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"Should" is Not the Problem

As counselors we're taught to be very sensitive to the shame clients feel. We notice when they are down on themselves and do what we can to help them see how that shame usually spirals into self-loathing and destructive behavior. We're taught to be very cautious about using the word "should" to command any choices and we question when a client tells us that they "know they should" do something or other.

I even had a counselor once joke with me, "Whoops, looks like you just should all over yourself there."

While shame does tremendous damage to our souls and our communities, I would like to suggest that perhaps an equally destructive habit is not holding one another accountable to a standard that is best for everyone. This isn't necessarily a task for the counseling office, but for our participation in the broader community.

I have often been guilty in my own life of seeing injustice, feeling it, experiencing it, and then just walking away for various reasons. Sometimes it was because I was afraid of the retributioin I might recieve for calling someone out. Sometimes it was inconvenient to confront. Sometimes I feared it would be a waste of my passion or might be unproductive conflict. Sometimes I just didn't have the energy to fight. Sometimes it was because I couldn't think of just the right, accurate, targeted words.

Those are all reasonable concerns, but effectually unhelpful. In walking away, I now believe I have sinned gravely. The common quote, "The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," rings in my ears as I think about the call to Christians to participate in furthering the Kingdom of Heaven.

The Kingdom of Heaven, the ruling of peace, righteousness, and justice requires a confrontation of the things that are not that. Some people try to do their part in this confrontation, but end up erring on the side of violence or retributive harm. But that's not the calling either.

The real calling is turning the other cheek. And before you assume I mean to just take it when someone wrongs you, know that the practice of turning your face to the other side in the first century was more of a public call-out of mistreatment. It was standing up to a person who had treated you as other, looking them in the eye and saying, "I dare you to do that again, right in my face. I am your equal. Let it be shown to the world how disrespectful you are." It was saying directly and publicly, "This is not ok."

We also have passages such as 2 Timothy 3: But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people. (emphasis mine)

Passively submitting to abuses of power without calling them out, especially if those abusing power call themselves lovers of God, is enabling the problem and delaying the Kingdom of Heaven, rather than building it. We are called to confront. Directly. Publicly. This is not ok. Accountability is loving. It helps us all to heal.

Unsplash Silas Blaish

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