Today I find myself pondering this question….
What answer am I supposed to give when someone asks me how I am?
I pride myself on being a “real” person. On being vulnerable and transparent with those close to me. On openly sharing my life with those around, and that includes the good, bad and ugly. On being willing to share my highs and lows with others so that we may praise the Lord together, or submit our petitions to Him in prayer. I love the encouragement, admonishment and counsel of my brothers and sisters in Christ.
All of that said, when someone asks me how I am do they really want to hear about the breakdown that I had that morning, the argument that my husband and I had earlier in the week, or whatever I may have struggled with recently, or do they just want a positive cheerful response?
I don't want to be a negative person. I don't want to bring others down by saying negative things and bestowing my struggles on them. But at the same time I don't want to be fake. So often "the church" is criticized for being some where that people aren't real, that they just put on a happy face, feel they have to be perfect and can't come as they truly are, hence the reason a lot of outsiders label "the church" as hypocrites. So where is the line between being real and being fake? Where is the line between being a positive and a negative person? Is it possible to still be a positive person and be completely "real", or does being "real" label one as negative? I think of a two of my favorite passages of Scripture...
Ephesians 4:29 Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. (NLT)
That everything you say be good, helpful and an encouragement to those who hear... well that would be a ton of pressure if we didn't have the grace and freedom of Jesus! How about most of what I say be an encouragement, and thank goodness for grace and forgiveness for those unfortunate times where I respond in the flesh rather than in the Spirit.
Philippians 4:8 And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. (NLT)
This goes along with the whole garbage in garbage out thing. I notice the more negative stuff I'm exposed to, and then allowed to dwell on, the more flows out of me to others. The best way for me to adhere to Eph 4:29 is to follow Phil 4:8 and minimize my exposure to anything that's not consistent with it.
All of these questions and this thinking has started from me being surrounded by people who are talking about the economy. You can't get away from this topic right now, it's every where I go. The conversations take tolls of negativity, sarcasm, anger, fear and more. All of this takes a rather draining toll on me who likes to walk around in my little bubble not thinking about or worrying about the state of any of this (fortunately I have Jeremy to follow it and make informed decisions for our household while I remain in ignorant bliss as much as possible). So I've come home at least one day this week just in a funk, completely impacted by the negativity I was surrounded by, and it having worn down my connection to the Spirit, my trust in God, my desire to not worry about tomorrow for each day has enough worries of it's own. Granted I could be more aware of the situations I'm exposed to, of remaining in the Spirit, of focusing on the pure and noble and praiseworthy, and the Truth. But now that I've been impacted by the overflow of worry coming from others it makes me wonder if the times that I worry and express it what kind of impression I could be leaving on those around me. What kind of lies and mistrust I'm implanting in the heads of my brothers and sisters rather than spreading encouraging words. All of this brings me back to the point of when is it okay to be "real", and when is it necessary to be more concerned with edifying others? When do these two conflict?
I don't by any means have the answers, this is just my thoughts, prayers, and search right now.
Lord, please guide me in your ways. Guard my heart with your truth. Fill me with your Spirit that I may respond in you. Thank you for your grace, and your forgiveness. Use me to encourage others for your glory Lord. Forgive my mistrust and worry as I turn from it and seek you.