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Theological Reflections on an Unhelpful Thinking Style

Should Statements: You try to motivate yourself with shoulds and shouldn’ts, as if you had to be whipped and punished before you could be expected to do anything. “Musts” and “oughts” are also offenders.

The emotional consequence is guilt. When you direct should statements toward others, you feel anger, frustration, and resentment.

One example is the depressed housewife who says to herself, “I should keep my house cleaner, and I shouldn’t complain,” or, “I should be able to get my work done during the day.”

Theological Reflection from Christianity One of the central themes of the New Testament is that Christ has given us a spirit of freedom and accepted us, and we should not condemn ourselves by getting upset at ourselves if we do not perform the way we think we should perform (Romans 8: 31), or the way others think we should. Saying, “I shouldn’t do that,” leads to a spirit of condemnation. Even if we do not do any “shoulds,” God still loves us (Romans 5:8).

We are made OK with God simply by grace, not by our pressured determination to keep all the “shoulds” in one’s life. (Romans 5:1–2).