I was reading something for a friend this morning, something you are likely to see. The next to the last word caught me.
I circled it and wrote “could” and had a whole new way of looking at spiritual issues unfold.
For me, the word should carries a set of obligations, and often, not desirable ones. Of course, there are some shoulds that are good for us in the long-term: “We should eat five helpings of fruit and vegetables.” But there are other shoulds that feel heavy. “I know I should do that, go there, read that…” And if we drill down to why that is a should, we find that it is because someone said that it would be a good thing. Like vegetables.
And most of us don’t like to do things out of obligation. We feel like we are always behind, always trying to make someone or something happy. We feel like we can never do enough. In a relationship, if we are always living in the shoulds and the oughts, we get very drained.
But what about could?
What if we looked around and discovered that rather than obligation, we had opportunity: “To express love, I could do that.” Suddenly there is choice on our part, there is a sense of freedom, of the ability to express resolve.
Think of it this way. You love someone, with all your heart. You want to celebrate an event, a 6 week anniversary or a 43rd birthday or a Tuesday (just because it’s Tuesday and you love them). You start to think, “What could I do, what do they like, what would help them understand how much I love them?”
This feeling is much different than, “Oh man, today is my boss’s birthday. I have to do something, what should I do.” One flows out of adoration, the other fear; the one out of affection, the other out of affliction. (full disclosure: I have had great bosses. I love them all. But do you see the point?)
What hit me today is that when we talk about God, we almost always have an implicit should. (“I know I should…”) And we extend that to others: “If you want to be spiritual, you should…” or “You know, a Christian really shouldn’t do that.”
It’s no wonder that religion feels like a burden.
If only we could….