Column – ‘Just Do It’ is more than a slogan, it’s a call to action

Published 6:27 pm Friday, February 10, 2023

For those of us who were in high school in the 1990s, we cannot hear or read the slogan “Just Do It” without being reminded of Michael Jordan. 

My mind instantly goes to my favorite photo of him. You know the “Wings Image” of his dark, chiseled, muscular arms perfectly outstretched at his side. You could draw a line connecting his left fingertips to the right side edge of the basketball clinched in his right hand. 

Jordan, it seems, became the face of the slogan along with other great athletes of the 90s. Nike’s slogan is no longer seen for the three words that comprise it. “Just Do It’ may as well be one word with several related meanings such as commitment, victory, determination, perseverance, grit and the list goes on. The brilliance behind successful slogans is that their individual words are lost in meaning as the slogan becomes widely accepted for the intent for which it was launched. Nike is pretty proud of that. 

But I wonder if you might indulge me for a moment and separate the slogan into the three words used to create it. They each have their own meanings, 

Just means “conforming to a standard of correctness: proper.” It is also defined as “acting or being in conformity with what is morally upright or good: righteous.” The word is an adjective and can be used to define an object as it proceeds a noun in the sentence or replaces the object altogether as it does when referring to people, nations or groups.

Do means “to bring to pass, carry out.” It also means to “execute, commit, perform or produce.” The word is a transitive verb. In past, present or future tenses, do becomes did, done, doing, or does. I tend to think of do as one of the most passionate and sacred words in the English language as it is used to express vows and commitment to one another. Only two letters pack so much spoken meaning. 

It is “used to refer to a thing previously mentioned or easily identified.” Much of its use is as a pronoun “used as subject or direct object or indirect object of a verb or object of a preposition usually in reference to something.” I believe we don’t recognize how often we use this word in our everyday language. You cannot do without it.

After I dismantled the slogan, reviewed the meanings of each word individually and then put it back together, I discovered a different meaning of “Just Do It.” I believe this is a call to action for those who identify as just people. There are some identifiable objectives that you should be doing. Just people should be carrying out some commitments. Just people should be bringing to pass some conditions. Just people execute justice in a world that is full of injustice. 

Well…the first thought I had to myself after I saw this call to action within this slogan was “am I just?” Honestly, I find it difficult to identify the characteristic of being just on anyone to include myself. We do not live in a just world. 

I do not believe we see just works demonstrated before us in our everyday living. We are not readily displaying what “just” looks like for developing young people because we don’t show it in our governments, in our schools, in our hospitals, in our care of the needy or in our concern for people’s welfare. 

The New Kings James Version translates the familiar Bible passage saying in Habakkuk 2:4: “Behold the proud, his soul is not upright in him; But the just shall live by his faith.” 

The New Century Version states it more directly: “The evil nation is very proud of itself; it is not living as it should. But those who are right with God will live by faith.” So in that context, the question becomes not only “am I just?” but rather “am I doing as I should?” Living by faith is not just reading the word of God and professing to know Jesus Christ. Living by faith is clearly defined here as those who do faith work which is justice work which is doing what you should be doing because it is righteous. As Spike Lee said: “Do the right thing!”

Right doesn’t have to be hard. We put up images of what victory looks like in the form of great athletes and commercials showing heroic feats. There is a Nike commercial on YouTube titled “Rise and Shine” with the voice of a single narrator that says: “Welcome to the grind. For what is each day but a series of conflicts between the right way and the easy way.”  I pray we choose the right way. Live By Faith: Just Do It. 

 

QuaWanna N. Bannarbie is a Christian writer and teacher from historic Americus, Georgia.  Connect with her via Instagram @beingQuaWanna or send an email to: iamquawanna@thebiggerme.net.