Originally published Monday, 18 November 2013.
Shep posing with the only friends he’ll ever need.
So I was running the other day. And I took my dog with me, which was already a compromise because his legs are approximately 4 inches long–he literally takes 26 steps for every one of mine. He works out 26x harder so he’s experienced an Insanity-level workout by the time we leave the culdesac. But he soldiered on, clickclickclicking on his too-long dog nails next to me. And I thought:
I really should get his nails clipped.
And he so happy and excited to greet his dog buddies of the neighborhood, and I got to thinking about how he has a brother dog down the street that he never sees because I am too busy, and then how he probably misses him, and then I thought, “Shep needs friends.”
SHEP NEEDS FRIENDS. THIS IS LITERALLY WHAT I TOLD MYSELF.
I am crazy. And I lie to myself all the time.
- My dog does not need friends.
- He does not need to be socialized.
- I am not a bad person because he’s a little chunky.
That’s just a short list of lies I tell myself about the woman I need to be, and the crapload of “shoulds” that I’ve punched my soul repeatedly with this week. Why? Why do we women do this to ourselves? And God forbid, why do we do it to one another?
Here’s an easy exercise to know about your own relationship with lies: Grab a piece of paper or the back of a receipt, or your notes app on the phone. Write:
at the top of the page. Now, without censor, list what you think you should do.
(Now go back to that list and add the ones you didn’t put down the first time.)
What’s your theme? More cleaning, more relationships? More organizing, more fitness? More Bible, more classroom time with your kids? More meaningful moments? More intentional devotions? Less worrying? Less striving? Less comparing?
More. More. More. Less. Less. Less.
I don’t know about you, but your list and mine? All they really make me do is feel like I need a nap.
This issue–this intense nonsense of guilt and lies and shoulds is unreal. I do it to others and I do it to myself. I wrap these shoulds around my neck like a scarf, an itchy, scratchy hot scarf that I try to leave alone but is constantly bothering me. It’s guilt, and it’s constricting, and it keeps us from living present and with joy.
So go back to your should list. What really needs to be on that list? What shoulds represent the woman you really, really want to be? The loving one, the patient one? What things are driving you crazy that you need to say to yourself:
even if I never clean out my coat closet or my dog never has a playdate or I don’t bring the homemade cupcakes to the classroom, I will be OK. Even if I don’t eat school lunch with my children every week, they will survive, and dare I say it, thrive. Even if I leave my clothes on the chair next to my bed for a month, I will be OK. Even if I don’t find the perfect present or decorate the most beautiful tree or make a healthy and delicious dinner or run a marathon next fall or write the perfect thankyou card–even if–I will still be OK. I am flawed but I am free–and I am free to fail and to try again.
Galatians 5:1 says “it’s for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not allow yourselves to be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.”
This is slavery, my friends. This angst and shoulds and coulds and worries, it’s enslaving. It steals you away from the present, and the present is where the magic really happens. The present is where Jesus is transforming us into women of freedom and joy and peace. The present is where it’s at, and if our SHOULD list is cluttering up our minds, we are yanked right out of this moment and angsting about the next.
So sure, we all have a fat dog or a cluttered closet or a workout plan to pursue. But make sure that your shoulds aren’t chaining you up again. Jesus paid the highest cost for our freedom, and I’m not gonna lose that joy on a should that isn’t worth my worry.
(Much thanks to Shauna Niequist, whose beautiful writing and honesty and recent post “Shoulds Never Bring Happiness” helped inspire this one! Click here to read it)