a formality, a greeting to acknowledge the presence of an acquaintance or old friend, and then continue on with their lives.
"How are you?"
Synonyms for "good" rise to your lips and then fall away before ever making their escape. You don't want to lie. Because all those nice words wouldn't be the truth. And truth is important. So you stutter out one of those in-between words like "decent", "alright", "ok", or "fine". They might notice that your tone of voice is lacking in cheeriness but their mind is already reviewing for the quiz of the class that they are late to. So they rush off. And a tear overflows the barrier you've put up. and you walk on, alone.
Then you're sitting down at a club meeting, the potluck table at church, or in your dorm room. A friend sits down besides you, looks you directly in the eye, says those three words that you've been avoiding all day.
And for the first time in a while, you know that the words are sincere. Finally, you muster the courage and force your tongue to form words that have been building up all day: "not so good", "awful", "not great", "could be better", "hurting", "sad". Relief floods in as you admit that the world isn't all it's cracked up to be. That sincere Christians indeed do have things that make them cry. That you're not the perfect person you pretend to be. That deep down, you're hurting as well. For the first time that day, you appreciate the three words that so many times make you cringe. And more importantly, you appreciate that person, close friend or not, who took the time to care.
"How are you?"
DISCLAIMER: I'm not trying to be accusatory or make anyone feel bad. I just thought that maybe others have had these same feelings once upon a time. I like to say things that most people think or feel, yet never really want to say out loud. You can blame it on my friend Jon Van Ornam. He's the one who taught me.