Is It OK to Not Be OK?


The quote on the cover of the 2021 July 19-26 issue of Time magazine is misleading. Beneath a crestfallen image of Japanese-born Naomi Osaka, the world’s reigning female tennis champion, is the bold statement, “It’s OK to not be OK.” The point of her feature article is quite simple. When this Olympian athlete refused to appear at a press conference due to emotional fatigue, she felt “a great amount of pressure to disclose my symptoms.” Did she fear retaliation? Would the media pin a “nervous breakdown” label on her that might lob her career into a tailspin? In fact, celebrities have a right to confidentiality and the paparazzi are aware of the legal action that can be taken against them for an invasion of privacy.

Ms. Osaka is asking if it is OK to suffer from a psychic illness. Let’s examine the thought behind this seemingly innocent question. If by OK we mean that all people, including public figures, should continue to be respected as human beings even when their psychological stability falters, then the answer is yes, of course. However, the query can be understood differently. Is it OK for any human being to have a disease? No. Any challenge to our wellbeing, whether physical, mental, social or spiritual, should never be regarded as an OK state for human life. Being fit is always preferable to being ill.

All three synoptic evangelists quote Our Lord who said, “Those who are well do not need a physician, but the sick do” (Matthew 9:12, Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31). A broken hip is not OK. Post-traumatic stress is not OK. A terrorizing street gang is not OK. And the context of Jesus’ words is the most significant of all. Sinning is not OK. Unrepentant offenders need a Savior. When we commit evil deeds, we need Christ, the merciful practitioner, to rescue us from doing spiritual harm to ourselves and to others.

In 1967 Dr. Thomas Harris, chief of psychiatry for the Department of the Navy, published his best-selling book, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” which is still being sold more than 50 years later. The title may incorrectly suggest that Harris was promoting a saccharine approach to an everything-goes, live-and-let-live mentality. On the contrary, the final two chapters discuss improving morality and society and conclude by exploring aspects of Christianity and the nature of religion.

But there is a far more dangerous interpretation of the Harris title if we favor the Time motto as a moral aspiration. That is, if it is OK to not be OK, then in terms of the ethical development of civilization the next step down this wickedly slippery slope will be: I’m not OK (because I sin) and you’re not OK (because you sin) and this is perfectly OK. In other words, committing a sin suddenly becomes impeccably fine because it conforms to and confirms a “culture of relativism,” which accepts immoral behavior as a matter of free choice and even a right.

Morally speaking, it is not OK to not be OK!

Holy Homework. Let’s place a tennis ball, or a picture of one, in the middle of the kitchen table during the month of August. This can serve as a daily reminder to volley for good health physically, mentally, socially and spiritually.

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