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I want to say something about the word "Okay".

I have noticed that people often end an argument by saying, "Okay" to the person who is criticising them. But it doesn't really resolve the matter.

This word, more than any other, seems to capture the spirit of repression, which we have discussed in other articles. It epitomises outward compliance with what is being said, without necessarily expressing a single shred of agreement.

It's not like the word has no place in the Christian vocabulary. There are times when something is neither right nor wrong, and so we just consent to the will of the majority, or the directive of the leader. In such circumstances, "okay" or something similar is probably suitable.

But there are other times when a valid criticism is being made, and the proper response is for you to state whether or not you accept the truth in the criticism. If you don't, then saying okay is an attempt to throw your critic off-guard and to sneak out of the grievance, by pretending that everything has been cleared up. Okay becomes an excuse not to apologise, an excuse not to confess to the truth in what has been said, and (in your subconscious) an excuse to see yourself as the gracious one and your critic as the person who is making a big deal over nothing.

Bitterness results from such an approach, because resolution of the disagreement can never come from such an evasive action. Compliance is not the same as accepting the truth in what has been said. And if you do not accept the truth, then you can chalk it up in your mental notebook as an injustice that you have just suffered. It will not go away (even when your conscious memory forgets the specifics of the incident) and it will hang over your relationship with the person or group who did the criticising.

Imagine God pointing out to you that you have sinned, and offering you forgiveness if you will confess it, and you responding with, "Okay". Can you see how inappropriate it is? It sounds almost condescending, like you are the one giving permission to him to do whatever it is that he wants to do. On a much smaller scale, that is what we do to each other when we say "okay" after being shown that we need to change, and after being told what the right direction is.

I will give an example of how this "okay" thing works, even in the most trivial situations. Some community members were planning to survey a neighbourhood that had a lot of Spanish-speaking people in it. Someone suggested that they write "S" next to those addresses where the people speak Spanish, and "E" next to those addresses where the people speak English. Then someone else said, "We don't need the "E", because it would just be assumed that they speak English if they don't speak some other language." Rather than see the good sense in that comment, the person making the original suggestion paused for a moment and then said softly and unenthusiastically, "Okay", and turned to a different subject.

A discussion with that person later revealed that he was actually planning to continue with using both "S" and "E" on his own records. Why? Because he had not allowed the good sense of the criticism to sink into his mind. He had convinced himself that he was only accommodating a rather silly criticism when he said "Okay".

Now, isn't that what happens for many of us when we are criticised? Aren't we convinced that we have been pretty humble if we simply choose to zip our lips and not argue with the person making the criticism? And yet spiritually, what we should be doing is seriously and humbly considering the truth in the criticism, and then embracing it. Once we see the truth, we can actually shift over to the side of the person making the criticism. In the above illustration, I was expecting a comment along the lines of, "You know, you're right! How silly of me!" But instead, we got only this subdued "Okay."

Left-handed apologies and other similar strategies are other forms of saying "okay". It's just that we as a group have not officially recognised "okay" as one of those strategies before. What all of these strategies do is to cheat everyone out of a truly heartfelt resolution of the differences. We can never know the joy of full forgiveness until we can own up to truly needing to be forgiven. "Okay" does not accomplish that.

In fact, saying "okay" (or something similar) virtually guarantees that you are going to leave the community one day. The only question is when. Because you see yourself as the tolerant, humble, patronising one, the group will not be satisfied. So the group will continue to criticise, thus making it more and more of a monster in your eyes, until you cannot take it any longer.

If we don't embrace and internalise the truth in any valid teaching or argument that goes against the way we originally thought, then any outward show of compliance to that teaching will actually alienate you against the person you are supposedly complying with.

A churchy who walks away from a conversation with us, in which we have just shared the radical teachings of Jesus, saying, "You've given me a lot to think about," is saying "Okay". They are saying, "I will not argue with you right now; but neither will I acknowledge that I have not been following those teachings in the past and that my church has not been teaching those truths. In that way, I can come up with something later to use against you; and my apparent compliment ("You've given me something to think about.") will just make you look like trouble makers if you push the point any further right now." Most of us have experienced that form of "okay", haven't we? Yet we continue to do something along similar lines when we ourselves are criticised.

I know that I am repeating myself, but I cannot stress strongly enough the need to fully own up to the truth in criticisms if we are to truly change and to truly benefit from those criticisms. We are seeing more and more disciples leave the community because they just got fed up with so much criticism. Never mind whether the criticism was accurate, or whether it could have helped them to be better people. They just got fed up with criticism in general. And the reason is because there was very little (if any) of the criticism that they ever accepted. They lost their desire for truth, and decided somewhere along the line to just comply. From that point on, they actually ceased to be Christians. From that point on, it was also only a matter of time before they would have "had enough".

If you don't want to make the same mistake, then observe yourself the next time you are criticised. How much effort are you making to see the truth in the criticism? And how much effort are you making to just appease the person who is criticising you? Remember, when someone is telling you something that is true, there should be some kind of delight in seeing it. Just saying "okay" is not okay.

(See also Repression vs Control.)

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