seeking a new way

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I am a list person. When I know I need to get things done, I ask myself what has to be done that day, make a list of those things, and get to work. I know a lot of people who function this way.

Sometimes it’s not even a written checklist, but a mental one instead. This needs to be done; that needs to be done; so does that other thing. And we plan and schedule and plan some more.

We don’t just do this with our days, though; we do this with our lives. How many of you are guilty of this? We mentally tally everything we should do, and have a timeframe by which to do it. We’ll graduate college at 22, get married that same year or the next, have kids two years later.

But these checklists? This “should” mentality? They aren’t healthy. Because not only do they frame our shoulds for our own lives, but they project our shoulds onto other people’s lives.

If we all should graduate college by 22, why is she still in college at 25? If we all should be married by 25, why did she wait until 30? And if we all should have kids within a few years of being married, why has she seen her seven year wedding anniversary pass without even announcing her first pregnancy?

When we draw these lines, we draw compassion and understanding right out of the stories God has given us. When we point fingers and say someone should be doing a particular thing, we point grace and empathy right out the door.

I don’t want to do that anymore.

I’ll be 22 next month. Seven years ago, I thought I’d be engaged by now. I still haven’t had my first kiss, and my first and only date was at the age of 19. I’ve been told a million times I should get over past heartbreak and should give him a chance and should start dating.

And I’ve doled out my own fair share of shoulds. She should’ve stayed single for more than two hot seconds instead of jumping into another relationship. She should’ve stayed silent instead of saying that to that person. She should, she should, she SHOULD.

I don’t want to do it anymore.

This generation of women has seen a transition from a time where women were expected to fulfill a cultural checklist to one where we have permission, so to speak, to forge our own paths. We’re faced with decisions that we wouldn’t have been blessed with only a few decades ago. And instead of basking in that freedom, we’re still wielding a checklist, and we’re continuing to measure women, including ourselves, by that standard.

We don’t have to do that anymore.

We don’t have to measure ourselves by a standard of shoulds. We don’t have to measure other women by a standard of shoulds. In fact, we don’t have to measure anyone by a standard of shoulds.

And we shouldn’t.

Because the only thing we should be doing is living lives laid open for His use, filled up with His grace, poured out for His glory.

Connect with Annie on her blog or on Twitter.

Have your “shoulds” for your own life accidentally colored the way you view others?  

6 Comments

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    Rebecca Stewart

    Annie, this is so wonderfully true. Getting off that path of “shoulds” brings freedom to live as Christ is directing us and so often that looks different than what we (and society) expect. I always thought I should have a successful career because I was the studious one of the family, so when God led me to walk away from that and stay home with our family, it was confusing and hard and, now, so wonderful.

    Thanks for sharing and writing so beautifully! You’re a gem!

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    meghan

    Annie- I love this. It was just what my heart needed today. Thank you for allowing God to speak through you.

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    Natalie

    Thank you for this. I’m consciously trying each day to remember that I’m on my own timetable and there’s no reason to feel left behind at nearly 28. It’s difficult when everyone in your inner circle is already married with children, but I have to believe that there is a reason I’m not yet…and that God is still working on the perfect man for me. This post was a wonderful confirmation that I’m doing just what I need to be doing…giving it to Him!

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    Alicia

    Love this. Thank you for having the courage to say it. It is a constant battle to actually internalize it, but what a wonderful reminder.

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    Ashley

    Annie, what an incredible message! I’ve been feeling particularly downhearted this week as I’m a recent college grad trying to start my own freelance editorial business instead of fighting for the few jobs out there. I know this is the right time for me to be doing this since my husband’s income is sufficient for all of our bills, and I don’t yet have kids to worry about providing for. And I know I’d never forgive myself if I didn’t pursue this dream. But it’s SO HARD to make that sound like a good enough reason when family and friends repeatedly ask why I’m not just looking for a “real job.” Or even worse, telling me to apply for full-time jobs just in case this thing doesn’t work out. I really, really needed to hear this today, and I thank you so much for your inspirational words. It also serves as a reminder to me that the “shoulds” we may not even realize we’re applying to someone else’s life can unintentionally hurt them.

  • Reply November 8, 2012

    Danielle

    Annie what a message! I’m in the same spot you are now and only just learning that just because I’m not where someone else is doesn’t mean my life isn’t wonderful. Put God first NOW, not just when our lives fall into storybook order.

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