I’m ditching this one word for Freedom’s sake. I know, you saw the title and thought I was swearing and you were intrigued, no?
There is another word that gets me as riled as some who hate swear words. And that is the word should.
I read the word should (and it’s ubiquitous in the internetland) and one of my eyebrows arches. I’m sure you’ve seen the blog post titles, these are real ones I gathered: “12 things you should never do at an interview” “Why you should never boil the kettle more than once”, “Stuff you should know”, “You should be drinking steak, not eating it” ok that one has me interested, but eeww, now I’m picturing gory blender images that look like the props for a horror movie! “10 reasons why you SHOULD eat chocolate” ok so my eyebrow is no longer raised and I’m staring at you: dairy milk bar!
In the world of the perpetual knowledge search, where we google for answers, writers are getting more insistent with words to capture interest. ‘Should’ has invaded our internet research, tabloid headlines and our souls.
I’m not a fan of the word, my mum would say it’s my inner rebel, but I need to really examine a statement if there is a ‘should’ in it. The word is making me more cynical. I’ve found with information overwhelm it’s very easy to get sucked into someone else’s ‘should’. So I’m ditching the word and starting to question first who is saying the ‘should’, secondly, why they think that is the case and finally: can I agree? If I can’t agree then I will dismiss it. As children we are taught not to question authority, but as an adult with supposed brains of our own it is imperative that we don’t always go blindly along with what someone else says we ‘should’ think, act, speak or feel.
This ‘feeling of the shoulds’, as I call it, has been damaging when I’ve had to question the reason I believe certain things because they haven’t always matched up with my experience. As a depression and anxiety sufferer, the damage was compacted by me telling myself that I should be happy, not depressed, because I was a Christian and had hope. That was the should of shame. Where was the freedom in that? There was no freedom to feel the way my brain was telling me I felt. There was no freedom to accept my diagnosis, and start to get better. The freedom that came from considering that it was possible for me to be depressed and still have faith in God, was imperative in starting to heal. My brain needed freedom from should and so did my soul.
For my soul to feel healthy I examine ‘should’ statements because, honestly, a lot of the time they are not true. They are damaging because they start to increase unrealistic expectations and place pressure on us that we were never meant to carry. My soul needs to feel unburdened by these expectations that I put on myself, by the ‘should’s’ that I feel judged by. There is not a lot of grace that comes with the ‘shoulds’. It’s a word of judgement.
Some should’s are merely practical: I should put the bins out on Friday night, otherwise they won’t be emptied by the bin men. But should’s that don’t come with a reason why that I can ascribe to, uh-no, I’m not taking that judgement on board.
When we question the ‘shoulds’ with a “well, why should I?” We find freedom. I think we need to give ourselves a lot more freedom by questioning our ‘should’ statements, whether they come from our inner critic, our outer critics or even our assumed critics. Shoulds seem to only tell us we are not enough or we are too much.
For Freedom sake
I’m breaking up with the word ‘should’ for Freedom’s sake. The definition of freedom is this: the power or right to act, speak, or think as one wants. I’m giving myself permission to live under grace and ruthlessly eliminate the word ‘should’ from my vocabulary. I’m finding freedom in replacing ‘should’ with ‘could’.
The word ‘should’ belongs to the language of shame and guilt and the only results of that type of motivation are drudgery, duty, compromise. The word ‘could’ belongs to the language of possibility, hope, freedom, choice and used as motivation, whether for ourselves or for others, the results are willingness, generosity, happiness and fruitfulness.
This is the story and the beauty of grace. In the bible, first was the list of ‘shoulds’, and it became brutally obvious we couldn’t possibly keep all the ‘shoulds’ required by the law, and then there was the ‘could’ of grace. You could accept Jesus’s forgiveness, it is handed to you as a choice, a could: this is grace.
The beauty of giving ourselves freedom to think, feel and act a certain way is that we start to discover what it is that we love to do, what helps us to feel more alive. A creative life where we have the chance to make choices, to play, this is freedom. I think that this freedom, this play, is what a creative life brings us. The way of the creator is the way of possibility, of coulds, of choices, the way of life, the way of creativity, it is the way of freedom. It is an offer, an open-handed offer, and we have the freedom to chose The Way or not.
The freedom our soul desires is found in the gift of freedom from God. Our freedom is found in what he freed us from; the destructiveness of sin and death, but also found in all that he has freed us to; an abundant creative life, full of purpose and value, identity as his child, full of hope for a good future. Free to live, and to give. A child that lives by the light of the could not the should. We are free.
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
So I would say you could give yourself permission to replace your shoulds with coulds, and notice the lightening in your soul, notice your freedom. You are not bound to your shoulds. Always question, examine, and be a truth pursuer. There’s freedom there.
If you are really stuck for ideas on what you should do, this site at least gives you options! (random and funny ones)