I had a big day at work and came home later than expected.
On my way home I was anticipating a quiet evening with my family, chilling out with my kids and talking about our day over dinner.
However, when I came home I was greeted with questions of “what’s for dinner?”
I lost it.
“You should have taken care of this!”
“This is something you should have figured out.”
I went from 0-60 in seconds.
My thoughts of “You should…”, turned to frustration and anger and resulted in arguing and slamming cupboard doors.
There went the quiet peaceful night.
My expectations were not met and I was sideswiped with feelings of anger, frustration and resentment.
The devil’s goal was achieved.
My joy was gone, the relationship with my family hardened and my hope for a peaceful evening lost.
How many times have you been frustrated at your co-worker, spouse, or friend when they have not lived up to your expectations?
A huge pet peeve of mine is when someone doesn’t do what they say or pull their weight on a project.
I was the person in class who just preferred to work alone so I wouldn’t be disappointed, angry and frustrated yet again.
One of the most relatable people in the Bible has got to be Martha. In the Bible’s re-telling of Mary and Martha, in Luke 10:38-42, we hear about Jesus visiting at Mary and Martha’s house.
Martha invited Jesus and his entourage into her home; a decision that would intimidate the most experienced host, but not Martha she welcomed them in.
Martha, confident and inviting, went about serving her guests while her sister, Mary, enjoyed the company.
Scripture states that Martha became distracted, or driven about mentally, over-occupied and too busy.
Likely thoughts of “My sister should be helping me!” were screaming in her mind.
Can you picture it?
Martha’s mindset deteriorated and these thoughts turned into feelings of anxiety and worry and then finally she asked her honored guest (Jesus) to intervene and tell Mary to help her.
I should really stop using should statements.
“Should” statements are an example of thought distortions that can wreak havoc in our lives and relationships and contribute to worry, anxiety, anger and frustration.
They are based on unrealistic expectations of ourselves and others, therefore the result is usually failure and disappointment.
Thought distortions are ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true and usually reinforces emotions.
What was the lie that I was reinforcing when I was thinking “You should have taken care of dinner”?
In the moment I didn’t have this clarity, but looking back I believe that the lie from the devil was about my value and respect.
My family doesn’t love me because they didn’t anticipate my needs.
My contributions to the home are not valued because they would want to help more on busy days.
These are lies and manipulations to cause sorrow and division and the should statements were trying to convince me that these are true.
4 Steps to Overcome Should Statements
Often times our minds are going so fast that it’s hard to know when the thought distortions start. Watching out for triggers or habits and begin recognizing when the “should”, “ought” and “must” statements pop up.
Put the thoughts to the test. Identify the lie and ask yourself a series of questions to see how valid the thought is.
It may seem excessive to scrutinize a single thought to this level; however, depending on the impact of the distortion it is likely time well invested. Here are a few types of questions to ask yourself.
- Rate the degree of your belief and identity and rate your emotions.
- Conduct a cost-benefit analysis.
- Are there people who do not have this “should” rule? What do you think of them?
- Would everyone see it this way? Why not? If people are not using your “should” rules, how are they looking at things?
- Do your “should” rules treat people in a morally humane and dignified way? Or are they aimed at condemning and criticizing people?
- What if you replaced your “should” rule with the statement that you might prefer something to be true? What if you were less extreme in your statement? For example, rather than saying “I should be perfect”, you were to say “I’d prefer doing well”?
- Imagine you are looking down from a balcony on what is happening and you must describe what you see to a stranger. Exactly what would you say is being said and done?
Thought distortions are lies from the enemy and are meant to cause harm and destruction. God’s Word speaks truth and life. Research the scriptures to discover God’s truth about your life. Below are some favorites:
“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable — if anything is excellent or praiseworthy — think about such things and the God of peace will be with you.” Phillipians 4:8
“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” Hebrews 4:12
“And be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:32
“Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God.” Phillipians 4:6
Changing mindsets can be difficult because they become like habits. Easy mental pathways to travel down when we are faced with stress, conflict and fear. It takes practice and time to clear new pathways for our mind to travel down.
A worksheet can be an easy and engaging way to think critically about your distorted or irrational thoughts. Click here to download your free worksheet template