I was having lunch with an accomplished surgeon recently who told me the two words that will kill the heart fastest are the words “ought to.”
The reason I was having lunch with the surgeon was because I was interviewing him for a potential book. He’s a head surgeon at a nationally renowned hospital and does an enormous amount of charity work, even advising the American military on how their hospital ships can be more efficient while being used in disaster relief. If the average doctor saves hundreds of lives in the span of their career, this guy has likely saved hundreds of thousands.
When I asked why he desires to help so many people, his answer surprised me. He said “because it’s fun.” And then he went on to say “I like helping people because I enjoy it, I’m the opposite of an evangelical.” I don’t know if he knew I was a Christian, but the comment came like a curveball and I had nothing to say. I was so accustomed to the passive guilt complex so many of us hear week after week and in book after book that I knew he’d have no shortage of evidence that Evangelicals are constantly being made to do good things they don’t really feel like doing.
In contrast, as I read through the book of Acts, a defining characteristic of the early church is they felt joy in their work. I don’t see a lot of shame and guilt manipulation in Acts, just a bunch of people who act like they are weirdly in love with each other and with God. And I want to emphasize the word weirdly.
So, I’m debating cutting back on the ought to’s and ramping up the fun. Some aspects of service feel more like duty, and others feel more like fun. I wonder if we stopped the “ought to” aspects of loving people and got more in touch with the kinds of service that come out of our skill sets and passions we wouldn’t be more effective.
Of course there are people who would say if we only did what was fun and not what we ought to we’d not care about other people at all, we’d just be out having sex and getting drunk all the time. If that’s you, I’m really sorry.I mean that. But not everybody is wired that way. If you set most people free from all guilt and shame, they’d likely live normal lives and still be altruistic. I really believe most people are pretty good at moderation and don’t need a guilt trip to govern themselves.
What about you, though? Do you live with a feeling of “ought to” in your life? And if you were more like my new friend the surgeon, doing good things for people because it was a fun and fulfilling way to live, do you think you’d be an even more giving person?