“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Romans 8:1-2 NIV
Some of my “shoulds” stem from way back in elementary school when I first discovered comparison and became acquainted with the feeling of not measuring up. This is partially due to my personality and the fact I have a deep-seated belief that I’m lacking something important (Enneagram 4) and also because I’ve incorporated lies into my psyche to the point I’m convinced this is who I am, or who I am not.
Consequently, it’s taken me a dreadfully long time to accept myself for who I actually am. Maybe you can relate? Maybe you find yourself desperately wishing you could be like someone else, or that your life would look a little more like hers. Or maybe you were so sure things would turn out a certain way, and they just….haven’t.
But in order to make peace with ourselves and our lives and somehow find the beauty in all of it, we need to start with the truth. The truth is the way things are, for better or worse, not how you would like them to be, or how you think they “should” be. Rachel Hollis says it like this: "It’s impossible to go somewhere new, to become something new, without first acknowledging where you are. The self-awareness that comes from truly digging into what you’ve come to believe about who you are is invaluable."
Life has and will continue to be a journey towards making peace with the truth. Not only the truth about God and who He is, although this is of utmost importance, but also the truth about myself and who I am (not who I "should be")—my strengths, weaknesses, quirks, struggles, successes, failures, relationships, and circumstances.
A lot of the time, the way we feel things should be is to our own detriment. It actually holds us back and limits the freedom God wants for us. I don’t know about you, but as the calendar year unfolds, I tend to notice themes in my life. Some people choose a word for the new year, naming it in a sense, determining where their focus and intentionality will be. I like to do the opposite: I watch, wait, and listen to my life to see what God is doing.
One theme I’ve noticed this year is the unmasking of the “shoulds” that govern my life. Here’s a silly example. I enjoy writing (and sometimes speaking); it’s a way for me to be creative, worship the Creator, process thoughts and feelings, and offer encouragement and perspective to others. I’ve known for years that reading books makes you a better writer, that all the prolific writers are avid readers. Writers "should" read. And there it is—a pesky should! But it’s a should that’s also true, a should which would help me if I could find the time to fit it in.
So what do I do with that? Well, for years, I just didn’t read and felt like such a failure for it. This is a lie I believed: audio books weren't for people like me. The unraveling of this “should” and the lies that went with it made such an impact on my life that I wrote a blog post about it.
My "shoulds" go way deeper than the “right way” to read a book, however. They permeate every nook and cranny of my life and include what a good wife should do, what a good mother should do, how my home should look, how a good christian should act/speak/serve the world for Jesus, how a good writer should write, how happiness and contentment should look, how marriage should look, how my life should turn out if I do all the right things, how their life should turn out if they don’t, what success in ministry should look like, and so on. When you start peeling back the layers of your own life, my guess is you may find the same.
Steal a few minutes by yourself today and make a list of ways you feel you/things/life/people “should be.” How do you spot a “should”? Well, I'm so glad you asked! Shoulds have to do with:
- right and wrong
- following rules
- ideals not realities
- perfection and performance (what “good” ________ do)
- expectations and obligations
- our skewed views of success
When we live in the shadow of our “should be’s”, we are not living free. If you're feeling brave today, friend, would you take a moment and share some of your "shoulds" in the comments? I'd love to hear from you!
This is an excerpt from the Women's Retreat I led over the weekend, titled Truth & Beauty: Learning to Embrace Your Actual Life. I thought it might serve you today! For more behind-the-scenes posts and resources, sign up for our mailing list below! Know a friend who would be blessed by this content, too? Invite them to join us!