The obligatory answer to the question "How are you?" is understood to be "Fine."
Maybe a "Good, how are you?" or sometimes an "I'm OK, thanks."
Nobody really expects (or desires) for you to say, "Well, truthfully, everything stinks right now. My kids are driving me nuts, my husband and I can't seem to get on the same page intimately, and I kind of want to punch my coworker in the face."
If we said such things, we'd get a whole lot more than we bargained for, and truthfully, we don't need to share that much with acquaintances who innocently ask how we are.
But in telling most of the world we're fine, do we unconsciously convince ourselves we are? Because if we're honest, we're often not fine. Everything's not always ok, and we have no obligation to the world to pretend that we are.
But when our souls beg us to ask how things are, we must be willing to admit the honest emotions we're feeling and the true conditions of our hearts. To do so, we have to face what's really going on. Denial is dangerous. If it's easier to pretend nothing's wrong than it is to honestly analyze our hearts, we have a major problem.
I have become hyper-aware lately that when there's a soul problem deep inside, when my heart is struggling and my emotions are unbalanced, my go-to is to check out. I avoid the core issue for days at a time, subconsciously pretending the problem away. I play a dangerous game of cat and mouse with myself, running from the problem so I don't have to face it while simultaneously living every moment affected by it.
I don't know if this avoider mentality is just a trait born of genetics or a product of my upbringing. Maybe it's a combination of both. Regardless, I'm learning that it's only ever harmful to me and those I love. My childish refusal to acknowledge my issues is an indication that I'm relying only on myself for their healing. If I keep them locked up inside, then I'm believing the solution is also inside. It's not. We need other people to help us heal our old wounds. Hurts that remain hidden only fester. Dark places that are never exposed to light never lose their dark power over us.
I'm not suggesting we start telling others the unedited truth of our hearts if our hearts are not "fine." But I am suggesting that we start telling ourselves the truth of our hearts. I am suggesting that we pay attention when our souls scream and that we listen when our hearts hurt. Avoidance never heals. Problems don't just disappear. And in spite of our well-intentioned reply that we're 'fine," sometimes we're just not.