How are you? I am fine.

It was Wednesday and I was getting ready to pack up my computer and head out for a long lunch. No Riksha Chinese food or Gem of India for me today, though; rather, I would be spending my lunch at the dentist’s office so they could ascertain if my jaw was as screwed up as I feared. Despite having had my wisdom teeth out six days previously, I still had a decent amount of swelling and a lot of pain from my right temple down through the right side of my neck, and the constant muscle pain that accompanied this made focusing on work next to impossible.

I hadn’t slept well the night before… or any night since the surgery, really. I would wake up multiple times a night, take some more pain meds, and then dream fitfully about living underground, having won the lottery, or digging through a flea market. I hadn’t had any coffee in almost a week, and though I was pleased to have lost a little weight, I really wanted to drink a beer, eat a cheeseburger, and in general be able to consume something without a twinge of fear and miserableness.

Just as I was getting ready to leave, my phone rang. Krist from HR was on the other end and asked how I was. “I’m just fine,” I replied. “How are you?”

Generally, in Christian circles when we discuss this subject, we advocate honesty and openness. Why do we always lie when we feel like crap? How can we expect to build relationships when we never tell anyone anything about ourselves?

Obviously, this was at work, not church, but a campus community bears some similarities to a church. We spend way more time together than I do with the members of my church (which is a bit of a commentary on me, I suppose, though potentially extending to our society as well), and we’ve all got a common goal and passion. I’m generally honest with the people I work with, and would go so far as to say I have several friends through work who are very supportive.

But I didn’t say that I was miserable, in pain, and hungry because I was afraid to eat. I said I was fine, because that’s more professional.

I believe strongly that certain feelings and attitudes should be left at the door when you go to work, and my miserableness isn’t needed there. We’ve got a job to do, and I not only cannot let my feelings get in the way of that, but I can’t dump on other people and take up their time with my problems. They don’t deserve that.

But even beyond the professionalism-at-work scenario, I’m beginning to think more and more that we need to cultivate this attitude of positiveness in most every setting. To return to the church example, yes, I think we should be able to be honest and open there, but I also think it would be healthy to check some of the baggage at the door. If your issues are going to keep you from worshipping God, then you need to put them on the altar and stop worrying about them. Trust in Jesus and praise His name.

On the religious side, I’d encourage you to do this because God will take care of you and those problems will probably work themselves out through His faithfulness. There’s no sense in making ourselves sad and upset when we have such a loving God who takes care of us. When we refuse to trust in Him, we’re worse off and things tend to go poorly.

It’s obviously a tricky subject. I’ve advocated elsewhere that we need to trust people, be open, and allow them to serve us just as we want to serve others. We can’t do that if we’re not open. But I think there are a lot of petty grievances that we let ruin our day because we can’t just let them go, and that’s not healthy either. Some things are worth bringing up and sharing because they need to be dealt with, but my physical mouth pain wasn’t one of them.

So I said I was fine, because I was. And wouldn’t you know it, after visiting the dentist, everything was A-OK.

Say it like you mean it

When talking about relationships, everyone talks about communication. And we all know it’s important and vital to a healthy relationship. Yet for some reason, it’s still one of the primary points of failure. We kind of suck at it, I guess?

It starts off all innocent and sweet. You’re upset at your significant other, but you don’t want to hurt their feelings, or you’re not sure you’re being reasonable, so you don’t say anything. You might even eventually forget about whatever it was that made you upset, and since you’ve forgotten about it, it must not have been important.

Until your significant other (SO) does it again. Then you’re pissed, because this is the sixth freaking time, and how could they do this to you yet again? Admittedly, you’ve never told them that you’re upset, because… well, they’ve done it six times now! Obviously they wouldn’t have listened to you anyways!

We’re ridiculous.

April and I have experimented with several different modes of communication, and we have found that talking about things immediately is about the only way that works. If your SO upsets you, tell them. Right then. They’re probably going to get upset in turn, either angry at you or guilty and upset at themselves, but it’s better to have it out in the open where it can be dealt with. State the issue, then hug and say you love one another, then give it some time.

I think the last part there is important, and it has worked well for us. Once it’s in the open, you can give each other time to think about it, to analyze your own actions and those of your SO, and then come back together later to talk about the issue a little more objectively. You have to be willing to give ground, to really listen to your SO and try to see things from their point of view, but the important thing is that you’re talking about it.

Otherwise, you end up breaking up years later because something relatively insignificant and easy to resolve has built up, been repeated umpteen times, and is practically insurmountable. It doesn’t need to come to this, and if a few tears along the way is all it takes to keep the relationship intact, I think it’s worth it. Moreover, you’ll both become better people and better able to listen to and help others because you’ve forced yourselves to deal with one another.

When a co-worker comes to you with a complaint, you’ll have learned how to deal with it because, with your SO, you couldn’t just leave or avoid the issue. In the confinements of a relationship, you were forced to deal and learn, and now you are better able to live your life with others.