I'm fine!

Removing masks and growing into wholeness

Wendy Billington

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I have known Wendy for many years as a friend and as a pastoral carer. She is passionate about people-helping and about churches becoming places where we can be real with ourselves, one another and God so as to facilitate genuine community and individual growth into wholeness. Drawing on her own personal life as well as on her long and wide pastoral experience and her scriptural insights, Wendy makes practical suggestions as to how these goals can be achieved.
Jean Watson, contributor, Day by Day with God


In this book Wendy Billington gently explores ways of helping people remove the 'I'm fine!' mask and grow through the challenges posed by issues such as loneliness, low self-esteem and parenting pain, as well as a variety of addictive behaviours. Those struggling with particular problems in their lives may feel they can't be honest about their circumstances even - perhaps especially - in a church context. Isolation, shame, and anxiety about how others will perceive them can add to their difficulties, compounding them with a sense of being locked in with the problem.

Using case studies, Bible teaching and practical guidelines, Wendy shows how church members can understand and support one another, not only helping individuals but building a community that is characterised by loving, sensitive pastoral care.

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I have known Wendy for many years as a friend and as a pastoral carer. She is passionate about people-helping and about churches becoming places where we can be real with ourselves, one another and God so as to facilitate genuine community and individual growth into wholeness. Drawing on her own personal life as well as on her long and wide pastoral experience and her scriptural insights, Wendy makes practical suggestions as to how these goals can be achieved.
Jean Watson, contributor, Day by Day with God

Sensitively uncovers the varied pains that might lie behind that cheery 'I'm fine, thanks!' - and particularly the shame that keeps things locked away in secret.
From the foreword by Steve Motyer

Author info

Wendy has been a key worker in pastoral care at St Nicholas Church, Sevenoaks, over a number of years. She is involved in training people in listening and other pastoral skills and in marriage enrichment courses. Her one to one work includes listening to and supporting individuals and their families in relational situations, bereavement, crises and illness. She is a director of the Sevenoaks Christian Counselling Service and has written Growing a Caring Church (BRF, 2010).


"I'm fine!" is an answer we all give when asked how we are doing, without even thinking about it. This book aims to unpack the issues that lurk behind this reply, raising awareness of the variety of life's struggles which the answer tries to mask. By understanding the silent sufferings of others, we are more able, when the opportunity arises for those masks to come down, to minister to them.

I'm Fine! explores 10 topics; from depression and loneliness through to relationship issues, financial issues, addictions and loss. The structure of the book allows for dipping into topics that are most relevant, or to explore more widely the whole range of issues that we and others may face. Each chapter includes helpful reflections intermingled with real - life stories of those who have faced such issues with varying outcomes, and concludes with a prayer for those struggling with that issue, and suggestions on where to go for help, and how to help others in need.

I found this book a reminder that we all face difficulties and, just as we struggle at times, so do others - although their struggles may be over completely different issues. Being awakened to the reality of these struggles in our own lives, puts us in a position to see the warning signs in the lives of others and be better equipped to provide support and point others to the professional help they need.

I would recommend this book to all who have a pastoral role in church, and those who want to enlarge their ability to care as Christians. It will also be useful to those facing difficult situations themselves, who need the reassurance that others have been through similar times and have emerged successfully from them. This book brings hope to the darkest places of our lives.

The Revd Catey Morrison is a United Reformed Church minister within the East Cleveland Group of URCs.

Published in Reform Magazine, May 2014

The author is the Director of the Sevenoaks Counselling Service, as well as being involved in a pastoral care role in her local Anglican church. Her listening and pastoral experience shines through in this helpful book. Wendy tries to get behind the usual 'I'm fine' response on a Sunday in church when we all ask each other how we are. She tackles issues such as low self-esteem, depression, loneliness, marriage, financial pressures, parenting pain, loss addictions, domestic abuse and fear of change. In such a short volume (176 pages) no subject is tackled exhaustively, but just enough to give the 'lay person' helpful insights to enable them to draw alongside someone else in pain. However, the way the subjects are explored means that this book could be safely given to someone in trouble themselves. In fact each chapter contains advice about how people can help themselves , how the Bible and God can help and how the church can help, as well as a short prayer. The author tackles each subject with pastoral as well as biblical insights, and avoids the trap of using the scriptures as aspirins - a pill for every ill. Case studies keep the book grounded in the realities of people's lives. The author is very insightful, particularly on how problems can affect people's spiritual lives. A handy book, especially for the pastoral worker .

Sheila Stephen, Counsellor and Visiting Lecturer on Active Listening at WEST (Wales Evangelical School of Theology). Published in Evangelicals Now April 2014

From Diocese of Rochester Pastoral assistants newsletter

We've all been there. Whether we've said it ourselves or heard someone else in Church say it when asked the question 'how are you' and back comes the response 'Oh I'm fine.' It often hides all sorts of things and can be a hard mask to remove. One of our own Pastoral Assistants in the Diocese has again put pen to paper and given us an incredibly down to earth (that is a compliment) readable and very practical book to help us deal with some of the masks we encounter in pastoral ministry. Wendy picks a number of everyday issues such as low self esteem, depression, break down of relationships and in each chapter gives a paragraph on the main challenges and causes. She then offers us some real life scenarios from her own experience of life and from the those she has walked alongside. Then by asking the questions 'How people can help themselves' gives help steps and offers a helpful commentary on what the Bible is saying and how it can help in offering assurance or support. She then finishes each chapter with some really down to earth suggestions and a resource page at the very back. Very helpful and one for the bookshelves of all those involved in pastoral ministry.

From Caring Magazine - December 2013

Although many in our churches have not, thankfully, experienced the appalling traumas of exploitation and abuse... many others have or are undergoing a variety of damaging psychological conditions, life experiences and health problems. And, being British Christians for whom keeping a stiff upper lip at all times under adversity has become almost a doctrinal necessity, all too often they keep those issues, and the emotional consequences of suffering them, politely under wraps at all times - even though they may be screaming inside. Their response to the casual 'How are you?' inquiry, therefore, both in church and elsewhere, is almost invariably a superficial 'I'm Fine', when they are in reality anything but.

Wendy Billington's new book, I'm Fine sets out gently to explore ways in which people in church and outside it may be encouraged to grow through and beyond the major challenges posed by issues such as loneliness, domestic abuse, bereavement, addiction and low self-esteem.

Aimed at a wide, general readership, each of I'm Fine's ten chapters explores one particular problem area and unpacks it through individual stories (mostly based on real, though anonymised, experiences), outlines possible causes and effects and gives possible insights into what might be going on. They then suggest how people can help themselves, the contribution churches can make and the major part God and the Bible may play, too. A prayer for all those experiencing these particular problems is followed, finally, by a series of very constructive and practical suggestions. Short bibliography and resources sections at the end provide much useful information for those wanting, or needing, to take things further.

What I like in particular about I'm Fine is its uncompromising realism. It is always firmly rooted in a strong Christian context and world view but it also tries hard to combat any tendency to over spiritualise complex medical or psychological conditions. So, for example, it cautions Christians not to confuse low self esteem with humility and says that those who "consider it a sin and weakness to suffer from depression may have to face up to the reality that God doesn't always answer their prayers in the way they anticipate".

Billington then offers some very wise words about the role of the GP, counselling and medication in overcoming depression and learning how to develop new, healthier mindsets, which for the Christian will include the all-important knowledge of God's total acceptance and forgiveness. And as one who has suffered the very painful bereavements of people very close to me, I empathised wholeheartedly with the story of 'Diana' and her "deep inner sadness that she doesn't envisage will ever go away".

What I thought especially helpful about how I'm Fine deals with it is how it breaks it down into its various types. These include emotional, sexual, financial and - perceptively and unusually, for this type of abuse is not yet widely recognised, even within the church - spiritual abuse. This Billington defines as making excessive demands on others to conform to certain types of behaviour, against the abused person's beliefs or desires, often justified by theological arguments or Biblical proof texts. She is also clear that the church can be a great source of support for both the victim of domestic abuse and its perpetrator.

I'm Fine is an excellent book. Its 176 pages are clearly set out and easy to read. They accurately set out both the problems so many people face and some very practical solutions to them. Both those suffering from these issues, as well as those trying to help them cope and recover, would benefit hugely from reading it. And a good way for churches to start would be from now on to ban 'I'm fine' as a response to anyone genuinely asking 'How are you?'

Reviewed by Iain Taylor, Head of Communications, CCPAS

Book details

  • ISBN: 9781841018713
  • Published: 18 October 2013
  • Status:
  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 176
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