We have a running joke in our family. With two adult children, every time my husband or I begin a sentence with “you should….”our kids immediately shut us down and are likely to do the opposite of what we’re suggesting. We laugh and say, “as long as it’s someone else’s idea, they’re all about it!” This is especially true when it comes to our suggesting possible dating ideas for our son. Nothing elicits an eye roll any quicker than, “You know who you should ask out?” My husband now says it just to get a kick out of his response and always follows it with, “Why not, she’s a really cute girl?!” I think we can all agree if we have even an ounce of rebellion in us that there’s just something off putting about the phrase, “you should!”
Recently, I polled my Instagram followers by asking, “What is the hardest thing about your life right now?” Overwhelmingly, the response I received was “guilt about not spending enough time with kids or difficulty with schedules.” Although I am in a different stage of life now as an empty nester, I remember those days all too well. I remember feeling like no matter what I seemed to do, there were never enough hours in the day to get it all done. I remember thinking my life seemed so out of control. Looking back now, I wonder if part of those feelings could be attributed to a voice that played so often in my head. The same one that can slip in subtly from time to time even now and gets louder and louder if I don’t immediately identify the source and take control of it.
You know the voice. It’s the one that says things like….“You should cook healthier meals.” “You should spend more time with God.” “You should work out more often.” “You should have a cleaner house.” “You should get your kids more involved in ____.” “You should have nicer clothes.” “You should spend more time with your girlfriends.” “You should spend more time with your spouse.” “You should recycle.” “You should scrapbook.” “You should clean out your closets” “You should volunteer.” “You should……you should…..you should!”
I wonder if for many of us the guilt of not having enough hours in the day is at least partially the result of the “you should” voice in our heads. In a culture full of more and more comparison, I suspect that the voice is only becoming louder for many of us. The reality is that we all have the same amount of hours in each day, and just like we do with our finances when budgeting, we need to be intentional about how we use those hours. If not, life can easily take control of us and we can look back on weeks, months and even years and wonder what happened to all of that time. When we give attention to the voice and ask ourselves what might be the real source of the “I should” feelings, we have a much better chance of taking back the control of our time. “We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:5)
I feel like we are living in a society that categorizes rest as laziness or a waste of time. And if we don’t feel guilt over resting, then we feel envy and wonder if we will miss out on something incredible if we push the pause button. It’s almost like we have created a form of activity gluttony and much like the plate piled high at an all you can eat buffet, we just continue to pile things onto our calendars even though they are filled with more than enough. Satan continues to use our busyness to keep us distracted and to keep us from deep, meaningful relationships because we’re too exhausted to care about anyone else.
I saw on a friend’s Facebook page today the following quote. “The only people who get upset when you set boundaries are the ones who benefited from you having none.” I have no idea who gets credit for that thought, but I couldn’t agree more. We have to intentionally make decisions about who and what gets more and more of our precious time and we have to start considering the source of each of those “you should” thoughts running through our heads. We have to convince ourselves that “No” really is a complete sentence and we don’t have to justify our decisions about our time choices to anyone other than God and our immediate family. Guilt and shame are ALWAYS from Satan. God will never shame us. “So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus.” (Romans 8:1)
Many of you know, my grandmother passed recently. At her funeral, I read some things that she had written to me in a “Grandmother Remembers” book. She shared that as she grew older, she began to realize that she spent her time doing many things she wished she had let go of so that she could have spent more time with her children. I know it’s cliché, but I’ve never heard of anyone saying at the end of their life, “I regret spending time with the people I love.”
I don’t know what things are filling up your schedule and I definitely don’t want these words to translate into another “You should” statement in your head, but I would encourage you to keep a record over the next couple of weeks of what you do with every minute of your day. This is not a time to shame yourself or beat yourself up, but just an information collecting activity. Once you’ve been able to do that, put your activities into categories. Your categories might include “things I have to do”, “things I want to do”, “things I need to do” and “time wasters” (things I can stop doing). Beside the things on the” I have to do” and “need to do lists”, identify the source of the voice that says “you should.” Are there activities that could be moved off those lists simply by making the choice to say, “No”? What might the consequences of saying “No” be? Do they outweigh the consequences of saying, “Yes!”? I hope by walking yourself through this activity that you feel some empowerment and more of a sense of control.
Finally, let me encourage some of you by saying, it does slow down. A lot actually. And when it does, I pray that you won’t experience a season of wondering who you are because you’ve neglected your own needs for so long. It is not selfish or lazy to take some time to yourself to rest. In fact, it’s much better for those we love most if we intentionally fill up our buckets and love them from the overflow. Parenting on empty every single day will only eventually lead to your being stranded and broken down on the side of the road. And don’t hesitate to ask for help when you need it. There are no trophies that I’ve ever seen. We’re not in a competition. We’re all in this together and sometimes it really does take a village.