Monday, February 14, 2011

Case of the Shoulds

I have become increasingly aware of how often people, myself included, use the word "should." The word flows freely in our vocabulary of external governance. We are so quick to say what someone "should" or "should not" do.  Sometimes I hear it so frequently from people, I say "they have a case of the shoulds."

It's a form of captivity that we live in and so artfully impose on others. We do not stop to think that we haven't a good reason to tell someone else they should do such and such.  Nor do we know why we tell ourselves we should do this and that.

I find myself questioning should statements, whether my own or someone else's. I trace it back to ascertain if this imperative statement is appropriately placed and usually find it is not. Notwithstanding, people are often looking for advice in the form of a should statement. "What should I do?" comes the question either directly voiced or implied.

It's not that there may not be a good course of action, but it is that if a person needs to be told it by another they are most likely not doing it freely out of a place of love. So when I put my "should" on another person, I rob them of their choice. Sure they can disregard my opinion, but that obligatory should has lodged into their consciousness nagging them to do accordingly. Instead of being self-governed by the heart, they are feeling the weight of external governance imposed on them by an opinionated person.

Many should statements are well intended and come about with one person thinking the other should do this very good thing or stop doing this very bad thing.  However, we often end up keeping people captive, rather than showing them how to get set free.

Many times "shoulds" abound because we want to protect the person we love. We want them to do the right thing. Other times it is not even a matter of right and wrong. The should comes out when you tell your friend they really should go to your favorite restaurant or read your favorite book.  The should creates an imposed obligation that does not bring freedom and life to the recipient. Suddenly their task to go to that restaurant or read that book feels like an unwanted weight upon them, a chore rather than a fun idea.

Certainly we can share our experience with our friends of our fabulous dining experience.  But we may want to do so without using obligatory language.

Once you start to think about it, I imagine, you will be astonished at how often you hear the word should.  How many times do you find yourself saying it? How many times do those around you say it? And how many of those times was it really necessary to make such a declaration? I'm sure there are some necessary occasions worthy of the word.

Notice I refrained from saying one should not make should statements. I only wish to bring our attention to the matter and let people freely choose what they wish to do or not do in response.


Mike Gantt said...

I should reflect on this.

Mike aka MonolithTMA said...

Should I say "should" less? ;-)