Chains of Shoulds


I took a stand against shoulds long ago. Or at least I thought I did. I have seen one follower of Jesus after another drown under what they “should” do. Shoulds do not fan freedom. They suck life.

This week, I heard my hope-speaking counselor say something he’s been saying all along. Only this time, my ears could hear. Some of the weight I carry, some of what makes it so much work to get out of bed and tackle the demands of my crazy life, I put there.

The shoulds I hate so much lay on me as a suffocating blanket I can not get out from under. I’m struggling for air, struggling for light.

They crept in as thieves in the night. I did not see them.

They are trying to do the right thing, trying to avoid hurt and dysfunction. Pursuing intimacy in my marriage and protecting my kiddos from the arrows of my own wounds. The pursuit of emotional health has ensnared me. The voices of good I hear paralyze me. There are a million very good shoulds I can not live under.

I need freedom. The hope-speaking counselor is good at giving me permission. I’m just not good at feeling it.

I do not want to mess this up. Not because I don’t want to mess up but because I desperately want the good that is suppose to come from it.

I am losing me in the process.

I have to learn how to give up the shoulds. They are dreadful because in and of themselves, they are good and profitable. My pile, however, is so big and so heavy, it has distorted my sight. It has distorted my gait and my very soul.

This is the space where I need grace in its greatest measure.

The honest truth is that the shoulds bear bitterness in me. I can’t offer them freely. They are a pretending.

What a hard and ugly place.

I cling to this little flash of hope that comes alive, as the hope-speaking counselor challenges me to actually own what I feel instead of try to feel my picture of right. There is freedom in that place. There is light and lightness.

Let grace come. Let it wash over me and breathe hope.


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