*Potential trigger warning”
“I’m fine” is one of the most socially acceptable and frequent lies we tell. In fact, it is the response most people expect. Lying when we are hurting is a cultural expectation.
Our “all about me” indoctrination trains us to politely and casually inquire about another person’s well-being with a 100% expectation that they will respond with, “I’m fine,” even if it’s conveyed through a death rattle.
Hyperbolic? Yes, but there is certainly a valid point here.
Just ask Kevin Hines. He stood at the rail of the Golden Gate Bridge, fully prepared to jump. But he had decided he wouldn’t if just one person asked him how he was doing. Hundreds of people walked by him. Not a peep. Not one of them even went through the motions of giving a shit. The one lady who did stop and talk to him merely asked him to take her picture. He jumped. And miraculously survived.
The point is, many of our brothers and sisters we encounter in our daily lives are not “fine.” Given the chance, in the form of another human being taking a couple of moments out of their day and actually caring, that person who is not “fine” just might decide jumping off the bridge isn’t a good idea. Or that they don’t really want to hang themselves.
We are social creatures. And we all share the need to feel loved. Some of the most unloved and most stigmatized in our society are the mentally ill and addicts. I think of all the homeless people (most of whom are mentally ill or addicts) with whom I have conversed on the street, and none of them were “fine.” But I teased their stories out of them, listened to their plights, and offered what hope, encouragement, and material assistance I could.
As people with mental illnesses, we have been given the blessing of empathy with those who are suffering. And those of us in Recovery are doubly blessed. The least we can do in paying it forward is to reject “social norms” and make a meaningful effort to determine the well-being of our fellows.
Based on my experience, supportive encouragement and brotherly love go a long way towards helping someone who would otherwise claim to be fine.
We never know when we are saving a life or planting a seed to future Recovery.