Testing Unfine

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(in)RL
Screen shot 2012-05-02 at 9.46.49 PM

The Monday after (in)RL, I decided to give  Lisa-Jo’s “unfine” a try. I decided, when I went to work on Monday, that I would not say I was “fine” if I wasn’t. And lately, work has been way less than fine. We’ve been in a season of crazy expectations, unrealistic deadlines, limited resources, and overworked associates. No. We have not been fine.

Normally, I pass my coworkers in the stairwell, and we do the Hi-how-are-you?-Just-fine-thanks-and-you? thing. Or we gather together in the cafeteria at the beginning of the day where we catch up on the latest news headlines, find out who watched what on television the night before, and share little bits of our lives. We skim across the surface of our families and of our hopes and dreams. We don’t go deep, and I’m not really sure just how real we get.

So on Monday morning, when my colleague asked me how I was, I took a deep breath and said, “Oh, you know. Crazy day ahead.” Those two sentences were like the key that opened up her heart. She shared with me the struggles of her workload, and then some of her frustrations with her family, and some of her deepest hurts. It was amazing. And beautiful. Right there in the cafeteria of a major corporation, with microwaves beeping and the Today Show talking to us from the television on the wall.

How in the world could I have know that one “unfine”  could open up so much? But that’s just the point, isn’t it? Community is built on the gritty, messy, imperfect bedrock of all the places we are not okay. It’s when I push through pretense and take the risk of letting you see my dirty dishes in the sink, or rub my feet when I’m sick, or help me sort through the muck of a family falling apart.

We are not supposed to do this alone. As much as I want to guard my heart and my reputation and your impression of me, God has designed it so that community works best when I am real with you. Community works best when we are real, and sometimes unfine is the most direct route.

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  1. 1

    YESSSSS! I’m such a fan of not using ‘fine.’ As someone with chronic illness, I often struggle with how to respond to the question, “How are you?” I wrote some of my thoughts a few years ago. (I’m no longer at that site, but here’s the archived post.)

    It’s amazing how simple tweaks to our life can open up opportunities for community.

  2. 2

    we’re not supposed to do this alone….amening (a new word?) over here! great post.

  3. 4
    Anonymous says:

    Oh, Amen! “Community is built on the gritty, messy, imperfect bedrock of all the places we are not okay.”–here is where Grace lies, and real love.

    I often resist the “fine” and then reel in wonder over whether I should’ve said or implied as much as I did while I’m in the office. But, it’s my worship, I’m seeing. This being real and accepting the community around us, no matter the size or how it seems. I’m realizing there’s purpose in everyone who our lives cross with.

    Rich blessings to you today, friend. That you’d feel the love of Our Father in a warm and peaceful way.

  4. 7

    How powerful. I’m fine always seems so cliche but I guess we use it to protect ourselves from opening up too much as well as any possible hurts that come from it.

  5. 8

    Amen! I’m “unfine” most days, but today all I want is to take a deep breath and not feel guilty for not being everything that everyone wants me to be.

  6. 10

    Amazing how truthfulness and honesty always lead to the real, the raw, the wonderful, the just “how it truly is.” Give me the truth every time. I can work with the truth. I can work through it. But the thinly veiled truths and sugarcoating block gettting to what’s REAL and HONEST. Many thanks for this post. “Unfine” is okay. Dancing all around the unfine is exhausting. grateful here…..

  7. 11

    It’s amazing what a couple of seconds of “genuineness” can do!

    This is a great thing to do at church as well! :-)

  8. 12

    And you said so little, and it opened the door so wide!

    I did something similar with a coworker, in the heart of the crazy. She opened up about how hard it’s all getting. It was a moment of Real.

  9. 13

    I struggle to answer that question. The truth is that I don’t feel like it’s fair to dump on a perfect stranger (like the checkout girl who asks how I’m doing today) about how much everything hurts and how my kids are stressing me out and I can’t believe how expensive these groceries are and how my future is kind of up in the air right now and on and on . . .

    But yeah, “fine” seems like a lie on a day like that. Sometimes I say I “can’t complain.” Because you know, even on my worst days I am redeemed and I am God’s child and I am loved and accepted and I have hope and a future.

    And that’s not to say we shouldn’t be real, but sometimes the guy who’s taking your groceries out to your car isn’t the one to dump on. ;)

    I think I went off on a tangent here. I’m very blessed by people in my life who I can share with, who know what a mess I am and how out of control everything feels and who refuse to hear just a “fine.”

    • 14

      Great point! I’ll bet those kind women and gentlemen who carry our groceries to the car get their fair share of unfine and would appreciate a listening ear from time to time.

      And, of course, this community is always a perfectly fine place to share your unfine moments.

    • 15
      Handsfull says:

      I know what you mean… I don’t do ‘fine’ anymore, unless I actually am, but don’t always want to unload onto strangers. In situations like that I tend to use ‘I’m getting there!’
      It’s a phrase that implies motion, but doesn’t actually specify where I’m getting to. Could be heaven, could be lunchtime, could be the doctor’s office for anti-depressants!
      Oh, and the funny thing is that whenever anyone uses that phrase with me, I know what they’re doing, and usually reply with ‘Really? It’s that bad?!’
      Lol!

  10. 16

    Amy above well said. “fine” when i hear it, it makes me think your not happy or you don’t care both are assumptions on my part. Can one be to real for people yes i think so walking that fine line is not a easy one. Finding in my early 50′s i need a filter, scare most people off by being the real me my circle is small, investing in Community is messy !
    In his grace
    Sherry

    • 17

      Community is a beautiful mess. And so worth the risk. It’s true that we have to be careful about sharing too much. But community begins when we start small – when we open the door just a bit and give others a peek at what’s really going on inside. Sometimes, just saying, “I really could use a nap/break/gallon of ice cream” is enough to let people know we don’t have it all together, without overloading them with everything at once.

  11. 18
    Caprice says:

    Thank you for sharing your experience with the ‘unfine’ experiment! I work withing a large corporate office as well. It is amazing when we actually get ‘real’ with our responses how people open up. I have never had such an amazing relationship with a boss like I do now. Why? Because when I ask her how her weekend went, she can really tell me, that she is beyond stress with juggling multiple jobs, or the fight she had with her fiance. I can tell her about mom having a bad weekend and my fears for her. Great read today, as ALWAYS!

  12. 19

    Um…. I don’t even know where to begin! I hadn’t read this one yet. I’m bowled over by it. I’m so blessed by it, I’m grinning ear to ear and thanking Jesus for making us for one another.

  13. 20

    Hi- I missed the original “unfine” post and I’m not even sure where to look for it…or maybe what the real name of it was.
    I went to the Lisa -Jo link and didn’t see one called that.
    Could some one link me back to it?
    I’m pretty sure it’s something I NEED to read.
    Thanks so much!

  14. 22

    “Community is built on the gritty, messy, imperfect bedrock of all the places we are not okay.”

    A fine post, Deidra!

  15. 25

    Great post! Sometimes I worry that when I “unfine” myself on someone they REALLY don’t want to hear my mess so I usually stick to “fine”. By doing that I could be hindering a great opportunity for community.

  16. 27

    Yay!! I’ve never been a fan of “pat answers” and sometimes have to walk the Too Much Information line…but if I expect people to know where I need/want prayer, and that I’m “real” enough to take their prayer needs to heart, can I say anything less??
    Over the years I have learned I keep a drama filter on though…too much emotion in any situation only adds fuel to fire..not good.
    Thanks for sharing your experience! And Keep being REAL, in writing and in person!

  17. 28

    Adding my hearty AMEN! to this Deidra! Someone I know says that when you are real with people they “uncross”…as in uncross their arms. They were talking about in a bigger group like a pastor getting real with the people he’s sharing with and they uncross and begin to feel at home…like they could belong.
    This can happen one on one too, when we are unfine and get real, people uncross and open up, and then it helps us too, and the potential is amazing.

  18. 29

    Thank you for liberating the lot of us who hide behind “all is well” when in fact we do have some issues that we are confronting which are like a punch in the stomach! I like this unfine concept – throwing caution to the wind so that those around us can discover just how imperfect our lives are!!!! We struggle just like others….what freedom. Thank you.

  19. 30

    A beautiful reflection! Thank you :) so many people cling to this “ideal” of perfectionism, when genuine connection happens through vulnerability as you so wonderfully shared here:)

  20. 31

    Love this post Deidra! I am so going “unfine” from now on!

  21. 32

    Diedra, love you open and honest post about letting our feelings come to the surface and not wearing a mask all the time…this is a blog post I wrote about what helps me…
    http://bethwillismiller.blogspot.com/2010/02/this-is-my-challenge-to-let-healthy.html

  22. 33
    Beth Williams says:

    Deidra,

    Women, especially, use the term “fine” to actually hide behind a mask. Just read Grace for the Good Girl & it talks about undoing or taking off the masks that you wear all the time. We don’t have to be perfect, pretty, all put together all the time–it’s ok to say I’m not fine today–discouraged about work & the many changes made–want new job.

    I’m going to try & unfine from now on!

  23. 34

    I’ve been trying the “unfine” response for a while now, and it has been freeing for me and those I come in contact with. Thanks for relating your experience, Deidra.

  24. 35
    Anonymous says:

    *Community is built on the gritty, messy, imperfect bedrock of all the places we are not okay. It’s when I push through pretense and take the risk of letting you see my dirty dishes in the sink, or rub my feet when I’m sick, or help me sort through the muck of a family falling apart.*
    Oh this post touches me so deep today. I can’t even tell you. I came home from my sisters after the death of her husband. So hard and not fine. To a best friend saying she was just fine…with the news of having Breast Cancer. She told others she was fine…till I came home…and I said * So how are you really? Spill it!* I wanted to hear the *unfine!* I wanted to be there for all of the mess!! Sometimes that isn’t easy but being there when it gets mucky…well it seals communities and friendships. For me I am a person who wants it all and needs to be there for others. Just like they have been there for me…Thanks for this..It helps today to know others ask the hard questions…and need to be there for others.

  25. 36

    Whoops that was me…forgot to put the info in…Rough day!

  26. 38

    Perfect lesson! It’s ok to be UNFINE! Why are we so careful to guard such a disastrous part of our lives?
    Oh flesh! Take a seat, will ya?

    :)

    • 39

      Sometimes, for me, the disastrous parts of my life involve others, and I’m not in a position to tell their stories. I don’t know if that’s true for everyone, but it’s definitely a reason to be careful about what we share about our unfine moments, and with whom.

      But, if it’s just because I’m afraid to take the risk, sometimes I just need to push past that and see what happens.

  27. 40

    Deidra, thank you, thank you for this post. Your words are truly resonating with me lately. I struggled for many years through the “fines” of life – only to be finally and totally undone by everything that was NOT fine…my marriage, my kids, my health. We were all suffering, and it seemed that only when I began to acknowledge this and ask for help (through my “un-fines”) that the healing began. (We are awesome now, btw, through the grace of God and those He sent to help us!) But I’ve had so many friends who have come up to thank me for being honest and asking for help…for expressing my pain rather than quashing it. I do still struggle now sometimes over whether I should say “fine” in an attempt to look at the positive or whether to say “unfine” to acknowledge the pain. And I guess the answer, as you so aptly put it – “Community works best when we are real” – is as long as it’s REAL, it’s right. If I’m choosing joy, then I am fine. If I am slipping and sliding and need a hand, I am unfine. Thank you for your wisdom.

    • 41

      What a great image. If I were physically slipping and sliding down a hill – hair all messed up, grass stains on my shorts, and mud streaking my face – I would not hesitate to ask for help. Thanks for sharing your heart here.

  28. 42

    That is exactly what I was talking about in our recent conversation. So glad you there are moments of connecting with others just by the weight of your words of being “unfine”. I call it, “showing your stuff”. I find that when I “show my stuff” that most people feel courageous enough to share from their heart instead of living a pretense that isn’t always true. Thank you for sharing your heart, my friend.

  29. 43

    Perfect. I loved this. I like the honesty behind an ‘unfine’ response. This is a beautiful tool for reaching out to the sad and lost people around us.

  30. 44

    Community is built on authenticity- such open conversation is found in sharing how your really doing. Such a good reminder to speak my heart about each day- the good, the bad and the fab!

  31. 45

    I find my biggest struggle with not being “fine” is the possiblity that others will see my “unfine” as a lack of faith or as a charecteristic flaw. In the same day , however, I have no problem witnessing to someone in regards to my “unfine” past.

    It seems, for me at least, being ‘unfine’ is much easier in retrospect.

    • 46

      Oh, I know exactly what you’re saying! You are so right. We can sometimes feel guilty about not being okay. But, unfine is not a character flaw. It’s a byproduct of being human. We all experience it. And, because God knew this about us, he gave us grace. And chocolate. Thank goodness!

  32. 47

    Thank you, thank you, thank you.

    It’s hard to admit to not being okay. It’s hard to admit that you don’t have it all together.
    It’s so much easier to gloss over the hard parts of life, to not let people into the depths of pain that you truly feel.

    And yet, being ‘unfine,’ is so worth it.

    • 48
      Just Me says:

      This reminds me of something I read one time about the “real” meaning of the word fine: F-eelings I-nside N-ot E-xpressed. A real friend wont accept the answer “Fine,” to how you are doing. :)

  33. 49

    I’d gotten to where I would tell people how things were really going (a couple of months ago, things weren’t going well AT ALL), and I think I kind of scared them off. And there’s something to be said for timing. If I decide to answer, “unfine,” I need to make sure there’s time for that person to probe more deeply, and for me to listen to their own “unfine.” Otherwise, it’s kind of awkward.

    But I do think we need to start being more honest, or else, what are we doing? You know? What are we all doing as a human race, as Christians, as friends?

    • 50

      Great questions, Ann. And I agree. Sharing our unfine moments must be something we practice. We will make mistakes and we will have successes. Always, we love each other through it – always hoping the best. And, we keep asking those wonderful questions…

  34. 51

    i love this, all through my loss I just kept answering I’m fine and people began accepting and leaving. I am learning slowly that saying I’m not fine isn’t a failure its an opening to allow others to help you and you to help them.

  35. 52

    Authenticity is a winner in any circle, and we are all so fearful of being real. Thanks for writing a great post and one that should make a difference in many lives!

  36. 53
    Susan J says:

    How do you find a community where you can actually say I’m not fine all the time -
    I sing in our sanctuary choir and as mush as I would love to say I’m not fine and actually have someone open up to me or acknowledge that things do go wrong in all of our lives – my husband is self-employed and we have had do file bankruptcy the first of this year – and it has been so hard on me emotionally – just praying God will meet all of our needs ( which we know he always does) but I fight with totally trusting him to just do that. it seems like I have such a give and take relationship with Him – I always ask and give my problems to Him – but I’m always taking the back!! Just having a community to share this with and talk to someone about things going on in your life – would be such a wonderful relief. God Bless you for this post.

    • 54

      I’m good at that give and take thing, too. And I’m praying that you’d find real community right there where you live, Susan.

  37. 55

    LOVED THIS POST! I Just finished reading “Grace For The Good Girl” By Emily Freeman.
    She touched upon the mask wearing we tend to do in community more often than not. And she did mention the term “fine”. I Like your new word “unfine”….I’m going to adopt that word and use it in my community I hope you don’t mind?? I have made it my goal for a long time now to be able to share the unfine when God presses me to and time allows it…in my community. I happen to be a “barista” (coffe maker/server :) ) at a very popular coffee shop and have the privlege of consistently being really honest about the unfine in my life. I have watched God open up many people to share with me as well. This has allowed me to share the HOPE that I have in JESUS CHRIST. I have come to realize that people can most definitely relate to my unfine than my fine ;) . God Bless you and keep writing! I’m a grateful fan! :)

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  1. [...] at Incourage, Deidra wrote an inspiring response to Lisa-Jo about admitting to being Unfine: So on Monday morning, when my colleague asked me how I was, I took a deep breath and said, “Oh, [...]

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