What comes to your mind when you hear the phrase, it’s okay not to be okay? Does it sound weak, or like giving up? I’ll admit, coming from the culture I was raised in, those words make me feel borderline physically uncomfortable. Western civilization praises the high achievers, the jugglers of 100 hour work weeks yet still find time to do yoga everyday people, the human machines who seem to have it all together with a cherry on top.
It just so happens “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” is the title of the latest book from Shelia Walsh. And by the time I finished reading it, the idea of being okay with imperfection no longer sounded weak or helpless, but powerful and even violent. As Walsh explains in the introduction, the words that make up the title of her book “Are not words of surrender, but hard fought for words of victory.” That statement makes me think of a Ralph Waldo Emerson quote I’ve always loved, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”
The message of “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” is so very needed today. Social media has made it dangerously easy for us all to project an image of being chronically “okay.” We can Facetune the pimples off our selfies and amass a hoard of followers based on nothing more than some killer “Outfit of the Day” pics. All the highlight reels with the painful bits left on the cutting room floor. But as Walsh explains so beautifully, the key is to “Let go of beating yourself up for a life God never asked you to live. That’s why Jesus came.” God does not demand perfection of us, it is not a shock to him that we are human. This truly is the antithesis of a self-help book. There is no trying to become better, or fixing of your self. But rather receiving the avalanche of grace that covers our inadequacies.
Walsh has been a successful singer, speaker and TV personality, so if anyone should be okay, at least on paper, it’s her. But she lifts the veil on her life in a candid and relatable way and draws us into the depths of grace that are available to us. Sadly many leaders do not feel like authenticity is a luxury they can afford and hide behind a public persona or mask of “having it all together.”
It’s refreshing how open Walsh is about her own process and the areas she struggles. At one point she relates the story of a time she avoided a social situation due to some lingering insecurity. As she hilariously put it “I voted myself off the island”—a phrase that cracks me up, because honestly, it is so relatable. Whenever we fall into perfectionism and comparison, we essentially take ourselves out of the game before we even have a chance to step up to bat.
This truly is the antithesis of a self-help book. There is no trying to become better, or fixing of your self. But rather receiving the avalanche of grace that covers our inadequacies.
The title really does sum it up, “It’s Okay Not to Be Okay” leads us down the road of accepting where we are at and recognizing that it’s okay not because we make it okay, but because of grace. The perfection of Jesus covers up all the areas we lack. Authenticity and vulnerability have become major buzzwords of late, but even with all the media exposure, showing up as you are, flaws and all, is straight up counter-cultural. But as Walsh so beautifully shows, God is not interested in superficial togetherness. He is in it for the long haul with us, every bit of our journey. He is there through each painful tiny step forward and even those moments that we fall back. God doesn’t ask for perfection, he asks us to be present. With Him, It really is okay not to be okay.