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.

Transition from Transparency

This post is part of an ongoing series exploring why I blog and my values concerning both writing and my personal life.

I had originally intended to write about how I value transparency, and how my blog helps keep me humble because I put everything out there for all the world to see. How I write (or used to, anyways) about my faults and failures, about my weaknesses, and about my degenerate childhood to serve as both an example and a warning.

This is in contrast to when I was younger, before I became Christian and when I had several different masks I wore depending on where I was. No one truly knew who or what I was, least of all me, and I subsequently developed a tightly wound ball of neuroses that made healing and growing next to impossible.

On top of the lack of self-understanding, my fear of abandonment (stemming from a workaholic mother and a distant father) had led me to assume that if anyone knew the real me, they would turn away. That if I let anything slip about myself, or if someone found out what I had done or what I was, that I would lose what little companionship I had managed to garner. I hid out of fear.

When I first saw that people (Christians, notably) forgave me for my past sins… no, that sentence is not quite true. They didn’t forgive me, they just didn’t think about it. As Christians began to learn more about me and my past, it was a complete non-issue, and that was a huge relief to me. There was no drama: I’d screwed up, it was in the past, and we were different now. It was like being reborn with every truth I let fall from my lips.

Being brutally honest, wearing my heart on my sleeve as it were, was the only way I knew to excise those fears, doubts, and masks, so I committed to always be transparent. To not censor myself, and to not hide behind another mask. And this translated into my writing and blogging (beginning my freshman year of college), where I forced myself to be public with my private-most thoughts and concerns. To be honest, lest I fall back into that trap of fear and self-loathing. Blogging transparently, and living honestly, helped me break free of those fears.

Now, however, my writing is transitioning from that stage. I write less about myself personally and more about technology, the world around me, and interacting with that world. I censor both my blog and my social networking accounts (such as Twitter), not sharing certain thoughts or words, for fear of offending or alienating.

While this leaves me a little unsettled due to my previous commitment, I am comforted by knowing that I now have personal relationships, rather than the impersonal eye of the Internet, to keep me accountable and honest. I have friends who I know I can trust, and while my blog is less transparent than before, my friendships are far more honest than they ever were.

Of course, that means there are more arguments, more heated debates, and a few more apologies, but from these are friendships forged, as far as I’m concerned. If we cannot fight, trusting that the other will not walk out, then there is no real friendship there.

I am glad to have friends I can trust well enough to be transparent with, and equally glad that I need not put every detail on my blog just to keep myself honest. My blog entries from years past are nearly incoherent piles of worthless prattle, and not worth being read by anyone. By transitioning to writing about something other than myself, I am able to communicate something worth reading. I am free to give something to the World Wide Web that might help others, rather than pouring out my heart to only help myself.