Few of us honestly answer the question “How are you?”. In fact, many of us wonder if the question is worth being asked. Personally, those three words make me squeamish—especially when I am the one routinely asking the three-word question. After all, am I really looking for someone to answer honestly? If I am, I should be ready with my virtual prayer list, ready to soak in what is said to be able to celebrate with the joyous and grieve with the mournful. My prayer list is not always so handy because of my daily life choices.
At the same time, I am not ready to throw away this question. Just the other day a good friend of mine asked me how I am doing—and meant it. Their body language, their pause in conversation, and the honesty of their tone of voice made this a clear invitation to share what was going on in my life. What a wonderful invitation! That three-word question of ‘How are you’ mattered—because someone let me know that I matter.
On the one hand, I think I should use this question a whole lot less. Rather than a lead in to casual conversation, I want to save it up for times where I am truly prepared to listen. On the other hand, I intend to use it so much more intentionally. The people that I am closest to are the ones I should be asking this question. Rather than assuming that I know how my spouse, family, and friends are doing, I really need to ask, listen, and pray. Maybe even pray in the moment rather than letting the opportunity slip through my fingers.
‘How are you’ is so easy to flippantly throw out there under the guise of caring, while if I am completely honest with myself, I am not sensitive to the other person. My sensitivity to the other person is deeply impacted by my own emotional and spiritual health. I hope that we lean into this space of our own emotional and spiritual health to be ready to ask those closest to us, “How are you?”. And then listen. And pray.
Grace and peace,
Carl Greene, Executive Director, Seventh Day Baptist General Conference of USA and Canada