Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Sickly Case of the Shoulds

Have you ever noticed that sneaky little thought, "That's not how it -- or she or we -- "should be."  This person "should" be nicer.  Government officials "shouldn't be" corrupt.  Life "shouldn't be" hard or unfair or short.  This is such an insidious and destructive way of thinking because it is so alluring.

I was raised with a clear moral code.  Some things are wrong and we all need to do what's right.  I live by that code today.  Having that clear sense of right and wrong as a kid kept me away from drugs and other trouble;  it promoted in me a work ethic that has mostly served me . . .  and sometimes made it challenging for me to stop and enjoy where all that hard work has gotten me.

That same code also leads to a sometimes severe case of the "shoulds and should nots."  Obviously people shouldn't commit murder.  Of course tax fraud is wrong.  It's also clearly wrong for someone to cut me off in traffic, lie to me or pick on my kids.  Right? 

The problem is, it doesn't stop there.  People should serve the community.  They should love their kids.  They should go to church.  Ah, this is where it starts to get fuzzy.

Girls should dress a certain way.  Young people should be respectful.  You should know how I want to be treated and treat me that way.

It's an insidious and cunning soul stealer.  Somehow that "should" starts out disguised as a noble and clear-cut notion and morphs into me being -- well -- God.  Then it starts to eat away and rot out my joy.  Suddenly, I'm so caught up in judgment, I can't see the person anymore.  People become "they."  And everything suddenly becomes about "them versus us."  It's destructive.

What if I really don't have to judge?  What if I consider the possibilities?  What if I take that clear moral code and use it to be a truly transformational force in the world? 


I know it sounds a little "pie in the sky" but here is what I'm talking about.  I can -- as the roadsigns in Texas plead -- "drive friendly."  I can leave home in plenty of time to allow people to get in front of me if they want to.  Instead of judging the person next to me in the waiting room or the grocery store line, I can be the friendly face they've been needing all day.  If I am really serious about making a difference, I can work to make changes in my community or in other systems I see as unfair.  I can shift that energy into a engine of conversion.

Perhaps most importantly, I can notice when the "should" creeps into my head and take a minute to ponder what it is doing there.  What about the situation threatens or scares me and how much of what I'm thinking is actually true?

We're all prone to a sickly case of the "shoulds" now and then.  The good news is, we can stop that joy rotting disease with a few deep breaths and stave off the brain transplant!

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I sure needed to hear this today. Love reading your ponderings and posts. :)

Laura S.