Action springs not from thought, but from a readiness for responsibility. ~Dietrich Bonhoeffer
A few weeks ago, I attended an event and was directed to park off road in a dark, unlit area. I was one of the first guests there, so the homeowner came out to direct me to off-street parking across the road. As he called out for me to pull forward, he neglected to warn me about the fire hydrant that was obscure and hidden in the dark. I can still hear the metal scraping against my door panel.
The homeowner was embarrassed and apologized profusely. He said he felt like it was his fault; he had been rushing to get me to park my car and forgot to warn me about the hydrant. I wasn’t going to let the incident ruin my evening, so I let it go.
At the end of the event, the homeowner apologized once again. “I should write a check to you to cover the deductible,” he said to me.
Yes, I thought to myself, that would be nice, however, whenever I hear the words “I should” I feel like it is a reflex answer and lacks action.
I thanked him and politely declined his offer.
On the drive home, I thought about the word “should.” The word feels like an obligation, an empty promise, yet many of us use the word daily: I should go to bed early. I should lose 10 pounds. I should clean out the attic.
My parents favored the phrase “What you should do” which annoyed me to no end because the phrase was presented when I had announced a decision. I remember when I was going off to college, I told my parents I decided to major in psychology. My Dad had replied with “What you should do is study business.” When I was considering changing careers, I told my Mom I had updated my resume. My Mom responded with “What you should do is quit your job and stay home.”
“Should” makes me cringe every time I hear it so I’ve learned to maneuver and reframe my wording.
“I should go visit my Dad” is “I haven’t seen my Dad in a few days, I’m going to go see him.”
And with my kids: “You should clean your room” is simply “Your room is more enjoyable when the bed is made, and clothes are off the floor.”
With friends: “We should get together” is “Let’s set a date for coffee and catch up!!”
I’m happy to ditch the S-word and move on to positive alternatives.
And my car? The repairs are complete and if the offer of “I feel bad about the damage. Here’s a check for your insurance deductible” comes my way, I will gladly take the check.