On Friday night I ate an entire quart of Ben & Jerry’s Coffee Heath Bar Crunch in one sitting. I know, I shouldn’t have. That container of frozen goodness contained about a zillion calories which did not help in my quest to fit into my summer shorts, and it was loaded with caffeine which kept me up late, and it probably had some hydrogenated fats or other toxins that will shorten my life span BUT it was really good. Really, really good. Although in hindsight I kind of wish I had just eaten an apple and gone to bed on time.
And I do this more than I want to, not always with ice cream, but with countless other things: knowing I shouldn’t do something and doing it anyway OR believing that I should do something but not ever doing it. “I should exercise more. I should eat less sugar. I shouldn’t use four letter words. I should be more giving, more loving, more generous, less angry, less worried, less controlling.” Right? Maybe. Probably. Anyone do this too?
I know the Apostle Paul struggled with this. In Romans 7:15 he says, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” At least I’m not alone although I know he wasn’t talking about ice cream.
On the surface should seems like such a responsible word, a word that points toward areas I ought to change and an awareness that I’m not there yet, but should doesn’t move me to action. Shoulds, as it turns out, are excuses that I use to explain away bad behavior and procrastinate movement. When I don’t do the things I believe that I should, I feel guilty and so I avoid myself whenever possible. I put some distance between me and my guilt, which puts distance between me and my problem, which means I never seem to get around to improving anything. Not good.
And what I am learning is that my shoulds are not from the real me, which explains why I cannot seem to overcome them. I will never be motivated to change something externally that is not important to me internally, no matter how noble it may be.
Shoulds are external pressures from someone else’s expectations, like the media, or my parents, or my neighbors or my false interpretation of the Bible. Many of us think that God wants us to live with the shoulds because that is how He motivates us to do better. But that is just not true.
“Everyone should give whatever they have decided in their heart. They shouldn’t give with hesitation (procrastination) or because of pressure. God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 9:7 (CEB) Another translation says that we are to give (our time, our energy, our hearts) not with regret or out of a sense of duty. A should is a HAVE TO, and that makes it a duty or an obligation. According to this verse God does not love duty. He is not into HAVE TOs. He is not a fan of shoulds. Yay!
But wait. Without the guilt of the shoulds, how will I ever become the woman that God and I want me to be: more loving, more joyful, more peaceful, more patient, more kind, more good, more faithful, more gentle and more self-controlled? According to Philippians 2:13, I need admit the truth of my problem or the fact that I don’t see it as a problem and let Him turn my HAVE TO into WANT TO. “God is the one who enables you both to want and to actually live out his good purposes.”
Hannah Whitall Smith said it best. “He (God) will take possession of our will and work it for us…His suggestions will come to us…as desires springing up within. They will originate in our will; we shall feel as though we wanted to do so and so, not as though we must.”
But in order for this to happen, I need to give up the shoulds in exchange for my choices. If I find myself staring into the frozen section enticed by the goods of two men, named Ben and Jerry, then I need to own my choice. Instead of grabbing the ice cream while thinking “I know that I shouldn’t” (as if one cancels out the other), I need to admit “I want to have this ice cream and I accept the consequences.” Just like when running became hard and wasn’t fun anymore and I found myself skipping workouts while thinking “I know that I should run” (again, one cancelling the other), I finally had to admit to myself “I don’t like running anymore and I don’t want to do it.” I took a break, got a little thicker around the middle (an expected consequence), and several months later joined a yoga studio as my main outlet for exercise. By giving up my should, which wasn’t working anyway, I found a form of exercise that I absolutely want to do all the time. And now that I don’t have to run, I have found that little by little I want to run again. Go figure.
What should in your life can you give up? What HAVE TO can you ask God to transform into a WANT TO? I’d love to hear your comments!
As a Christian life and relationship coach, I work with women to discover their authentic values and goals so they can live abundantly WITHOUT shoulds. If you would like to talk about the benefits of professional coaching or know someone who might need help, I’d love to work with you. Contact me at www.DaleSkram.com for a 30 minute STOP SHOULDING YOURSELF free strategy session.