Living Life in Real Time

Chapter 8 – “Shoulds” Are Good April 13, 2010

I grew up with a long list of “shoulds.”  I should always have a smile on my face…I should always be polite…I should always go the extra mile…I should always finish what I start.  Believe me I could go on.  So, what’s wrong with the shoulds?

As always I generally start these chapters off with a little resistance.  It seems that every week steps on my early years in the church.  Then as I read through the chapter I realize they aren’t “poo pooing” the way I was raised.  They are simply bringing a better understanding to some areas where I may not be experiencing all that God wants for me.  OK – I’ll go in the pool one more time.  It seems like it’s worth it in the end.

Here’s help to understand the “shoulds.”

  • Should is an obligation
  • Should is a compulsion – a demand that something has over you
  • Should is a duty

Where there is a “should” there is no choice in the matter.  If we don’t do the “should” then we are bad.

From page 130:  “Then the shoulds invade our spiritual lives.  We should set aside time for bible study, serve on the Board of directors, love our next-door neighbor who gossips.  The problem arises when we do things in order to be good, instead of because of the blessings we will gain by doing them.  The problem is doing good things from a sense of obligation instead of out of a genuine love.”

  • What “Should’s” tell you how to live?
  • When has something you loved become a chore when it became a “should?”

Tell me what you think of this statement on page 131:  “The good we want to do, we don’t do, the we practice the very evil we hate.  Why don’t we do things that are good for us and that would make our lives better?  Because by nature, we are not free….As long as we are under the law we will fail.”

Emotionally we are still stuck in the law, while everything God tells us is about grace.  We feel like we will lose love if we sin.  If we don’t do, act, stand, turn, whatever like we should then we will lose the thing that matters most to us.  We are stuck in the law.

Being stuck in the Law brings these things:

  • The Law Brings Wrath
    We expect God to be angry with us and therefore we get angry at God and at ourselves and at others.

    • When have you been angry at God, resenting him and his rules?
  • We Are Condemned
    When we’re stuck in the law we live in a constant state of guilt

    • When has worldly sorrow (feeling guilty) paralyzed you?
    • When has godly sorrow (feeling sorry) motivated you to change?
  • We Are Separated From Love
    When we’re stuck in the law we feel unloved and we feel that God will stop loving us if we fail.

    • When have you expected to be condemned by something you did but found love instead?
  • Our Sin Increases
    When we’re stuck in the law we sin more.

    • Why do you think the “shoulds” in our life increase our desire to sin?
  • We Gain No Benefit
    When we’re stuck in the law we do because we feel we have to.  Our motivation is not out of love and motivation is everything to God.

    • What good, Christian actions have you done out of a sense of “should” rather than a sense of love?

So, how can I find something more for my life than a long list of “shoulds?”

Consider this from page 139:  “It is here they want to change, not because they know they ought to, but because they hate the hypocracy, the lust, or the idolatry of their lives.  This is the beginning of what Jesus calls “poverty of spirit,” which bring them to grace in a much deeper way than ever before.  They find that they have to accept the fact that though they cannot change, they are okay in God’s eyes as they are, and that he wants to help them even in their badness, failure, and inability.”

“Shoulds” do have a place in our life.  The Bible has a much different way at looking at the “shoulds.”  Think of “shoulds” as the perfect law.  We can never live up to the law, but it is there for guidance.  “Shoulds” are good in the sense that they are standards that we can live by.  Doing what we “should” brings about a certain result…such as a life of goodness.  But the Bible never says “You should or your bad.”

What does a life of freedom look like out from under the shoulds…out from under the law and in relationship with God?

  1. When we’re out from under the law we have the freedom to love.
    • Where are you still functioning under the law in your relationships?
  2. When we’re out from under the law we don’t  condemn ourselves when we fail.
    • In what area of your life are you becoming more forgiving of yourself?

We’ll end this chapter with this thought:  Coming out from under the law of the “shoulds” means changing from “have to” to “want to.”  However this doesn’t mean that we always feel like doing what is right.  But wanting the end result of the blessed life, we choose what we may not want to do in the moment.  It’s all about the right motivation!

If you’d like to join this study in real time…I’m teaching it at HopePark Wednesday Mornings & Thursday Nights. If you’re a Nashville local, the door is always open. We’re at 8001 Hwy. 70 South, just off I-40. Online at http://hopepark.com and on twitter @hopepark.

Me…well you can find me twittering @jodytodd.

Have a great week!


Questions and assigned quotes from the study by Dr. Henry Cloud & Dr. John Townsend entitled “12 Christian Beliefs That Can Drive You Crazy.”


One Response to “Chapter 8 – “Shoulds” Are Good”

  1. Bill Todd Says:

    I get a little hostile when people try to “should” on me.

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