Don’t Should on Yourself

You know you should:

  • Eat your veggies.
  • Exercise.
  • Reduce, reuse, recycle.
  • Compost.
  • Carpool.
  • Buy fair trade products.
  • Buy American.
  • Buy local.
  • Buy less and simplify your life.
  • Buy more and stimulate the economy.
  • Eat organic.
  • Call your mother.
  • Write your thank-you notes.
  • Stay off Facebook at work.
  • Feed the hungry.
  • Help the needy.
  • Floss.
  • Invite a hurting friend over for coffee.
  • Let go of your kids.
  • Stay connected with your kids.
  • Love your neighbor, or at least take time to know them.
  • Work hard.
  • Relax more.

I could keep going, but won’t. The point is: Being a good – never mind perfect – wife, mother, daughter, woman, neighbor, friend, worker, citizen and Christian can overwhelm me. I fall short on every bullet point and can easily let guilt shoot me down. Even though I know I shouldn’t. So Craig and I have borrowed a line from writer Brennan Manning, who borrowed it from a nun he knows: “Don’t should on yourself.” We want to stop making excuses and beating ourselves up for every oversight or misstep.

But what should replace the shoulds? I don’t want to give up on living better, more justly and more lovingly. I just want to lift the burden that weighs me down and builds resentment. I need a new perspective, one that forgets about being dutiful, one that embraces gratitude. I don’t have to eat healthy food; I get to. I don’t have to help others; I get to. I don’t have to work; I get to. Not everybody has these riches I take for granted.

I am a middle-class American. I get to live in freedom. I get to choose. Tomorrow I get to vote. You get to as well, and I hope you will.

The choice is yours.


  1. Lee,
    I was having “a day” and came to read your words for the wisdom/support that would be there. My dear, you did it again. Thanks.