“Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near.” Philippians 4:4-5 (NIV)
Somewhere over the course of history one of our societal norms became asking people “how are you doing?” as a greeting. You walk into a grocery store/restaurant or make a phone call to a customer service area and you will quickly hear “how are you?” Unfortunately, most of the time the question isn’t asked with genuine concern. It’s asked out of habit.
One incident that was extremely upsetting to me was an encounter I had with a friend at the grocery store. She saw me, her face lit up and she made a beeline to me.
“Hey girl, how are you doing? How’s your summer been?”
And just like that she was gone. I thought she was making a beeline to me. Apparently, she was after the produce that was behind me. There I was, left feeling like I had just been shot in the gut, hemorrhaging in the produce department.
“She was at my sons funeral in May. It’s only July, did she really ask me how my summer has been?”
In my grief, I had lost that sensor to just ignore the question. Our society calls it a polite courtesy. I feel it’s pretentious. Why ask a question if you don’t want to know the answer? We have a world of hurting people around us. Yet, I watch people walk by one another with such shallowness. One will say “hi, how are you?” the other will respond “I’m fine” and they keep on moving.
Why?? Why ask a question – instead why not make a declarative statement. “Hi, it’s good to see you” and keep on walking. You didn’t ask the person anything. There’s nothing shallow or pretentious about making a statement. But when you ask that question what are you expecting the person to say? Especially when you know they’ve just experienced a great loss. You’re putting that person in the position to lie.
The insensitivity of the way that question was often asked made me want to completely retreat from the outside world. Prior to Jamie’s death, I had been guilty of doing the same thing to people myself. I would walk by them in a grocery store or the church and politely smile and say “Hi, how are you?”; all the while knowing that something hard was going on in their life. Yet not sure of how to say anything or even if I should say anything. I found myself asking the Lord for forgiveness of my own insensitivity.
In Philippians 4:4-5, we are instructed to “let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near”.
When I see someone out in the grocery store or church and I know they are in a hard season of life, I will walk over to them, ask them if I can give them a hug. I usually say something like “it’s so good to see you out” or “I’m praying for you.” I realize the physical and mental energy it took for them to be out. I try to be kind. I never ask someone how they are doing unless I’m able to take the time to have the conversation with them and truly hear their heart.
Gentleness is the quality of being kind and careful. Make the effort to be careful in your greetings. Don’t be quick to throw out idol words.
No matter how busy we are, let us all pursue being kind and careful with the way we walk past the broken in our society.
My Hope Endures,
Director, Ephraim Ministries