The ones we use when we speak to others; the ones we use when we speak to ourselves.
I've spent some some this week thinking about my family rules. Family rules aren't bad things; they are, after all, the guidelines we used as children to help us navigate our family systems and become grown-ups. (we all wanted to be grown-up back then. I'm not so sure about it now, but I'm afraid it's too late. but, I digress.)
Family rules can often be recognized by three words: always. should. never.
You should never get angry.
You should always dry the dinner dishes.
You should go to church every Sunday.
As adults, we tend to follow these rules because they're buried in our subconscious; we're not even aware we're following them. Some of them are still useful, some can hold us back; even be harmful.
At last week's workshop, they taught us how to transform the family rules into something more like guidelines. When I hear myself saying I must always (fill in the blank), I was told to ask myself what would happen if I didn't follow the rule? How would life be different?
I'll use an easy rule as an example. There were ten of us at home when I was growing up. We didn't have a dishwasher, and there just wasn't room to leave the dishes to dry in the drainer. There were ALWAYS too many dishes, so we ALWAYS dried them after dinner.
I must always dry the dinner dishes. (state the rule)
I must dry the dinner dishes. (remove the always/never/should)
I can sometimes dry the dinner dishes. (substitute can sometimes)
I can dry the dinner dishes when (give myself three choices):
-- when there are too many dishes to fit in the dish drainer
-- when I have company over and want to pretend I always keep my kitchen spotless
-- when they are delicate and prone to get broken if left on the counter to dry
Suddenly, I don't always have to dry the dishes. Yay!
The words matter.
This is one family rule I rebelled against long ago. I am a fairly tidy housekeeper, but I hate drying the dishes. Why dry them when God's perfectly good air will do it for me in about 45 minutes? My cause was furthered by a study that showed you introduce germs onto the dishes by drying them - they get carried on the towel. See? I don't always have to dry the dishes!
Know what the rules are.
Before you break a rule, know why it's there.
Know the rules well enough to break them (and not get caught!)