Monday, May 21, 2012

Maybe Justin SHOULD guest-blog for me...


The word looks so... perfect.


Or perhaps you're one who considers perfectionism your beneficial fault. Like busyness.
(That may be another post.)

"It's not that bad," you say, "who doesn't want perfection?"

It may sound good at first, but…

(Fish think bait looks good, too. Who doesn't want free food?)

Perfectionism has its own language, and it has invaded English like cancer.
No, not the astrological kind. 
Perfectionism speaks and thinks in the language of Should.

I Should help others.
You Should work hard.
We Should raise good children.
He Should do the dishes; I've been busy all day.
She Should sing more; she has a great voice.
That never Should have happened to you. 

But how are these bad, you ask? I use them all the time, you say?
Here's the rub: "Should statements" never come alone. 
They always come in two parts, even though the second part is often silent.

I Shouldn't have done that... but I did, Idiot.
I Shouldn't have eaten so much... but I did, Glutton.
I Should be more productive... but I'm not, Lazy.
I Should be loved more... but I'm not, Worthless.

Should makes the world black and white. Should makes the world wrong and right.
(Just as it Should be, Shouldn't it?)  

Should means you never measure up.
(You Shouldn't mess up, Should you?)

Should robs you of joy in your accomplishments.
(You Should be good at that after all, Shouldn't you?)

Should is the way life Should be.
(And you Should live by my Shoulds, too!)

I hope you caught the sarcasm there. [I got it from my mom.]
The point I'm trying to make is that Should places the burden of perfection on very imperfect people, and batters our emotions every time we fail to follow even the smallest Should we've believed. 

Should has been in our vocabulary so long that it has brought some nasty cousins to hide behind:
Have To
Need To
These warty fiends brandish the same silent insults and pillage our hearts just as does their leader Should.

Should is especially lethal when it slams against our feelings: 
(Think about the "silent sentence" that follows each of these) 
I Should parent my children better, but... 
I'm not supposed to feel this way, but... 
I ought to feel less angry, but...

Double Trouble when my Should encounters your feelings:
(What condemnation has your Should hung around someone's neck?)
You Shouldn't feel that way... 
You ought to love me more...
You're supposed to CARE..!

 But hold on, I’m supposed to view the world this way, right? I mean, you basically have to. I can’t avoid using Should and its cousins: you ought to just deal with it and quit painting it in such a negative light. You shouldn’t bash on Should like that. You need to just toughen up your emotions and deal with life.

Uh-oh… can you see how that train of thought reveals how hard it is to change how we speak--how we think--about Should?

Because at the bottom of every perfectionist 
(be they the closet variety or not) is this Should:
I Should think using Should.
This is a tricky one, and I’ll come back to it later.

Ok, Justin. You've shown me this problem. Now you Should do something about it.
Wait! Don't Should on me. I already Want to do something about it.
Here's the first key:
Replace the inaccuracies of Should with something more accurate.
I wish
I would like
I feel
I could
I might
I want
and the big one: 
I choose
He Should do the dishes? No, he could do the dishes. I wish he would do the dishes. I feel cared for when he does the dishes. He chooses to do the dishes.

 Do you see how this empowers us?
Speaking this way grounds us in reality, in the way things actually are instead of the way I think they Should be. Should is at best an expression of discontent with the reality we have been given and at worst reveals a heart that has invested in lies, chasing after a universe that never really was.
Several of these re-phrasings neutralize the dark power of Should, but the last can actually reverse it. I Choose honors the fallible human being with credit for their successes and ownership of their failures.

I feel as though I have spent much space explaining the problem and precious little prescribing a solution, but I believe that once the disease of Should is revealed, few will choose to reject the simple cure.

Now I would like to return and address a Should that might make others difficult to uproot. This is the belief that
“I Should think using Should.”

My first reaction upon discovering this belief in my own heart was
 “Well, I Shouldn’t think that I Should think that using Should is how I Should think.”
(Because I’m obviously a simple kind of person.) 
Ahem. My point is that using a Should-thought to try to uproot the linchpin of Should-thoughts is not productive.
Notice that I didn’t say you Shouldn’t do it: I found a creative, more accurate way to say what I really meant. It’s not productive and it is not effective. You could try that, and you might choose to, but it would make me feel as though you had chosen defeat.

Here’s the first key again:
Seek accurate ways to say what you really mean.
And give yourself a break. Honestly. Not because you Should, but because it is helpful and reasonable. You can choose to let yourself off the hook of responsibility for running the entire universe the way you think it Should be, molding your spouse to be the person you think they Should be, and feeling like a victim or a failure every time life goes off where you think it Shouldn’t.

Humans are fallible.

So here’s the second key:
Choose an accurate view of yourself.
You’re not too big, but you’re not too small, either.
You’re the way God Chose to make you.
You have the skills God Chose to give you.
You are the person God Chose to create.
Believing you Should be or do anything else is buying into a lie about your very identity… and perhaps foisting that lie upon others, too.

(NOTICE: I am not saying that you Should just follow your feelings. That is Disney’s job. Also, that’s just another load of Should)

Perhaps you’re close to buying into the idea that Should is destructive, and you have just one last reservation: We Should do what God says, Shouldn’t we?

Here’s the lowdown on the Most High: He doesn’t share that opinion.
This is the whole Law/Grace dichotomy: under the law, one Should obey simply because they Should; under grace, one Chooses to obey out of love.
One brings death and condemnation; the other brings life and joy.
The whole purpose of the Law was to reveal human inadequacy: we categorically cannot carry the burden of Should.

For those who would like a reference:
First Corinthians 6:12 and 10:23 demolish the argument that those in the Church Should do as Christ says simply "because," replacing it with a striving for physical and spiritual health motivated by love.


I thought this was a post about perfectionism? Perfectionism is about doing and doing and never being satisfied, not about how I talk!

Ehhh, perhaps. I might give you that one.
But what we do and how we feel about it is rooted in what we believe, right?
I want to take perfectionism out at its roots, and I hope you do, too.

Written by Justin Dersch

Y’know how when you’ve read a word a ‘zillion times and it starts to look funny? Here’s hoping that Should is starting to look bizarre and uncomfortable to you.