How do you answer a question like that? I think most people ask this question just to be polite. For whatever reason, society has coined the phrase to represent a greeting instead of an actual question for the concern of another. It's silly, if you think about it. Most times you could care LESS how the person you are talking to actually is. Heaven forbid they try to even TELL you about it. But what's even sillier is how we knowingly answer the question we know no one wants the answer to: "Fine!" And then perhaps we'll continue with our little exchange with a half-hearted, "And you?"
I believe we have lost a considerable amount of our social graces and I think that's a shame. Perhaps it's one of those things that we no longer have time for in this fast paced world we live in. I remember a time when neighbors visited with each other, and it was not the least bit inconvenient. It was welcomed. People would just "drop in" or "drop by" and I bet when they were asked, "How are you?" the someone doing the asking really wanted to know.
Nobody wants a Gloomy Gus around, that's a given. And we ALL have troubles, right? That's the main reason I fake it (like you do too) and quickly quip "fine" or "great." Sometimes I steal a favorite line from my step-dad and reply that "I'm hanging in like an old rusty fish hook." I suppose that answer is a little more acurate, though laden with humor to help muddle through the awkward exchange of pleasantries without commiting to an all-out conversation.
The bible tells us , however, that we should bear one another's burdens (Galatians 6:2) thus fulfilling the law of Christ. As the body of Christ we are not supposed to operate individually. We need each other for guidance, counsel, encouragement, and at times reproof. Do you have that friend or family member to "bounce off" of? When is the last time you were that person for THEM? When is the last time you really listened to what your husband or your children were saying? Are you keeping yourself to the confines of your home, and ultimately your mind, not reaching out to ask for the help that you need?
An aquaintance asked me yesterday how I was. I was going to brush her question off with my usual answer until she said I looked like I needed to talk and perhaps "unload" a bit. She told me to call her anytime, then told me she loved me. This wasn't my best friend, or my mom... it was someone who I don't even consider a close friend. But she took the time to see something I didn't even know I was projecting and really wanted to know about it. And that floored me. Just another example that God will use whatever and whomever necessary to reach us. He sees us in our pain and suffering and brings people in our midst to help us carry the load. Not everyone that asks you how you are is going to want to do that. But the next time you ask someone how THEY are, maybe you will think of this and be a burden bearer for them. I know I will.