"They were drilling my teeth and I kept thinking....this should NOT be the best part of my day"
This was said to me by a friend I work with. She had been to the dentist the day before and that day was a particularly rough day for her. When your day is so terrible that the dentist drilling your teeth becomes the highlight of the day, you know things are bad. I certainly can identify with that. I suppose we all can.
I wish I could say I'm honest with people whenever they ask, "How's it going?". I'm not. I lie. All the time. I usually answer, "Good, and you?". There's another lie. I really don't want to know most of the time. I only have a handful of people in my life I ever want an honest answer to that question from and I have an even smaller circle of people I will give an honest answer to. My wife is one that falls into both groups. We share almost everything (even marriage has some personal boundaries). And then there's a really, really small circle of friends I will share things with or want them to share with me. The aforementioned workmate is one. I have perhaps two more I can name off the top of my head. One I only see maybe once a year.
But that isn't my point. My point is I wonder how I should be responding to people. I don't really want to be honest. And unless they fall into that really tiny circle I spoke of I am certain they really don't want to hear an honest answer to their pseudo inquiry anyway. And I really don't want an honest answer to my forced response. If we are going to be honest the question and response are merely social expectations and that is the end of it.
I am thinking that the next time I am asked the question and the inquisitor is not in my very exclusive network I will respond, "Why do you care?" or, "What's it to you?". I know that isn't really polite and I am a jerk, but it is honest. I could just say, "Good" or "Terrible". That may be honest and less offensive if not binary (which works for me as a programmer). But instead of a follow up question I could just say, "I don't care about how you feel, so let's just end this". But again, that sounds awful even if it is honest. So maybe I will just stare at them. Creepy, but effective. Or maybe I should just walk away. I'll have to think that one over.
My priest, when he asks that question and thinks you are being less than honest, will call you a liar. So there's another possibility if you really truly want an honest answer. That's if you really want to give an honest answer. Maybe you don't. Maybe I don't. That is fine. But maybe we are afraid you don't want to hear our answer and need a bit more encouragement to share. I once was asked by a pastor how I was doing and when I started to tell him he saw someone else he needed to talk to and walked off with me in mid-sentence. So you'll forgive me if sometimes I need a good show of faith concerning your sincerity.
In the end I really don't have a good answer to how to answer. Honesty is good policy most of the time, but not all of the time (regardless what you were taught in kindergarten with mythical stories of our first president). But with those people you call "friend" there will be an understanding. A special understanding that allows you to be honest while at the same time acknowledging your dishonesty with a knowing wink. Not the "friends" on social media but real friends. I have found they are very difficult to come by mostly because such friendships take a lot of time and effort and pain and growing. But when they do come along they are well worth it.