I have long been a believer in the concept that cats and humans are very similar beings. The two species have a lot in common. For example, most male cats are fiercely territorial; so are most male humans. Most humans believe that they are humans. Many cats believe that they are humans, too. The rest of the cats refuse to lower themselves to the level of mere humans, believing that they are superior beings.
I recently saw a statement on our page-a-day cat calendar that underscored yet another similarity between cats and humans. The calendar said that cats will instinctively try to hide their pain and discomfort. In the wild, animals that are sick are easy prey, so cats instinctively hide any illness. In fact, if you walk up to a sick cat and say “Hello, cat. How are you feeling?” the cat will always answer “I’m fine, thank you,” even if the cat is at death’s door. What a striking similarity to the way we humans respond in similar situations – did we learn it from the cats, or did they learn it from us?
It’s a time-honored tradition among humans everywhere. Someone greets you by saying “Hey, howya doin’,” and we respond with “Fine, thanks.” Even if your heart is about to explode, even if you’re sicker than a dog, even if you’re confused and depressed and lonely and at the end of your rope – it’s always “Fine, thanks.” It’s a highly-refined form of ritual lying.
Even when someone asks who really cares how you are actually doing, we instinctively answer the same way. Even if it’s painfully obvious that you’re not “doing fine,” the response remains the same. It’s not unlike the cat’s instinctive response to sickness: whatever you do, don’t let ’em know you’re hurting, or they might try to steal your food, or take advantage. Lie if you must, but don’t drop that “Fine, thanks” image.
Being the trouble making rabble-rouser that I am, I’ve been known to actually break the rule and tell people how I’m doing. If I’m having a rough day, I’ll say “I’m having a rough day” or “It’s been a long week today.” Most of the time, people will inadvertently let their wall of appearance down for just a second, just long enough that I can tell that they really didn’t want to know how I’m actually doing – they were just being “proper.” Personally, I cherish relationships where I don’t have to be “proper,” and I can be “honest” instead. There is tremendous healing to be found in admitting that you’re having a lousy day, or that you’re in pain, or that your heart is breaking over something. Even us “naturally open” types need to find safe places to be that open – safe relationships where we’re still loved when we’re having a bad day. It’s the sort of stuff that keeps us going when we want to quit.
Unfortunately, we often tend to carry over the same masking-how-you-really-feel protocol into the one relationship where it’s safest to just be open and transparent—our relationship with God. We come into His presence with a “Fine, thanks,” and then move on before we can notice God saying “No, seriously, how are you? Where does it hurt?” We can be so conditioned by dealing with people that don’t really care that we don’t expect God to really care. That’s a sad thing, because God is the one being who already knows how you’re really doing, and what you’re trying to hide – and knows how to help you work through it and find healing and rest.
So, how ARE you doing today – really?