Do you ever catch yourself in the midst of decision making or some inner monologe, and realize that you are trying to decide between what you should do and what you want to do? Well if you are the rare individual who has never had such a moment, move along, this isn’t for you. But if, like most of the rest of the world, you’ve found yourself in a similar moment, I’d like to stand on my soap box for a moment: Don’t ever let someone else, especially yourself, dictate what you SHOULD do.
I’d like to take a moment to make a disclaimer, on the off chance any of my children read this, and specify that yes indeed there are just some things you should do. Like shower somewhat regularly, pick up after yourself on occasion and yes, I”m absolutely sure you should not punch your brother. But I’m going to believe in you, the reader, and operate on the basis that we have a basic understanding of the type of should I’m talking about here 😉
Those shoulds that somehow feel like they weigh you down, or the ones that make you feel like you are less than or obligated to make other people happy. The shoulds that steal your joy, and separate you from the life you were created to live.
A few weeks ago, a dear friend texted and asked me if I wanted to go with her to visit her baby in the NICU. This baby was a miracle in her mere existence, and that miracle was made even more astounding in the fact that though she had been born at just 28 weeks gestation, she was sky rocketing through all of her milestones. She had been on this earth for nearly a full month at this point and I had yet to meet her. So an invitation to go hold her and snuggle? That sounds like a no brainer, an obvious yes, but for some reason instead of a resounding yes, I responded with, “I haven’t been to bible study in awhile, and I should probably go.”
It technically felt like the right thing to do, but when I put my phone down it felt like a small part of my soul had died. This happened to be a morning when I was on my way to drop my daughter off at preschool. Our other good friend was also there dropping her curly haired baby off, and after the girls were successfully deposited, and we had made our way outside, I mentioned our friend’s text. I told her my reason for not going, and she listened patiently before reminding me of her offer to keep our daughter if I should change my mind. We parted ways, me off to do all the bible study homework I had put off until the last possible minute, but on the short drive home, the word “should” just kept moving around in my mind like a bouncy ball in a racquetball court.
The distance between my house and the preschool is about ten minutes give or take a slow driver in front of me, and in the space of those minutes I underwent something of a personal revolution. A small voice shouted into the chaos “what do you want to do?” It felt like the height of selfishness to even entertain the idea of doing what I actually wanted to do, rather than what I believed other’s thought I should do. But that same small voice stubbornly argued, “not selfish, free.” Free. While still driving I voice texted my friend and said, “I changed my mind, I’m in!”
Is bible study important? Of course. Is it a valuable part of my life? Certainly. Did I regret for a single moment blowing that off to go see that sweet baby? Absolutely not. There are so many shoulds we cling to, or follow along with without realizing it. Maybe it’s a negative family relationship, and we keep holding on because we were told we should, that it’s what you do when you are family. Maybe it’s being in a job that drains you of all joy, and you hang on because someone said you should just be thankful you have it. Thankfulness is obviously important, but I really really hate it when people tell me I should be thankful for xyz. Expressing sorrow or disappointment is valid ya’ll. It doesn’t mean you aren’t thankful, it just means you have normal human feelings. But that’s another should isn’t it? You should keep yourself calm lest you be viewed as overreacting. You should keep your feelings to yourself lest you make someone else uncomfortable.
Last night I had the honor of being among a small crowd of people honoring a dear friend (the one and same who watched my daughter for me) as we celebrated her recent publishing of her book. (Highly recommend it, click here to find in on Amazon). Her story isn’t wrapped up in a neat little bow, and in her book she covers the not always popular topics of abuse and abortion. Many times over the course of her life she was told she should just keep it to herself, and it was a lie she believed for so long that she indeed did just that. Until this last year, when she gave that Should the middle finger, and decided not to live in the fear anymore. Fast forward to last evening when I sat on a couch with my wine, sandwiched between two friends, in a room filled with people who were nearly all on the verge of tears as we listened to our brave friend read us a chapter from her story.
We had come alongside each other as we each wrote our respective books, cheering each other on as she wrote her life story, and I created one. While she read her beautiful words last night, I was repeatedly hit with my own self doubt. “I should delete my book. I should have written something actually useful. I should stop writing my fiction drivel, nothing can compare to this. I should just give up now so I won’t be disappointed if nobody likes it.” And even as we laughed and cried with her, I began to believe in that should. I contemplated cancelling the meeting I had for this morning with a mentor to talk about my little novel. The evening ended and I drove my friend home. Word of advice, if you like being a coward, don’t get yourself friends who see right through you like an X-ray machine. As we drove up the twisty country road, with nothing but the headlights breaking the darkness, she made it her mission to eviscerate all of my shoulds. She replaced them with the best kind of should: “you should allow yourself to believe that you are worth pursuing your dream for.” She also technically threatened to kick my arse if I didn’t follow through on my meeting, and she is in much better shape than I am so I believe she could probably do it.
Living under someone else’s should is draining, but living under our own is devastating. So let me be the friend that perhaps you need today, and tell you to stop Shoulding your way out of living your life. Stop Shoulding yourself into allowing someone else to treat you in a way that makes you feel like you have no voice or choice. Stop Shoulding yourself into the belief that you aren’t enough, or that you need to somehow meet expectations in order to have value. Jesus didn’t die on that cross so you would live in fear or guilt. You’re saved, redeemed, worthy of love and FREE to kick that Should to the curb.
All the love.