Everybody is Not Okay


Let’s eavesdrop on a conversation that happens everywhere, all the time. It’s okay, because it’s not a real conversation.

How are you?
I’m okay. And you?
Also okay. Thanks.

Liar. He’s not okay. Neither is the other guy. They just know the script. Maybe they really are okay. But a lot of us aren’t. No one will admit it, though. Instead, we play along, read the script, smile and shake hands, and pretend that it’s okay.

Have you ever told somebody that you’re not okay? It can be a fun little social experiment, if you’re a little bit sick. It can also be unbelievably disheartening to watch someone squirm because they don’t know how to handle such honesty.

Whoever said honesty is the best policy was being dishonest.

Actually, I went looking for the origin of this modern-day proverb, and I have some unsettling news for you. This quote was first uttered by a politician. Sir Edwin Sandys wrote these words in 1599. Politicians telling people to be honest is as good as any joke I’ve heard today.

A politician first said that honesty is the best policy. Never trust a politician. Click To Tweet

Honestly, honesty isn’t always the best way to make friends. You should absolutely lie in certain measures in order to appear likable. It’s social survival.

So I’m kind of joking, but only a little bit. Let’s face it. When you greet someone and ask “How are you?” you’re not really inquiring as to their welfare. You’re just breathing meaningless words of greeting because you’ve been conditioned to do it this way. Am I being too harsh? Maybe, but I’m not wrong. It’s not an honest question. It’s just platitudes. It’s how we speak. Polite, but meaningless.

I’m starting to think that when someone reads the greeting script, it is best to shut up and read your lines. I’m good. I’m doing well. I’m fine as frog’s hair. Whatever. Don’t ad lib something crazy and blow the interaction. Play along, because it is polite to do so. Besides, the person in front of you might be trying to shake everyone’s hand in the whole church. It’s a lofty goal, but it means that he doesn’t have time for meaningful interaction. Be okay. Let hime move on.

It’s fine if you’re not okay in every sense of the word. You can’t always have it all together. I certainly know that I don’t. But I’m convinced that it’s not a lie to say I’m okay when I’m not, because okay is an ambiguous enough word that no matter how badly I’m doing, I’m still okay.

No matter what darkness I’m gazing into, I am still breathing, not suffering from hunger or disease, and have no immediate concern for my safety. I’m okay. But underneath veneer of a casual greeting, maybe I’m not okay. Maybe I’ve spent nights in a row crying myself to sleep. Maybe I’m skipping meals because my anxiety is doing its miserable job miserably well. It’s possible that I’m feeling tempted to revisit old habits, take up drinking, surf pornography on the internet, or am so full of doubt that I’m not even sure what I believe about God, life, or anything anymore. But it could be worse. I’m okay enough to be here. That’s something.

However, find people with whom you can be honest. Find several if you can, because you need them. We desperately need people with whom we can be honest in all matters.

I need friends who can hear about my struggles, my temptations, my failings, the shortcomings that I feel so heavily most of the time, and everything else that weighs me down and make me not okay. And I’ve got a couple of these people, and I sincerely hope that they know how much I love and appreciate them. They don’t hear it enough.

Unless you want the world to know your darkest parts, be careful where you share them. Jimmy the grinning glad-hander at church might also be Jimmy the ear-bending gossip hound. Don’t trust Jimmy.

(If you’re name is Jimmy, I’m not necessarily talking about you. However, if you’re a gossip hound, I am talking about you. Knock that crap off!)

Ask me how I’m doing. I’m okay. I’m really not, but I’ll pretend, because if I’ve learned anything, being honest with everyone is dangerous. But if I’m okay enough to leave the house, than I am okay enough to say so, and if I want to get into it with you, you’ll know.


  1. Corie

    One of my patient’s told she was fine. She asked me, “DO you know what fine stands for? Frustrated, Insecure, Neurotic and Emotional” Lol…I had to agree. When I say I’m fine I’m usually feeling these emotions.

    1. Ryan (Post author)

      I think a lot of us are “fine” quite often, but I’m striving to be less fine. Some days have more success than others…


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