The negative thinking patterns entitled “Should” describe when people think to themselves that they have to be or do a certain thing, when it is not required for them to be or do that certain thing. This does not involve the things we have to do to become faithful Christians, because everything that God wants us to be we are required to become. This form of thinking becomes negative when we feel guilty or our self-esteem is hurt when we do not achieve a goal that we feel like we have to achieve. For instance, one of my young clients came into my office one day crying because she had been turned down by a boy she wanted to date. She said that she “had to” be his girlfriend and if she wasn’t going to be his girlfriend, then she was going to “live a miserable life.” The form of thinking that caused this client to believe that she “should” or “had to” have this one particular boy as her boyfriend in order to lead a happy life is irrational because no one but God can make you totally happy. By telling ourselves that we “have” to have or do something that is not required by God is setting ourselves up for disappointment when we do not achieve that goal.
Psalm 37:4 states, “Delight thyself also in the LORD; and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.” Instead of focusing on what we think we should have in our lives, we should focus on dedicating our lives to God and trust that He gives us what we need in life to be content and happy. In the case of the young girl I had as a client, she should have trusted that God would bring into her life the person with whom she would become romantically involved according to His Timetable. She should not have tried to force the event to happen herself. Through trust in God, she would have been much more content and happy. God’s main goal for us as humans is to achieve the gift of Eternal Life. He also wants us to be happy while we are here on Earth. True and lasting happiness comes through obedience.
Having a “should” mentality can harm others as well. Sometimes I would see young boys whose parents had high expectations for their children in regards to athletic achievements. I had one teenager as a client whose parents wanted him to excel in every sport his local high school offered. He felt so much pressure to succeed in sports that his academic grades plummeted. He had to quit all of the sports his parents wanted him to enter, because one of the requirements of participating in sports is keeping good grades.
Of course, we should ALWAYS do what God wants us to do. We should also teach others to always do what God wants us to do. When having the “should” mentality is a problem, however, occurs when we think we HAVE to have or do something that is not required by God in order to be happy in life. We should put God first, and be content with whatever His Plan is for us! Just as Paul wrote in Philippians 4:11; “ Not that I speak in respect of want: for I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.”