‘How are you?’ ‘I’m fine.’ How often do you actually tell the truth when someone asks you how you are? And how often do you actually believe what they tell you when you ask someone how they are? And how much does it matter anyway?

 

Recently the charity Mental Health Foundation commissioned a study of British adults, asking them questions about conversations they had about their feelings. According to the charity, we all need a supportive network of people around us, people we can confide in when we need to, people who will listen to how we are really feeling and will support us. Failure to talk about our emotions and our mental well-being can lead to mental illness or distress, and to greater difficulty in recovering from such situations. Yet the charity’s study suggested that of the 2000 adults surveyed, large numbers did not talk openly about how they felt, and did not expect others to either.

 

The study suggested that adults say, ‘I’m fine’ on average about 14 times a week, but less than one in five actually mean what they say. The survey also revealed that about three quarters of those surveyed found it hard to talk about their emotions, with almost a third saying they often lied about how they felt, with 22% of men and 10% of women saying they always lied. A third said it was easier to say, ‘I’m fine’ than to actually explain how they did feel.

 

I had a time when I was studying alongside many African students from a wide range of African countries. I remember some new students one year talking about things in British culture that they found it difficulty to adjust to. One was what they called the ‘snappy smile’; when they asked how someone was they got a brief smile and, ‘I’m fine’ whereas in their own culture they did not ask how someone was unless they had at least 40 minutes to listen to what they knew they would be told.

 

I suspect time is regularly a factor influencing how often we talk to one another about how we feel. Many of us lead such busy lives that focusing on how we feel tends to get postponed until we ‘have time’. Yet I wonder too, how often our privacy about our feelings is influenced by fear of vulnerability. When we expose our true feelings, we risk being hurt by another’s lack of concern or even by their exploitation of what we reveal. Most churches would love to be open, accepting, communities where people feel truly welcomed and supported, yet I suspect that many are not perceived that way by either members or visitors.

 

  • What do you look for in someone that you feel you could confide in?

  • How do, or would, you feel if someone confided in you how they were really feeling?

  • What can communities do to become places where people feel it is safe to be vulnerable?

 

Prayer for the week - 1st December 2016

 

 

This week, the UK charity Cancer Research UK, reported that tests for early diagnosis of cancer are ‘under threat.’ According to the charity, over the next five to ten years a shortage of staff at pathology laboratories, and an increasing demand for tests, is likely to lead to future delays in cancer diagnosis. Cancer Research UK are calling on the government to act now to invest in more staff at laboratories.

 

 

Like many dog owners, I talk to my dog. Apparently surveys have suggested that most pet owners talk to their pets, with a significant proportion talking to their pet more than to their partner. They also suggest that the majority of dog owners believe their dog understands what they say, and possibly as many as a third of owners find it easier to talk to their dog than to a member of the opposite sex. But do we really communicate with our pets?

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