More Words about Should

should-not1More than the usual number of comments have been made related to my last post on “should” .  I was told that “should” always leaves the hearer with a choice which the word “must” does not. Other friends sent me extended private messages which I value. The comments combined with my own research have given me an inner need to be less certain and more cautious in what I post lest I offend.  You may click to read comments here.

My own understanding is that a word can not be fully defined without being in a a context. Speaker and hearer may think the same word but each may give it subtle, sometimes vastly different meanings.  So unfortunate and unintended misunderstandings happen.

I recall a father saying to his son:  You may cleanout the chicken house while I go to town if you want to, and adding, and you better want to. There was a powerful unspoken should in that father’s words.   A sensitive boy heard and remembers it.

No two Borderlanders are the same. There are no twins. We come from different beginnings and are on different journeys with unknown endings.  We are not confined to one ideology or to the past. We are free to explore, enjoy or retreat.  We encourage doubt while searching for truth.

perceptionE. Stanley Jones was a missionary to intellectuals in India. He helped shape my own journey.  In 1925 he wrote The Christ of the Indian Road which was judged by conservative Christians as a liberal undertaking.  He also wrote Abundant Living, a daily devotional which my father read to the family for a year each morning before breakfast. As an adult I read his autobiography, Song of Ascents and The Divine Yes which was published posthumously.

Jones described scientists and theologians as climbing up different sides of the mountain of truth.  He imagined that when they met at the peak they would be  surprised to discover that they were both searching for and had found the same thing – truth.  That’s my sci-tho-lo-gic-al hope.

A-word-fitly-spoken (1)Just a bit more about words.   Should is listed with auxiliary verbs that are used to indicate likelihood, ability, permission, and obligation. Examples are can/could, may/might, must, will/would, and shall/should.  A reader who wants to delve into the finer points among these words may search Wikipedia. Click here. (Note that must is included in the list of auxiliary verbs.)

“Should” read in context
is not confused with “you must”
when read in context 

About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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3 Responses to More Words about Should

  1. Lloyd Gingrich says:

    Martin, I was not offended by your blog on the use of the word “should. ”
    Thanks for sharing your research on ” should ” and “must.”
    I still believe when we are not doing what we need to do we need to feel uncomfortable. This could be the Holy Sprit using our conscience to guide us.
    I rest my case.

  2. Miriam Showalter says:

    Hmmm…as a special education teacher, one who has taught many children not only language, but communication (which is much broader, of course), I am fascinated.

    Firstly, I am fascinated by the topic of data. I have collected data which is meaningful to others but not to me. (In this example, it provides enough “evidence” to satisfy an attorney or some other agency of accountability but gives me little information about what makes my student “tick,” and what will lead him or her toward greater quality of life.) As I see it, very little data can be collected related to spirituality and God. One cannot prove that God exists or that God does not exist. For that matter, one cannot say with certainty what exactly *is* a human spirit, or if such a thing exists. Fowler’s _Stages of Faith_ comes to mind, here. In it, he refers to faith differently than what most of are used to. Reading it made me wonder if perhaps faith communities of the future might focus more on *shared* centers of value and power rather than taking such pains to identify our differences in terms of values. It made me wonder if creeds might someday seem less important than treasures. What is it that we treasure most? Asking myself that question has been transforming. It has shown me more about myself than any other soul-searching task I have undertaken.

    Concern over the word “should” I am finding both interesting and somewhat humorous, since there seems to be a “shoulding” in the very act of suggesting that one should not “should” another. I am less interested in what words a person uses, and more interested in how well a person can listen. Often I ask myself, “Have I heard the deepest desires of my friend?” and “Have I avoided imposing my way upon her/him?” or “Have I demonstrated that I have confidence in his/her ability to choose the next step?” but I do not for a minute think that a friendly, “You should have been at that concert/sermon/class/etc.!” amounts to a force of will. Context. Context. Context.

    Just a few thoughts, for what they’re worth. Take them or leave them. It’s always up to you. 😉

  3. Judy Stoltzfus says:

    Uncle Martin, your reference to E. Stanley Jones brought back memories of my Dad, Paul J. Lehman , as he was quite a fan of E.S.J. and loaned me his book called The Way , which made a great impact on me.
    I found your comments on should very thought provoking Laying on guilt can so easily be construed, even when there is no intention.

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