I started learning English when I was 8. Some of the first conversation phrases that I learned (and I suspect most other English learners do too) was this:
A: “Hello. How are you?”
B: “I am fine, thank you.”
I know what ‘fine’ means. But it is so ingrained somehow that instinctively, when I first arrived in Australia, that’s my default answer to anyone who asked me, “How are you?” regardless whether or not I am truly fine. Perhaps partly because we don’t use that phrase a lot in Indonesia. We just get to the point of the conversation. If the person looks ok, no black eye, not limping, and breathing normally, we assume they are fine. That’s perhaps why the answer “I am fine, thank you” becomes my standard answer because I don’t know how to answer any other way.
Of course, having lived in Australia, I have learned some other ways to answer that. “Not bad.” “I am ok.” “I am not well.” etc. However, I realise that when I want to get to the point of the conversation quickly or when I don’t really want to tell the other person my true condition, I just use the “I am fine” answer. Of course, at most times, when I said that, I was really fine. But there were times it really meant, “I am not fine, but I don’t want you to know that” or “I am not fine, but I don’t think you can help me anyway.” I realise that it is so overused that it has lost its meaning. In fact, it has become at times a fine way to mask what’s in my heart and mind.
Over the time, I learn another phrase that has become so overused too. The phrase is “I am busy.” I realise that I use that phrase more and more the past few years. No, I was not lying. I was really busy. I had so much to do. But again, who doesn’t? However, just like the former phrase, at times I used it because it was an easy way to answer the “How are you?” question. It’s a good way to get some people to leave me alone. Furthermore, interestingly, I also found that it gives people impression that I am a good and productive person who loves to work hard and to serve others. Not only does it cover up what’s really going on in my heart, it does put on a rather impressive mask over it. They won’t know what’s really going on in my life, and they think that I am a good pastor. I’d like to think that I do my job well. But I think sometimes I used ‘I am busy’ to make them think I am an even better pastor. Again, I never lied when I said that I was busy, and I did not mean all that misleading impression most of the time, especially when the person is someone I can trust. But I’d be honest that at times that’s what happened. To my shame, at times I like it when people look a bit more highly of me because of my busyness.
Upon reflection, everybody is busy. So, perhaps I need to stop using that word, and start digging deeper what’s happening in my heart when I find myself to be too quick to say that phrase. In the next post, I will begin by looking at what the Bible says about busyness before we then look at some other causes for our busyness. But for now, what about you? Do you find yourself saying that too? Often? Have you thought of what’s really in your heart when you said, “I am busy”? Or am I overthinking this?