Tag Archives: should

The S Word

"The S Word" written on a lemon tree.by Lydia Floren

One of our favorite family phrases comes from the movie Aladdin.  The little parrot, Iago, gets all upset and starts venting to his boss, the evil Jafar.  Jafar’s response is simply this: “Paaaaatience, Iago. Paaaatience.”

What gets us so riled up, that we lose our patience with ourselves or others? For me, it is the S word.  No, not the four-letter S word….the six-letter one:  “should.”  When “should” creeps into my thoughts and makes its way into my conversations, patience goes out the window. Joy is replaced by restless discontent.  I start focusing on what is wrong instead of what is right.

“They should be doing this. I should be doing that.”

“They should fill all of these potholes.”  “I should get more respect.” “The computer system should always work perfectly.” “I should be able to manage my time better, or be a better person.”

Should is a toxic word. It poisons our peace and eats away at our patience. Shoulds stress us out and put stress on those around us.

Cure for the S word

The cool thing is, there is a cure for the S word–the “should” infection. It’s the T word: thanksgiving. The practice of giving thanks in all things stamps the shoulds right out of our life. Gratitude banishes discontent, restores our joy, and replenishes our patience.

“Thank you Father, that we have paved streets, and that these potholes will eventually be filled.”  “Thank you that You respect and value me, and are teaching me to respect and value myself.” “Thank you that the computer system works 99% of the time, and there is a great team of people working on keeping it that way.”

It doesn’t come easy.

Replacing the “S” word with the “T” word takes some practice. It doesn’t come easy.  In fact it can feel quite awkward and contrived, especially at first.  But, it is incredibly powerful at restoring our perspective and our joy.

“Thank You that every single one of us is imperfect and in process, and You love us right where we are.” “Thank You that we are each fearfully and wonderfully made.” “Thank You that I don’t need to do anything to earn your love, and there is nothing I can do that will change it.” “Thank you that You are always present and at work, and working things to good.”

“Thank you that there is always, always, always something to be thankful for.”

When we cultivate a grateful heart we quit “shoulding” all over ourselves and those around us. Our words and actions are motivated by love instead of driven by discontent.

How has the “S” word invaded your life?  What happens when you replace it with the “T” word?

"patience" on purple petunias


Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxiety

Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxietyby Lydia  Floren

In the holiday season, it is easy to get stressed.  Anxiety can slip up on you–or just slam you– but it always keeps you from enjoying life.  When we are anxious, we are fretful, not fruitful. We frown. We are easily annoyed. With all the activity and stress this time of year, it’s doubly important to recognize the signs that you may be entering the Twilight Zone of Anxiety.

 It starts with The Coulds.

I think we all have a little ADD; it’s hard not to get distracted, given the world we live in.  And any tendency our minds might have to wander, will kick into overdrive at the holidays.  We think about The Coulds.

There are so many things we COULD do.  We COULD entertain like Southern Living, decorate our homes like Architectural Digest, create gifts like Martha Stewart, dress like Vogue, bake cookies like Good Housekeeping.   We COULD attend the office party, the theatre production, the carol sing, the sleigh ride.   We COULD do all the things we didn’t do last year, that we promised ourselves we would do “next year, for sure.”  These “coulds” don’t order themselves into a neat list; they swirl around in our heads like a thick fog on a stormy night.

 Then come The Shoulds

Once The Coulds are established, The Shoulds creep in.  We SHOULD make this gift.  We SHOULD call so-and-so.  We SHOULD attend that event, buy this present, send that special card, call that person, volunteer for this cause. SHOULDS go very deep in our psychy.  Beneath the layer of things we SHOULD DO, is the even more corrosive layer of the things we SHOULD BE.  We SHOULD BE more loving, and patient, and thoughtful, and organized, and disciplined.  Between the Coulds and the Shoulds, everything in our heads becomes a muddled mess.

The Abyss of Never Enough

Eventually, we are forced to face the fact that we don’t have enoughof anything.  We don’t have enough time, or energy, or resources, or even compassion–to do what we think we SHOULD do, much less what we COULD do.  At first we might complain (whine) “if I just had more _______.”  Or we might try whipping those around us into action (usually less-than-enthusiastic family members), to help us get some of those Shoulds off our backs.   Finally we admit to ourselves: “There is never enough, and there is never going to be enough, of me to do all these Shoulds, no matter how hard I try.”

While this truth should be freeing, it is not. Not yet.  We aren’t finished sliding down into the pit, and we do this by saying to ourselves, “Somehow this is all my fault. I SHOULD have done this, I SHOULD have planned that.”  We get frustrated, depressed, and twice as stressed, beating ourselves up for every missed opportunity, every less-than-perfect outcome. When we reach the SHOULDS of REGRET, we have tumbled headlong into the Abyss of NEVER ENOUGH.  Here, we are truly at a standstill.

 Escaping the Twilight Zone of Anxiety

The way to freedom from all this anxiety and stress is 180 dgrees opposite the busy road we have been traveling.  Our freedom comes when we decide to quit focusing on ourselves, and our little corner of the universe, and turn our eyes to Jesus.   Jesus said “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the Father but through me.”   When we spend our efforts connecting with the Maker of the Universe we get to know Truth—in Person.  That Person also said “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.”

I find when I choose to make time with God my top priority, everything changes.  The fog clears. I start to see the world more from His perspective. The things I was worried about don’t seem as important. And other things—things that weren’t even on my radar before—take precedence. The hymnist Helen H. Lemmel expressed  it this way:

Turn your eyes upon Jesus.                                                                                                                  Look full in His wonderful face,                                                                                                              and the things of earth will grow strangely dim,                                                                                in the light of His glory and grace.

The psalmist David said it another way:

…I waited patiently for the LORD; And He inclined to me and heard my cry. He brought me up out of the pit of destruction, out of the miry clay, And He set my feet upon a rock making my footsteps firm. He put a new song in my mouth, a song of praise to our God… Isaiah 40:1-3

What ways has God freed you?  We’d love to hear from you!

For more reflections about the holidays, check out  Perfect Holidays, Shine your Heart, or   Crunch Time.