How many times in a day do you find yourself saying (or thinking), “I really should…” Maybe it’s the invitation to a home party. Or a friend’s birthday gathering? Or the seemingly endless classroom activities for your kids? Seriously. Is it even possible to say no to “muffins with mom” or “donuts with dad?”
Some shoulds are good. They help us connect with friends, engage with our kids, or get us off the couch. They motivate us when we’re feeling lazy, inspire us when we’re feeling down, and give us clarity when we’re feeling indecisive.
But, shoulds have a dark side… guilt. Ever find yourself ignoring the should, only to find yourself awake in the middle of the night wondering if you made the right choice? Ever wonder if you hurt a friend, child, or spouse because of something you didn’t do? Shoulda, woulda, coulda wreaks havoc on our mental health. Take it from me… one whose deliberative brain is never off.
I’ve been a victim of shoulds for most of my life. And on self-reflection, the worst shoulds are the ones I’ve put on myself. Yes, I’ve had others ask me to do things I don’t want to do, invite me places I don’t want to go, or give me advice I don’t want to follow. These shoulds are relatively minor. They’re all about doing something. They’re behavioral shoulds. But the ones that are hardest on me are the ones that are self-imposed. They’re the ones that represent character “flaws” or deficiencies in some way. The ones that make me think there’s something wrong with me or aren’t “normal” in some way.
Here’s the short list:
- I should be more social. It’s not okay to choose solitude sometimes… introvert or not.
- I should be more spiritual. Daily devotions, Bible reading, and prayer are are “expected” for spiritual growth… and I can’t quite seem to get this one down.
- I should be sure of what I want to do when I grow up. Wanting to try different things and having a variety of interests makes me restless and discontent.
- I should be able to control my anxiety… and sometimes depression. I’m a trained counselor for goodness sake.
- I should be a more affectionate wife. Why is giving a back rub to my spouse such a difficult thing to do, especially when I know his love language is physical touch?
- I should be more patient. My boys take the brunt of my short fuse and anger.
Notice the words I use over and over. Should BE. It’s the character shoulds that haunt me the most. The ones Satan uses to tell me I’m nothing, nobody, no good. And they’re LIES. All of them. I know that…. sometimes. But sometimes I forget and I allow them to dictate my emotions, decisions, and attitude. They’re the ones that keep me stuck in self-pity. The ones that prevent me from recognizing my holiness, simply because I’m created in the image of God. The ones that drown out the whispers… and even the shouts… of Christ that say, “Heidi, I love you. Just as you are.”
The only “should” I can recall in God’s word is this… one commandment.
“You must love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. A second is equally important: Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22:37-39)
That’s it. No more. No less. Yes, there are behaviors and choices I can make that enhance or take away from these relationships. Shoulds that will lead to a better life and a life that looks more like the kind of life God designed for me. But above and beyond all else, I am just called to love. Love informs and guides our shoulds. Or at least it should!
Can we agree to stop letting Satan should on us? I’ll fight if you do.