Have you ever been in such a hurry in life that you miss those opportunities to have actual dialogue with someone? Or maybe you’ve just been too lazy (speaking from experience) to actually care and listen to someone talk about themselves. Over the years I think meaningful dialogue has lost it’s appeal, it’s draw, it’s luster. One of the questions I get asked most in my life is this, “how are you?” (followed by “why aren’t you married yet?”). Just think about the last time you asked someone that question. How long did it take them to respond? Did you actually expect them to say something other than “I’m good” or “I’m fine”? Sometimes I even find myself asking the question “you doing alright?” as if them saying yes is the only acceptable answer. And don’t even get me started on myself. I’ve uttered the words “I’m doing good” more times than I care to count. But why? Why has it become second nature for our response to become an emotionless reflex? I know there’s been times in my life that I’ve had so much going on that the easier option was to just not bring any of it up. But I think there’s something deeper. A deeper reason as to why we’ve grown accustom to accept such a simple response as the norm.
Recently I had a good friend of mine come up to me in church and ask me how I was doing. Before I could even think of a response, the words ‘doing good’ had already left my mouth. I sat and thought about it for about 5 seconds and I got his attention again and told him I’m not sure why I said that because that’s not the truth. I quickly explained that I had a lot going on in my life which was weighing pretty heavily on my mind. I apologized for giving such a quick heartless response, and then it got me thinking. Why was I so quick to blow off a good friend’s question about my life? I promised myself that from that moment forward, whenever someone asked me how I was doing I was going to give a different response than what I have in the past. Thankfully my friend quickly accepted my apology and told me that he was there for me and would pray for me.
To me, one of the biggest reasons we don’t respond truthfully right away is we don’t want to seem like a work in progress to everyone else, or a broken vessel. We want people to have this idea of us that we have everything all in order, that life is going just the way we planned. But how many of us can really say that?? We’ve all got crap going on in our lives that stress us out whether it be more days than money in your month, family or relationship issues, etc. I think society has painted a picture that it’s taboo to talk about the stresses of everyday life. I mean just look at a magazine cover the next time you’re checking out at your grocery store. 95% of the time they’re highlighting the latest celebrity and something amazing going on in their life. Very rarely do you find one where it’s an in depth interview about a celebrity opening up about struggles in their life. So if we all have different things and struggles going on in our lives, why do want to look so badly like things are completely in order? Why do we put so much value in something that is so artificial?
The most attractive people in life I believe have an above average level of transparency. They’re okay with admitting that they don’t have things all together, yet they are still pressing on and moving forward. A hero of mine who I believe embodies this concept is my pastor. As someone who is a leader of literally thousands of people, routinely he talks of how he’s not perfect, how he still struggles with things that may seem so trivial, from stage! He’s told the church many times how he’s struggled with the thoughts of what other people thought of him. I will never forget the time I was sitting next to him on the front row, and right before he went up on stage he put his hand on my shoulder and said “pray for me Mike”. Umm what?! You’re the youngest megachurch pastor in the country and you want me to pray for you? I thought surely he meant just a general ‘pray for me when you think about it during the week’, but as we sat there in silence he looked at me and I knew it was about to go down…I prayed for him and it was the best sermon he’s ever preached, pretty sure hundreds of lives were changed. But something happened that moment that has stuck with me ever since, he wasn’t afraid to look like he didn’t have it all together.
So what’s the purpose of telling people your junk? Being more vulnerable and open with others? I truly believe that as we begin to change the way we interact with people, it gives someone an opportunity to open up about things they would have normally kept bottled up inside. Who knows, a genuine conversation may even begin the path of healing that they need to overcome whatever it is that they are dealing with. Something as simple, and at the same time as radical, as having meaningful dialogue with someone may prevent another school shooting one day. So many times I’ve read about shooters who lived a life of isolation and never had real connections with other people and it breaks my heart. What could have been prevented if someone would have taken the time to ask a simple question of “how are you?” and dug a little deeper than just surface level responses.
I’m Mike Creef, and I am a broken vessel.