Let People Be

I’d like to caution the gentle use of the phrase, “You should…”

“You should pursue that job. Even if it doesn’t express who you are, it pays better.”

“You should not buy that car if you were smart with your money.”

“You should wear these colors. These are the ones in style”

“You should come out with us. If you’re tired, you should suck it up and come anyway.”

“You should wear the pale toenail polish, not the bright one.”  😉

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There is a certain imperative, a demand, a drain placed on another person when you approach them with these words. It lacks a certain gracious honor for who they are, an independent, thoughtful person, able to make decisions to guide their own lives. It challenges and ultimately damages their confidence. It smacks of subtle control.

For some it becomes  a burden that triggers their pleasing tendencies and with undue effort they strive to fulfill your “should” statement. I’ve been known to go to great lengths to please your expectation.

For others it sparks a defiant “don’t tell me what I should do” response, equally draining, equally destructive to loving relationship. Of late, this ugly backlash shows up most when I feel trapped by your “should”.

When you “should” a person, you dance on the boundary of respect. This is especially true when speaking to another adult. A respectful, honoring boundary in a loving relationship does not seek control, does not assume my way is the right, only way things can be done.

In my adult years I have noticed more and more how certain relationships express themselves in this controlling light. I noticed, and I don’t respond well to it.

It is most pronounced and most overlooked in the closest of relationships, the family ones. Siblings unable to break the habits of the teen years, spouses that persistently seek to improve one another, parents who find it hard to stop parenting. Oh how I am guilty, guilty, guilty!

My desire is really this: Let people be.

Let them think for themselves, explore for themselves, make mistakes for themselves. Give advice, only when asked. Give encouragement always, even if they chose not to follow your recommendation. Celebrate that they may have a different way, a different approach. Bask in the uniqueness of us all.

Celebrate them and celebrate me. I am determining to celebrate you.


Back-and-Forward-ButtonThis post is part of my series 31 Days of Glancing Back and Leaning Forward: Personal reflections and life lessons from my year.

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3 thoughts on “Let People Be”

  1. Thanks Karena for this post. I’m agree with you. It’s a tendancy of human beings to tell someone the Way things CAN be done. Giving thanks for choices they make and letting them be, It’s a wise behaviour favorizing .relationships.
    Have a Nice day!

  2. Such a great post Karena! Wow. I recently heard John Maxwell speak of maturity as the ability to focus on others in the various aspects of our lives–in conversations, in evaluating needs, in deciding how we spend our time, etc. I believe a further step of maturity is learning how to focus on others with grace and respect for who they are and how they are wonderfully and uniquely made by God…and this is what you’ve defined so well! Thank You for this!


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