That’s what Elle Luna’s mother used to tell her. Elle is the author of the book, The Crossroads of Should and Must, a book I own, and will soon read.
What does it mean when someone says, “You should…?” Let’s take a peek at what is implied by those words.
- I know what is best for you.
- You should live up to my expectations.
- You should follow convention.
- You are on the wrong the path.
- I am intruding into your life, uninvited.
Most of time, “should” and the other word that begins with s-h have an eerie similarity about them. They stink! “Shoulding on people” is disrespectful, presumptuous, wrong-headed, unloving, selfish, narrow-minded, and demoralizing. “Shoulds” are usually exhortations to do something that is simply wrong for you.
Is there ever a time to “should on someone?” Yes, but it is very rare. You had better have earned a lot of relational capital, and you had been have done a lot of listening first.
People need to discover things for themselves. Even when some shoulding seems to in order, it is a rare thing to find someone who will actually welcome or respond to any statement that begins with the words, “you should.” There must be a readiness factor to receive and act on truth that falls outside of our general way of doing things.
Telling a grown person what to do is rarely appropriate. Maybe in severe situations when is person is on a path of self-destructive behavior, and intervention is the only move left.
But, almost always there is better way to influence people than to should on them. It seems like just loving people as they are, staying faithful in the relationship, and joining them on their personal journey is the best way to influence people. Love is the most powerful motivator and change agent.
On more thing. If it is wrong for someone else to should on you, it is very, very wrong to should on yourself.
Usually, inner expectations are even more intense than those others try to force on us. Probe your heart, talk to God, discuss issues with others, then do that which is right for you in that situation.
We don’t need to be running from responsibility. But we also need to be wary of anyone, including ourself trying to stamp out our life with some dam cookie cutter.