We Should Do Away With “Should”

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“Should” is a word which needs to be relegated to the second string, a backup word which is used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary. When we overuse “should” we build paper mache reality full of guilt, regret and unfulfilled hopes.

I should exercise more.

You should show up at work earlier.

I should have studied more in college.

He should have done his part of the project.

I should be able to get that to you this week.

She should be here soon.

We should be ok.

It should work.

Should, should, should. It’s a word of unfulfilled expectations, an indication that things are not as they ought to be but without certainty that they will be repaired. It leaves residues of guilt and pours on the obligations. It blame-shifts and hands out false hope. And it grasps at straws. When we allow “should” to be our circumstance we are left with the dissatisfaction of something incomplete.

Instead of “should,” as much as it is up to us, we ought to be people who are and who do. Let “am” and “is” describe our being and “must” and “will” describe our future. Such words are active and full of hope. Instead of passive and questioning they are present and urgent. “Should” allows us to shirk responsibility. Instead of committing and completing we vaguely allude to and never follow through. When we avoid should we leave less room for vacancies and voids whether it be in work, relationships, or personal growth.

In all, “should” is often more than just a word. It indicates a mindset or an unfulfilled reality. Only by an intentional choice can we move past it. It’s worth it. We should really try. But will we?

Comments

  1. Chris S says

    Stephen,
    As far as the potential for "should" to be a de-motivating word that only brings nagging guilt and that can quench hope, I will agree with you.
    However, there are times that Scripture has no problem using a fairly synonomous word when it says we "ought" to have done something (see esp. the gospels, such as Luke 11:42).
    God uses words such as these at times to point us to our failures to obey him, love others, and bring conviction so we can look to His grace for mercy and his power for change. Just something to consider so that you present a balanced view of regret and how it can properly be used to identify failure, point us to our need for Christ, and motivate change in our lives. But I love how you write!

  2. says

    Barnabas. Great post.

    I have similar feeling to the word, "just." About a decade ago I noticed how often I heard this word used in leadership settings. Worship leaders or Bible teachers would use the term when rushed at the end of a service. "Let's just pray real quick." "Let's just read a scripture real quick." Often, this word is used in tandem with "quick" or "quickly." We live in a world where time is a precious commodity. Then we diminish the value of what we are doing by our rushed feelings. It's sad.

    Again. Great stuff. Thanks!

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  1. […] Barnabas Piper. Why We Should Do Away with “Should.” ““Should” is a word which needs to be relegated to the second string, a backup word which is used sparingly and only when absolutely necessary.” […]

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