I thought my pastor friend cussed at me.
We were having a perfectly pleasant conversation, at least so I thought, when all of a sudden she calmly said, “Don’t should on me.”
Imagine if you heard that sentence instead of saw it written out.
My friend was halfway kidding but the truth she was conveying was powerful.
Thankfully, she was patient enough with me to explain this punchy little truism.
The conversation we had happened like most do when someone “should’s” on someone.
Person A: _______ that you did was really great. I really liked how you _______ and did ___________.
Person B: Thanks! It was a lot of hard work but I’m glad you thought it went well.
Person A: Yeah! It was good but you really should have __________________.
Person B punches Person A in the face and goes to jail. Friendship over.
“Should” falls well short of constructive criticism. It does not motivate someone to change or help someone see the good done in the midst of falling short.
Especially when used in past tense, should leaves no room to improve. In the scenario above, Person A is helpless to improve the situation Person B described (“you should have___”). Person A does not own a time machine!
“Should” is useless, paralyzing criticism that is most often given by those who eagerly point out problems yet just as eagerly refuse to be a part of creating solutions.
But what about when “should” comes from within? This might be the most harmful form.
Self-inflicted “shoulds” are just as unhelpful as when they come from others.
Whenever you feel a case of the “shoulds” coming on, ask yourself two questions to determine if the feeling really is something that you need to act on or if it’s just guilt you need to kick out of your life.
Guilt and Should are like ugly twins trying to keep you stuck in the past. See: Are You Living in the Past?
1. Is this something I really want to do? (Or am I just trying to please someone else?)
2. Is it worth it? (You can have the desire to do many things, but what is most important? What one thing is necessary? [Luke 10:42])
Sometimes we do simply need to be told to pick it up a bit. Maybe laziness has set in. Maybe unhelpful patterns in decision-making have set in. See: Chop Wood & Carry Water
Whatever the reason, change for the better is always a good thing. However, there is a right way and a wrong way to create that change. “Should” is not the right way.
Next time you hear “should” from someone else or from within, simply say,