just OK

How’re you doing?

Good, thanks, you?

Good.

For a long time I was positive, I mean toxically positive, to the point where I believed positive thinking could get you through anything. One could argue this is helpful in many situations, but when talking to someone who has tried it all and is facing a seemingly impossible situation, “don’t worry, be happy” can seem offensive.

An example of this is when I would say hi to people, and every once in a while they responded with, “I’m OK” I would counter them with a “Just OK!?!” as if their answer was incomplete. Sometimes this would get people to change and say, “actually I’m doing pretty well!” and I’d take this as a victory.

Fast forward a few years and in the same situation, I also noticed myself going the other way. When someone would say, “I’m OK” I would swoop in and with a subdued, concerned tone, respond, “just OK?” Sometimes this would lead to a more intimate conversation where the person shared something difficult that was going on and I’d also take this as a victory.

Now in 2021, humbled, grounded, and with a healthier amount of positivity, I’m noticing more and more in this situation, instead of “good” more people responding, “I’m OK.”

This means that multiple times a week I’m faced with the choice – how do I respond?

I’ve decided on a new way forward, and have been doing something that sometimes I am afraid to do – leave it at that.

This doesn’t mean I don’t look on the bright side, and it doesn’t mean I don’t care or maybe follow-up with the person later. What it does mean is that we go through difficult times, each of us with a unique experience and challenges, and if we make the decision to be more honest and give voice to the OK, the in-between, then it should be able to stand without manipulation.

Sometimes yes, I do think it’s great to dig deeper, to let people know more is possible or to let them know I’m there to listen, but another important movement is acceptance with faith that the person will make their way.

See how you attempt to bring about change—both in yourself and in others—through the use of punishment and reward, through discipline and control, through sermonizing and guilt, through greed and pride, ambition and vanity, rather than through loving acceptance and patience, painstaking understanding and vigilant awareness.
― Anthony de Mello, The Way to Love

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