Thursday, January 04, 2007

The anti should campaign

What would it look like if everyone stopped using the words "should", "ought", "behoove", and related words which express the same thing? Megan and I undertook this experiment early in our marriage, and have both found it enormously helpful. For me, most of all, my tendency is to use these words on myself, and I call it "shoulding on myself". Since my self concept is so overwhelmingly negative anyway, I find that just cutting out these words actually helps me move in the direction of experiencing the accepting of myself. As my sponsor says "It is what it is", or "I am what I am". But other people regularly attempt to use these words on me as well. If I didn't have this little campaign going, I think I would miss it a lot of times, and just instantly internalize what they were saying. Instead, it has become my habit to instantly reject it. So for instance I was talking to my very lovely and lovable Nana this last week, and telling her how down I have been, and how I have such a depressive personality. She said, quite naturally,

Nana: "You need to work on that and get over it"

Benjamin: (in my head) "Aha, she said 'need to'. That's a 'should' word! Danger! Danger! Danger!."

Benjamin: (out loud). "Well, actually, Nana, I've kind of come to accept myself as being this way. I think God just made some people with melancholic personalities, and I'm okay with that. It actually feels relatively comfortable being me."

(did you catch that whole "in my head" versus "out loud" thing? Pretty kewl, huh? 10 years ago I was utterly incapable of such amazing sophistication (hehe). Here's to crawling and creeping toward maturity.)

My lovely Nana was rather accepting of this take on things, and just said something like "Oh. Ok."


byron said...

Are there any things in our lives that deserve to change? How can we grow? I realise that acceptance of one's limitations is important, but can't we be more (by God's grace) than we presently are?

Just a thought. I do think the internalisation of skills is an amazing thing, allowing us to think before we speak. Very cool indeed.

Anonymous said...

Hi Ben,

Out of (nosey!) interest, when you told your nana about your personality, do you think you were you looking for reassurance that it's ok, for a positive kind of pep talk that you should change or purely just for conversation? In retrospect I mean, as you probably weren't conciously thinking any of those things at the time...

Helen W

Anonymous said...

By the way, I fully support your idea to stop using those words, I like the idea of 'uninstitutionalising' the world, and myself, and allowing freedom to direct my choices rather than a feeling of compulsion and consequent unwillingness and heartlessness
Growing up in a church and family where should and ought determined most of my actions the learning one camp of 'freedom to serve' and 'freedom to love' through grace were entirely new and refreshing concepts to me. And still need to be worked through constantly in my head!
Helen W

LP said...

that's awesome.