Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Break the Tape: No More Shoulding

Welcome, friends, for today's edition of Break the Tape.  Essentially, our goal is to identify the lies that repeat themselves over and over again in our minds, break the tape that automatically begins plays when ever we feel we've fallen short, and learn a new song to sing in its place.  
Meet Jennifer.  You've seen her beautiful face 'round these parts before AND she's one of the SDG retreat speakers (just saying that perhaps you might want to come meet her in person).  I've gotten to Skype with this gal and she is warm and genuine and funny.  I love her heart and her personality and that she's a fellow kindred crazy marathoner!!  And she tells it like it is...beautifully.
Try this little experiment with me. Take a minute, close your eyes and think of one thought or statement you had in the last 24 hours that began with this:
I should...
Did it sound like one of these:
I should lose some weight. I shouldn't eat that brownie. I should read this book. Try this work out. Eat this super food. Pray more. Pray harder. Be better. Stronger. More resilient. More faithful.
There are some good truths here. Prayer is never a bad idea. Loving ourselves enough to steward our bodies is sound stewardship. Learning to try new things, stretching our minds and hearts and boundaries can only bring wisdom and broaden our scope. This is to be encouraged.

But I can't help feeling, when I Should myself, that I am wrongly convicting myself of crimes, sentencing myself to guilt I do not need to carry. Should slams down on me every time I say or think it, the gavel of judgment from an imperfect jury of one; myself. It sounds of tasks neglected, ideas wasted, time squandered. Should says I am not enough and can only be enough by my own efforts. And that, my friends, is a straight up lie.

If we are new in Christ, and by golly I am, then I am enough. I am loved, right now, in my imperfection. The imperfect me weighs myself against the externals I see in others. Those who are skinnier, funnier, better writers, better mommies, better believers, better wives. The imperfect me forgets that in public everyone puts on the mask of the pulled-together. The imperfect me forgets that for every person I consider better than me, there are those elevating me. And we all think to ourselves, "if they only knew what a mess I am." That's where the shoulds do their worst.

Should attacks us at the pool, as we watch the lithe mommies, and we pull the towel over our midsection thinking, "I should lose weight." Should pounces at church, when the perfect looking family marches by in a perfectly groomed and matched line of angelic goodness, while we pray our kid gets his finger out of his nose. "I should do a better job with manners and hygiene," we tell ourselves. Should rears its head, for me as a writer, when I read the lyric prose of some of my favorite bloggers and think, "I really should quit this writer nonsense. I'm really not that good."

Should is a lie. It is shame and judgement and pain. It is bondage. And I'm done with that nonsense. If I can change should to need, and the statement is still true, and I have tenable, sustainable reasons, then I will pursue the idea. Maybe I could stand to lose some weight. Maybe my kids could take more pride in their personal grooming. Maybe I could seek some writing feedback. But if I just want to appear better than someone, proving my value, I'm forgetting my true worth. My true worth, really, has nothing to do with me, but with the One who made me.

And I need only rely on that.

About Jennifer:
Jennifer Luitwieler is the author of Run With Me: An Accidental Runner and the Power of Poo, released September 2011 with Civitas Press. She writes on crafts, sports and all manner of nonsense A Pittsburgh transplant to Tulsa, OK, she homeschools 3 great kids and tolerates a confluence of soccer gear from her very cute husband. Find her on twitter at  and on But watch out, because she likes to talk. You might not get rid of her.

Linking with Emily for Imperfect ProseJennifer for God Bumps, and Shanda for On My Heart.


  1. "Should is a lie" love that!

    1. Hey, cuppajoegirl! Thanks for reading. How do you hear the word should?

  2. great words here...and I have found...when I was shoulding myself...I was shoulding other people too...we treat others as we treat ourselves...yes it is a lie...and we put that lie on our selves and it puts expectations on others that they will never meet. blessings~

    1. Oh, so true. We really can't judge ourselves without putting our own wacky standards of other's. Unmet expectations are a real soul crusher.

  3. I like your last paragraph because sometimes "should" moves the world forward. Sometimes "should" does come from above but like you said, we test it and strain it through the Word, through Truth. Is it still true after I examine the intentions, the agenda, the reasons behind? Yes? Then by all means, think about it. If not? Be free from it!

  4. Great post... One thought that came to me is that God choose and pursued you. You grabbed ahold and His plans for you are amazing. I like to say -- woulda, shoulda, coulda = Not!

    Have a great day!

  5. Good reminder. Today I was "shoulding" a lot. Can always think of so much I "should" be doing. Feel as if I'm failing by not doing everything that has popped into my head. Nice way to deal with this thought process. If I could or would, it doesn't necessarily mean I "should."


  6. I just stopped by from Jennifer Lee's place and I'm so glad I did!

    Why is it so hard for us to be kind to ourselves? It does seem epidemic, doesn't it, the judgment we render against ourselves?

    Maybe a good test would be..."Would I say that to my best friend?" And if the answer is "no," then I won't say it to myself.

  7. Jennifer and Jennifer. It's me, Jennifer. (I couldn't resist.)

    Here's to the flushing of the "shoulds!"

  8. I think the deal with the shoulds is the same as the one with laundry: never-ending! The big difference is that we have no choice with the laundry. Thanks for sharing your thoughts, here. I really enjoyed reading the comments, too.

  9. amen! this is powerful truth. thank you so much for sharing jennifer!

  10. This was just the shot I needed for my case of shoulditis.

    Now can we tackle can't?


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