Lady Pastor: 'Should' an unnecessary weight on your shoulders

We are part of The Trust Project.

The word "should" is commonplace. It is so frequently used that it often lurks way in the background of our shared vernacular. It appears at first to be a wallflower standing alongside "also," "that," and "many."

But should is not so naïve or innocent. It's actually a very powerful word, and it can be dangerous, too.

I hear "should" a lot in conversations about health, faith, and human relationships.

• I should eat more vegetables.

• We should go to church more often.


• She should really start exercising.

• He should spend more time at home.

"Should" is a loaded word, and with it often comes with a few loads of baggage. Baggage in the form of guilt, judgment, and shame. When we do things in life purely because we think we should or someone else thinks we should, the outcome is often less than stellar. "Should" is not a great long-term motivator.

Instead, "should" is often the sweet refrain of complacency. The more we use the word, the more complacent we become. It's not a great cycle.

A scenario: You wake up thinking "I should exercise today." But by evening, you haven't. You don't necessarily have any real plans to do so. But you know deep inside that you want to. You go to bed thinking, "I really should've exercised today." You feel guilt, self-condemnation, and shame. You wake up feeling the same way.

"Should" didn't do you any favors.

The same scenario can take place with church attendance and dietary choices. We unintentionally dig ourselves into deep holes of "should."

I was recently at the salon and happened to overhear someone talking about church involvement. She wasn't actively involved in a faith community and didn't know when she might start. Looking down, she said, "I don't go to church, but I know I should."


The overarching sentiment wasn't necessarily excitement or joy about exploring a life of faith. It was guilt about not going to church on Sunday mornings. She was extremely bright and creative. The Holy Spirit was clearly already at work in her life in a host of ways. But it was probably pretty hard to recognize all those things worth celebrating because she was stuck so far in a haunting hole of all the things she thought she should be.

We've all been there. Everyone gets stuck in a "should" hole sometimes, desperately wanting a way out, but not sure how to get there. So we retreat to saying "we should." It becomes our common refrain. And while we think it's helping us, it isn't. We're setting ourselves up to feel bad a lot. Like failures, perpetually missing out and not measuring up.

There's another way. We've got a language full of alternative words to use in describing routines and behaviors we'd like to incorporate into our lives. Next time you catch yourself using the word "should," I invite you to pause.

Ask yourself: Do I really mean it? If not, maybe I could let this idea go. If so, how might I make it happen? Are there steps I could take today to propel me from "should" to "will?"

Unpack your use of "should," and peel away the layers. Set yourself up to feel good and encouraged whenever you can. Use words in ways that give you and the people around you the best chance at success.

Incorporate other words and phrases when possible. Phrases that accurately represent how you feel. Things like: "might," "will consider," and "could possibly."

When you encounter things in life you truly feel you should be doing, then pray about it and take active steps to make it happen. Show yourself and the people in your life that "should" is a powerful word that really means something.

If you happen to get stuck inside the deep, dark "should" hole, remember that you can always look up and jump out! There is light and possibility all around, and the Holy Spirit is always ready to remind you of your infinite worth.

What to read next
"Home with the Lost Italian" food writer Sarah Nasello says this pasta salad is loaded with bacon, lettuce, tomato and avocado.
Columnist Lovina Eicher says every day is busy with cooking, family and the love of little ones who say, "Grandma, you smell pretty."
Columnist Dave Ramsey says the cost of selling the un-fixed car plus repairs is too close to the car's value when fixed to keep it.
Columnist Sandy Erdman says Old Glory has been an inspiration for years, and collectors often look for items with its patriotic feel.