freedom, bondage, should, ought

Many of us women find ourselves enslaved to the bondage of what we “should” and “ought” to do. Freedom from this way of life is possible if we fight for it.

You should eat more vegetables.

You should get more exercise.

You should lose that ten pounds…yesterday.

You should read your Bible more. And while we’re at it, you should pray more.

You ought to be more kind…and really, you should visit your mother more often.

You ought to adopt one of those Compassion children… Or give money to save those sad, quivering dogs shown on the commercials during your favorite television shows. (Why are they always cold?)

Freedom From: Measuring Up

Sometimes it’s like a ceaseless loop spinning in my brain, the constant ‘shoulds and oughts’ whispering. Or screaming, depending on the day. Each whisper holds the same underlying message: I don’t make the bar; I didn’t measure up to an unknowable goal.

This is a battle of the mind, and a battle of the spirit and a war too many women fight. Regardless of age, race, or education, there are few women with whom I have been acquainted who have not struggled with the inner voice of ‘shoulds and oughts.’

Bondage: The Source

From where or whom does it originate? Obviously, it belies a lack of self-esteem, but it appears to be most rampant among females. There are many possible reasons.


For some, it began in a home where perfection was expected and average was seldom accepted as ‘good enough.’ For others, abandonment or neglect in childhood bred feelings of not being valuable. Childhood sexual abuse also kills self-worth.


Others attend, or grew up attending churches with rigid doctrine concerning God. God was used as a threat. He was angry or didn’t love us if we did this or that (or didn’t do this or that). This is completely NOT scriptural. However, it is completely controlling for a leader to use in manipulating the flock to do his own will. In reality, Scripture teaches clearly of the Father’s unfailing love for us, of His infinite patience, and His desire that none should perish. But that all should come to repentance (2 Peter 3:9). (Please don’t read this to mean I believe that God doesn’t punish sin. However, His punishment is never punitive, as a person’s might be).


The culture in which we live has placed a great deal of ‘shoulds’ on females today. For instance, every single girl or woman should have peaches and cream skin, be at least 5 feet 7 inches, and have the body of a size 2…with a bra size of at least 36C. Probably 98% of the females who walk the planet do not possess these traits. Consequently, there is an epidemic of women everywhere who are ashamed of their bodies and/or looks. In the seventies, PR departments of clothing and makeup companies co-opted what was once a normal, average female body and convinced at least half of the population that they were not as thin or beautiful as they should be…

And Satan loved it so.

Bondage: The Result

As a result, depression has taken a significant leap in teen girls in recent years and eating disorders are not just for kids


Scripture’s Should and Ought’s

Then He spoke a parable to them that men always ought to pray and not lose heart…
Luke 18:1

If I then, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.  For I have given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you.
John 13:14-15

But Peter and the other apostles answered and said: “We ought to obey God rather than men.”
Acts 5:29

We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples [weaknesses] of the weak, and not to please ourselves.
Romans 15:1

And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
I Corinthians 2:4-5

…bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so also should you.
Colossians 3:13

For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another.
I John 3:11

Many of us women find ourselves enslaved to the bondage of what we "should" and "ought" to do. Freedom from this way of life is possible if we fight for it.


There are several more verses to offer, but truthfully, if my heart and mind will focus on Scripture’s oughts, the lies will cease. In fact, they have stopped occurring as often as they did in the past. Satan is a slow learner, but he does finally get the hint.

And in the midst of it all, I am learning how to be a little more like my Lord and Teacher, Jesus Christ.

The next time you find yourself trapped in the bondage of should and ought, fight for freedom with the Word.

If you have found this inspiring, share the encouragement…

Scripture is authored by the One who loves us more than any one of us can fathom. Click To Tweet

Many of us women find ourselves enslaved to the bondage of what we "should" and "ought" to do. Freedom from this way of life is possible if we fight for it.

The world continually feeds us the lie that we need to be different. Replace that lie with truth. Because you have been loved, pursued, and redeemed by Christ, you are enough!

tote, bag, striving, but God, enough

Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Dawid Zawiła

About the author
I’m a happy wife, loving mom of 3, and adoring grandmother of 6, and owner of an adorable Cocker Spaniel. I began blogging in 2016, when, in the midst of completing a master’s degree in marriage and family therapy, I began radiation treatment for breast cancer. It became a good outlet for me to connect with other survivors and a good way to let friends and family know what I was experiencing.

Life is a journey full of interesting, surprising, heartbreaking and fun things.

Comments (35)

  1. Oh, this is something I’ve struggled with my whole life. Not feeling good enough. Thin enough. Fit enough. Happy enough.
    I think, with age, comes more wisdom and experience and understanding that our unique differences are what make us so special.

    1. Yes! Learning to see our differences as a gift of our uniqueness is a beautiful way to see ourselves! Thank you for sharing!

  2. There is so much freedom in Christ 🙂 He restores us trifold when our own home, church, and society breaks us down with these rigid rules. JESUS rebuked the Pharisees and healed the sick on sabbath day.

    He sets us free. Amen for this blessed post

    1. For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.
      Galatians 5:1 (ESV)

  3. Yes! I love this so much! I talk to my therapy clients about their self-prescribed ‘shoulds’ and ‘oughts’ all the time. These are great scriptures to combat the lies and negatives. Thank you for a beautiful post!

  4. I absolutely loved this article! I have struggled with this for a long time and still am! But God is helping me heal and learn that I am good enough!
    Thanks for the positive reinforcement to keep working on me and feeling worth it. 🙂

    1. It’s the age-old message from the enemy: not enough. Yet our Father calls us His own, which makes us more than enough in Him!

  5. Awesomely written piece! I lovedon’t the subheadings I really prefer to read like this than long paragraphs it keeps me interested. As someone who experienced abuse as a child abuse I have certainly seen where it and my home situation was the root cause of all my self worth and self esteem issues. Im also about to joy these verses down…timely reminder! Great read!

    1. Thank you, Hilary. I’m so grateful that God uses His word over and over to heal and strengthen us. I️ appreciate you sharing.

    1. Thank you, Rachel! I’m always grateful when God uses the message I write to bless others. His word is the best ‘positive affirmation’ we could ever use to counteract the negative voices in our heads!

  6. Thank you for calling this out as bondage! I’m struggling with should as a new mom, but that’s not the attitude God calls me to have!

  7. Wow! I sure needed these scriptures today and the reminder that “It is urgent for us to use the truth of Scripture as our sword to fight the war of words that occur in the mind.” POWERFUL!!!

    1. I am so grateful that He used His word to give you the grace you needed to help in your moment of need! He’s faithful to answer when we call.

  8. What a great post. We all have to remember to find our identity in Christ Jesus. We are who he says we are, we can do what he says we can do. Not to mention that God is the same yesterday, today and forever but the standards of this world changes daily. We have to stay focused on the one who created us and who gives us purpose.

  9. Thank you for this reminder that I have no other person to impress but God Himself. If He finds me pleasing, then I have truly been successful.

    1. Yes, dear friend, you are precious in His sight each and every day, regardless of your earthly ‘successes.’

  10. I’m from the group of the maxi dresses and Keds because of a personal doctrine that was preached. That idea was beaten into me so much as a child and teen, when we left that church because of a move, I was left speechless when I saw our new pastor’s wife in a pair of jeans. I just knew she was on her way to hell. It didn’t take long for me to see the real world but it did take awhile for me to realize it doesn’t matter what we put on, what matters is if we are born again. I still have problems accepting certain things that go against the doctrine of my childhood and I’ve been away from it for 30 years. I’m just glad that Jesus loves us not matter what our upbringing has taught us.

    1. Thank you for sharing that part of your story, Lori. The truth is, we’re all from flawed backgrounds and/or flawed doctrinal teachings because, well, those things came through the hands of flawed human beings. Generally, our parents or religious leaders didn’t purposefully decide to lead us astray, but as one of my professors used to say, we’re all fellow pilgrims on the same journey, (just maybe at different stops along the way). I believe Scripture tells us that when we love God with a whole heart and love our neighbor as ourselves, we have fulfilled the law of God. Ultimately, no other doctrine is needed. And yes, you are loved beyond measure!

  11. This is such an important message for women to hear and understand. I find myself at times realizing that ‘shoulds’ have cropped back into my thoughts and expectations of myself. That usually correlates with feelings of anxiety.

    1. I agree, Melissa. Unfortunately, women have ‘owned’ this mind game far more than men. I understand the anxiety correlation; my ‘shoulds’ also increase when I am stressed or anxious. It is insightful for you to realize that in yourself. Thank you for pointing it out for the rest of us!

  12. We should take our “shoulds” from a higher source. This world will always nit-pick about something, but God is gracious with us and helps us reach perfection, which can only be found in Christ.

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