I’m a people pleaser. I like for things to be harmonious and peaceful, for everyone to be content, and for there to be absolutely NO CONFLICT. Even so, I think I maintain a pretty healthy balance of not being a walking doormat, which is not something I can claim for my younger self. Actually, during my high school and early college years, I pretty well determined never to voice my opinion or desires. Instead, I essentially let others do whatever they would like. (Brave? No. But it felt safe.)
As a result, I developed an awful habit of responding “It’s okay” to just about every injustice, inconvenience, or hurt that I suffered. It was as though, if I could just convince everyone that I was unaffected, it would be true. So I never really thought through forgiveness or excusing the wrongs that were done. Instead, I just muttered, “It’s okay,” (of course not meaning a word of it) and continued on, all the while holding on to what had been done.
In my freshman year of college, I met a friend who challenged my use of “It’s okay,” among many other things. One day, we found ourselves in the midst of an argument. He had asked me for forgiveness for something-or-other (I seem to remember that it wasn’t anything big or something I necessarily viewed as needing forgiveness). I casually responded, “It’s okay,” thinking that was the same as expressing my obvious forgiveness. However, to this particular friend, it wasn’t the same thing. Not by a long shot.
This is where the argument arose. He was searching for a verbal acknowledgement of his need for forgiveness and a response to the affirmative (“I forgive you”) or negative (“I’m unable to forgive you”). But my thoughtless “It’s okay” addressed neither of these. In fact, in reacting to my response, he inadvertently hit the heart of the situation: I was accustomed to responding “It’s okay” to any given situation regardless of whether it was actually okay or not. The words were entirely meaningless.
I don’t know that I immediately stopped using the phrase. I’m not even sure if it was done with much intentionality at all. But I do know that, today, I don’t say “It’s okay,” and it’s very intentional. Because, here’s the thing: If someone does something to hurt me, it’s not “okay.” I can extend forgiveness to the person or assure them that there are no hard feelings. But I’m no longer willing to offer a meaningless, untrue phrase in order to make someone feel better about a wrong they’ve done. I would rather address the issue, admit I was hurt, and work through the situation with the person than put a verbal band-aid on the situation. I think that, in the long run, it ends up being much more productive.