A Misleading Question & Cheap Claims of Friendship…

February 12, 2014

As a blogger, one of my goals this year is to allow our readers to know me a bit more.  As a result, I will share some things here throughout the year that are more personal in nature.  Some of those things will be light hearted and humorous, and others will be more serious.  For the purposes of self-disclosure, I recently wrote a semi-humorous post entitled 20 Things That Drive Me Insane! (on the inside of course).  Since writing that post, I have thought of two more things that I would like to add to the list. I HATE misleading questions,  (I’m thinking of one in particular), and I HATE cheap claims of friendship.  In today’s post, I’d like to explain why these two things make me want to drive off a very large cliff.

How Are You?

In my opinion, one of the most commonly asked misleading questions is the question How are you?  

I have grown to really despise that question in the way it is commonly asked.  Seriously.  In my opinion, this question should only be asked in the proper context.  If the question How are you? is asked in the wrong context, it becomes very misleading.  In addition to it being misleading, it puts the one being asked in a very awkward position.  

Rarely does the one asking the question have the time, desire, or ability to be present long enough to actually hear the true answer to the question.  The question is normally just a common meaningless pleasantry.  The question carries an appearance of concern, yet it is often hollow of substance.  If you don’t believe me, the next time you’re in the grocery store and the cashier asks How are you?  Answer them.  Really, answer them.  

Tell them if you’re having a difficult day.  Tell them why.  Tell them if you’re having a great day, and tell them why.  Don’t be vague.  Explain it well.  Answer their question fully.  If you need to take a few minutes to think about the question, tell them to give you some time to think about how to adequately respond.  Do this to all who ask you this question, and you’ll find out pretty quickly just how hollow and misleading this question usually is.  

For the record, I would just like to state that you don’t need to ask me this question as a greeting or pleasantry.  When you see me, you can simply look at me and smile.  Give me a head nod.  You could even say “It’s so nice to see you”.  That’s all that is needed to acknowledge my presence.  Please don’t put me in that awkward position of saying Fine.  I really have no idea what is meant by that obscure word anyway.  It could mean a plethora of things.  If you really want to know how I’m doing, make sure we’re in the right context so I can actually answer the damn question.  If we’re not in the right context, let’s spend some time together so we can find out the answer to this potentially important and involved question.  That’s all I have to say about this subject.

Cheap Claims of Friendship

I don’t have many friends.  Please hear me out.  I’m not saying this in a pity party sort of way.  This is not a bad thing, or a good thing.  It’s just a statement of reality.  Yes I know a lot of people, and yes I love lots of people, but true friendship is another matter entirely.  As a matter of fact, most people I know don’t have many friends.  I think if we understand friendship correctly, we’ll see that most people don’t have (nor are meant to have) many friends.  The reason for this is because friendship was meant to be significant and rare.  Jesus set the bar for friendship quite high, and seeing friendship from His perspective will radically affect how we approach our friendships.  

“No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you” (John 15:15, emphasis mine).

The reason Jesus called His disciples His friends was because He was able to share EVERYTHING His Father gave Him for them with them.  This is the best definition of friendship that I have ever heard, and it also narrows the playing field as well.  To be able to share ‘ALL‘ that you hear from the Lord with another requires a significant relationship.  It takes a specific alignment and open pathway for giver and receiver to exchange divine life.  This leads to a shared life with another.  Such friendships are not of this realm.  They begin and are rooted in a heavenly realm (John 17:6).

Understanding friendship through the lens of Jesus’ definition has changed the way I refer to people.  Contrary to popular opinion, I have come to realize that we cannot make or lose friends.  We simply recognize the friends that we have been given from above.  

I rarely refer to someone, or introduce someone as my friend these days.  This doesn’t mean that I don’t significantly love that person, it simply means that the term friendship is reserved for folks with whom the Lord has opened the doors for me to significantly relate to.  As a result, I want to pull my hair out every time I hear cheap claims of friendship being tossed around.  

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest:)

Jamal Jivanjee    

Jamal Jivanjee

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45 responses to A Misleading Question & Cheap Claims of Friendship…

  1. Jamal you are becoming one of my dearest friends and I love you sincerely from the heart.
    By the way how are you ?

  2. Through The Spirit we are given new understanding to our words, and are seeing they truly have depth, and profound meaning. This is beautifully expressed here Jamal, to truly refer to someone as a friend, we must share everything, the ‘good, the bad, and the ugly’.

    Intimacy is the key to friendship.

    “The Disciples came to Him…” in private, Matthew 13:10-36

  3. Hmm, if you are against the question of “How are you” when the person doesn’t really care; and if you don’t like the term “friend” being thrown around, it surprises me that you would be so loose with the phrase “I want to pull my hair out” 🙂

  4. Agreed. Good word. Both ideas you present speak to a shallowness in our lives we are unaware of. But I am beginning to see these ideas ideas percolate in the Body’s consciousness and I believe it is the Father calling us to distinguish the shallow from the deep, His call to us to reexamine our relationship with others and with Him. Deep calls unto deep… Do we hear the call?

  5. Hey Jamal,
    I just wanted to say how much I agree with the thoughts you have expressed above.
    With regard to the question “How are you?” I often respond back with “Do you really want to know?” accompanied with a smile. When Jonathan and I first came to the States, it took us a while to learn that people don’t really mean it at all and would answer them fully as you describe! The upside was that it often proved to be an open door to share Jesus since He was the reason we came to the States in the first place! (We are still frequently asked 22 years later about why we came…).
    And I whole-heartedly agree that one is truly blessed to have a handful of true friends. Again, I do not use this word lightly since true friends are so very precious (especially the One True Friend…).
    Many use the term “love” very loosely indeed (especially given all the biblical definitions of the word…) and I do not like it when people who do not know me at all tell me they “love” me and certainly show no evidence that this is true. It might be more accurate to say I really like you…I sometimes think that in the Body we use this word as though somehow saying it to the person makes it true…I do understand that we do WANT to love each other and we are commanded to do so and by His LIFE in us it is possible. But we need to feel it is true as well and to return to the point, true friendship is sometimes born quickly but in my experience more often over a period of time. My true friends have been so for 52 years, 45 years, 44 years, 22 years and 20 years and counting! I remain ever hopeful of finding new true friends…
    Thanks for posting this today, it has caused me to be uplifted as I think on these things!

  6. Love both of these. The “How are you?” part covered the first side well. And you touched on what I wrote about with the other side, the response, which usually is “I’m fine” here.

    Caution – crude word used for emphasis.


  7. You have as usual hit the nail on the head with your hammer..that phrase-how are you is one that I have disliked for years especially as a Christian because the only answer you get is-fine..this I say is the condition of our so called friendships that we call Christianity in modern day terms.

  8. What a wonderful and deeply needed writing!

    These two issues have been in my heart for awhile now. On the reality and illusion of the questin, “How are you?” I see it as no more than a common social pleasentry which has no actual reality of pleasant. After all, if a person asks how you are then they are not likely your friend, because a friend knows how you are since friends are those who have a living face-to-face relationship. Friends are those whom you can share all your Heart with knowing that they will not judge you, yet they are truly listening. In Christ, a friend is someone who doesn’t jump on your words of the expression of Christ because they cannot see the reality of His expression. Friends long for one another’s company, and treasure the time and life they share together. A friend will always, without hesitation, give up their rights of self to love you more and more, and this goes both ways in receiving and giving one another. It is false expression of love to ask “How are you,?” When there is no time to answer, or while in a crowd thus you cannot possibly answer, or as you are leaving out the door. Why ask if you do not want to know? A habit of pretense that belongs to the world’s language of socially dead common pleasantry. It is a learned language to keep a distance between one another. I agree whole heartedly with you!

  9. Dammit, Jamal!

  10. Reminds me of the TV commercial where two businessmen in suits meet in the office in the morning, and one says to the other — “How are you?” The other guy begins a litany of woes — “I had a flat tire on the way in to work, I sprained my ankle while shooting hoops, and my allergies are acting up terribly….” The guy who asked the question rolls his eyes disinterestedly and wishes to disappear from the office.

    The question is asked often, but almost no one wants to hear the candid answer!.

    • Great example Jon! The pleasantry question is an accepted standard of social protocol as you bring out in your example. Therefore, it is not intended to get a true-life response. The asker gave nothing in the empty words, so then, an actual reply immediately finds contempt and judgement, or a void of indifference, belittling the responder. The illusionary question is merely a practiced duty, as are all things that do not exist in Love. If not asked in Love, I find this question to be a cruelty and a cunning form of rejection as it promots it’s false identity of interest and concern.

    • Very true Jon. Maybe asking ‘How are you?’ in the proper context could be added to the book ’58-0′? But then the title would have to be changed to ’59-0′;)

  11. A close friend will never have to ask “How are you?” because a close friend is so involved in your life that they will already know how you are and be there to celebrate, mourn, hurt, heal, rejoice or whatever with you. There are many we are “friendly” with, but, like you stated so eloquently Jesus did set the bar very high for these close friendships. Like you, I don’t have very any of these close friends, but I am growing into some of these with saints here locally – and some farther away. It’s not an overnight process, but rather an “organic” experience that takes time and effort to nurture to maturity.

    • Well said Mark. These kinds of friendships do take time and effort to nurture to maturity. The journey is well worth it, however.

  12. Jamal- this post is so timely for me, i feel like i just took in a clean breath of air.

    I have recently experienced the reality of what friendship means and upon taking inventory I realized there was none to take. I second your notion of having no pity party about it, but rather having the confidence to state the truth. True friendship is absolutely a gift from God and I pray to taste its goodness, for as we all come to understand His fullness, we will be swimming in desire for one another!

    • Jenn,

      Thanks for reading sister. I’m so glad that you have had the opportunity to experience the reality of His friendship through another recently. I know that you know how rare and precious it truly is. Also, I really like how you worded the last line in your comment:

      “…as we all come to understand His fullness, we will be swimming in desire for one another!”

      So true and glorious!

  13. I like the sense of humor from Vinny and Craig, had my laugh for the day.

    I always considered the question , how are you? as an ice breaker to begin a conversation, but you have said you like to hear, it’s so nice to see you. I will do this next time I meet someone I know. Your right about most of us not having many true friends and friendship from God is truly exchanging divine life. I have a friend like that given to me from God. It has taken almost 9 yrs. for us to come to the place of accepting each other as salt and light , iron sharpening iron, as God used each of our different personalities to complete the lack in our lives. We began to see that God was the one talking between us to each other and now the flow of the Spirit life comes with ease as we have given up our own opinions for Holy Spirits counsel.
    By the way, I’m fine!

    • Mary,

      So glad to hear about the divine friendship that the Lord has gifted you with. Isn’t it amazing how the Lord becomes illuminated as we share His life with one another? It’s a profound mystery! Thanks for sharing Mary:)

  14. Jamal,

    I like the point you make in both cases.
    We all have our own definition of things, including friendship, but what The Lord defines is what matters.
    As you point out, it seems He gives us the definition of friendship here in John 15:15. And is the fact that he shares everything with them, but is not just the “everything part”, is the “things he heard from His Father “, that’s what qualifies for friendship from Jesus’ point of view, is “sharing everything heard from Father”.
    Before He shared, He had to hear from Father, had nothing to share without hearing from Him, it was His close friendship with the Father first, that enabled the friendship with them, therefore no true friendship, without true friendship with The Lord first.
    No true intimacy, without true intimacy with The Lord first. Though He lives inside of us, intimacy with Him does not happen automatically, he awaits our response, and we learn to practice that daily, by making ourselves available to Him.

    True Friendship is not a thing in itself, it is the manifestation of The Lord Jesus. When we realize we have nothing, that all we have is what we receive from Him as gifts, and accept that with thanksgiving, we are content whatever comes our way. We have Him in us all the time, our Best Friend, the One who is able to fully satisfy us inwardly, in every circumstance. Learning to be best friends with Jesus, to satisfy His need in us first, the rest is up to Him, He is sovereign. And he has promised ” he who loves me, will be loved by my Father, and I will love Him and manifest Myself to him” John 14:21

    The name of Abraham is mentioned more than 70 times in New Testament alone,
    that’s significant, and he was “God’s friend”.

    “That which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us, and truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ”. 1 John 1:3

    • Marsela,

      Wow. Your comment is worth gold! I hope all will read and take to heart what you have shared here. I love the attention you give to the nature of true friendship. The only thing worth sharing with another is what we have heard from the Father. There are a couple of lines from your comment that jump out at me:

      “No true intimacy, without intimacy with the Lord first. Though He lives inside of us, intimacy with Him does not happen automatically, he awaits our response, and we learn to practice that daily, by making ourself available to Him”.

      “True friendship is not a thing in itself, it is the manifestation of the Lord Jesus”.

      So good! Thanks for sharing Marsela:)

    • Beautifully said, Marsela. <3

    • Thank you Marsela for this. It was like a cool drink of water for me this morning and it’s still refreshing me.

    • Marsela, the beauty of your comments sink deeply into me, and once again thank you for sharing your beautiful heart.

  15. You shared that these rare friendships are divine gifts from above… what is completely amazing to me is how we are given the Lord’s heart for the friends that He places in our lives. His heart transcends space and time in such a way that there is a strong bond and connection regardless of things seen by our physical eyes. Life in spirit and friendship in this realm is continually flowing, bridging any kind of gap (space, time, personality differences, communication styles) we may think will hinder these true friendships.

    • Nischelle,

      Thank you for this comment. This is my thought exactly as well. It never ceases to amaze me that the Lord entrusts us with His heart for another. The strong bond that is formed is truly from a heavenly realm in Christ as it endures space, time, and natural faculties. What a marvelous mystery!

  16. Thank you Jamal and Pamela!

  17. Jamal,

    Is that why you call me sister?… because you don’t consider me a friend… 🙂

    Oh, and I like to collect saying which are just as cheap as the answer fine. In fact, typically I like to give creative answers rather than lying to someone about having a bad day. My favorite is from my grandpa, “I’m hanging in there like a hair in a biscuit”. My cousin George’s says, “I’m alive”. Which is kind of odd but a conversation starter – there are so many ways to go with this!

    Shoot. I thought I had more… maybe I just can’t think of them before 8am… Help, I need more.

    Well, since I’m statistically not likely to be your friend,..

    Your sister,

  18. I love this post and the comments! I’ve learned so much about the true nature of friendship since becoming a part of a relational fellowship. I have very few real friends, some who’re becoming friends, and a number I had once counted as friends but have come to understand that they’re really nothing more acquaintances. I used to envy those who had a wide circle of “friends,” but not any more. I’d rather have just a few friends with whom I can truly relate in Christ and His love through the bond that Nischelle describes, than a lot with whom there’s no real relationship at all.

  19. The desire to be loved, to know and be known, to rest in the security of another’s love is a passion that burns in the old creation. This is a hunger that cannot be satisfied regardless of the depth of the marriage in one person.

    This hunger, this thirst for intimacy, understanding, compassion, and Love can only be experienced ‘in’ The New Creation.

    Here we are drawn to Jesus, we begin to see the ocean of His Love, and our hearts are stirred, and we lovingly long to know more, to drink more deeply. As The Lord of Love directs our path He brings to us ‘living stones’ and from this we see and experience His Love from another saint or saints, In this Holy union, this gathering of “Lovers in Training” we have our hearts opened to greater vistas of His Love. Here we see the depth and beauty of the Lords body, and the Treasure we see in one another. This is where we begin to learn His Loving command:

    “Love each other as I have loved you.Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

    This word ‘friends’ takes on new meaning, and with profound depth, and beauty. It is this Love that the world is so deeply needing to experience, for it is this Love that we find our ‘first Love’ the Love that was before time, it is our time to renew and rediscover this Love ‘in’ The Lord of Love

  20. Hi Jamal!
    I found you over at Wanda’s blog, http://wateredsoul.com, and I’m pleasantly surprised. This is a wonderfully raw post about friendship and how we throw-around sentiments without any feeling. I, too, have few friends and that’s okay. In our society we are taught to get-along with each other, not get-to-know each other. So, we go about our days asking others how they are, without really caring or expecting a response. When I stop to talk to folks and inquire about their lives, they are thrown for a loop. It’s a little bit funny and sad, too. But, I will continue to actually care about others, because my Father cared about me so much, that He shed drops of blood. Yep! I’ll continue to ask, listen and respond. After all, isn’t that why we are here…to care and lift each other? Take care. Glad to have found you.

    • Cynthia,

      Thanks for your comment. I’m so glad that you found the blog and that you found this post to be helpful. Please come back often and jump into the conversation:)

  21. Jamal –
    You raise so many points to think about. We throw the term “friend” around when the relationship truly is an acquaintance. I have few “friends” as well and I am fine with that. I do think that social media adds to this where the goal often becomes having a large # associated with your name.
    Your post reminded me of a life changing situation I experienced, much to my dismay, but I have never forgotten…In church, I was walking past a woman who, at that time, was sharing her experiences of a very painful divorce. It was never a quick nor easy conversation with her & that morning, I had someone else who I need to get to. So in walking past her, I kept my stride as I was not intending to stop & said, “Good morning, how are you?” And I continued walking as the response was supposed to be “Fine”. That is the polite response we expect, no? But from behind me I heard her voice, “Horrible.” Let me tell you, it stopped me dead in my tracks. I turned around, told her to push over in the pew and we talked. I also asked her forgiveness. I also have determined never to do that again. And that was years ago now.
    I am glad that I stopped from The Watered Soul this morning. Very good post!

    • Joanne,

      What a powerful story you shared. Thank you. So glad that you visited the blog. Please come back more often:)

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