Woulda … Shoulda … Coulda!
Yesterday, my wife was being very helpful and kind to friends and their daughter after a sleepover with our daughter. The girls had a great time, and my wife was happy for them. So, she offered another play date for the next day. She did so many nice things in those moments with such a great attitude and heart. Instead of praising her I said, “You shoulda looked at our schedule before over-planning our day.”
Striving for perfection, solely by human effort, is a frustrating task. We tend to load ourselves down with “shoulds” and “should haves.” I should do this; I should have decided that; I should have done it this way; I should read my Bible more; I should be more loving…
We can also project this focus onto others: He should be more sensitive; she should be more respectful; they should be more open; that person should pay more attention to what I do; they should do what I want and need them to do.
When our focus, or worse yet, our need is human perfection, we will feel frustrated. Frustration usually leads to guilt or resentment. Resentment can contribute to a critical and judgmental attitude toward others and ourselves. This mind-set can lead to bitterness, making forgiveness difficult to give and accept. Not a pretty picture!
Taking stock of our shortcomings is important and necessary. But we have to look at our goals and how are we going to use that data. It’s great if we are objective and use it to move forward, get better at life and give hope to the future. But what if we are using the data to beat ourselves up, hold ourselves back, and become fearful of trying again, sucking hope from the future? Well, we often fall into that trap. Do you engage in constant shoulds and should haves, second-guessing what you have done and wishing you could do better? Do you focus on how imperfect you are? What’s your attitude toward others? Do you tend to be a judge?
We often want to hold onto our opinions about how the world should be so that everyone else is in line with our way. But Jesus wants us to conform ourselves to His example. This is the one “should” we ought to do. We should follow Him and work toward the mind and actions of Christ.
Today, evaluate the areas in your life where your wrong “shouldas” enslave you or others to a distorted reality. These can become idols in your life. Examine the areas where you find it difficult to let go of your way and follow Jesus’ example. Jesus promises that if you will trade your agenda for His, you will find true, refreshing and everlasting life. Why are you so caught up in the superficial minutiae of this life? Whether you fixate on minor imperfections or you fixate on Jesus and let His perfection perfect you, it’s your decision, so choose well.
Father, I know I tend to think my way is the only right way. I try to make myself perfect using my own standards. I judge others because I expect them to be perfect—according to my standards. Help me to conform to Your standards. Help me to follow Your example. Help me to walk in love, not in unrealistic expectations. When I make mistakes, I pray to see Your forgiveness and grace and not beat myself up. Please give me strength. Grow in me the skills and humility to forgive others instead of holding my expectations over them. I pray in the name of the One who chose to die for me, Jesus Christ. And all God’s children say AMEN!
“Then Jesus said to His disciples, ‘If anyone desires to be My disciple, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow Me. For whoever is bent on saving his life shall lose it; and whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it.’”Matthew 16:24-25
“If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9