“Even when we sometimes do “learn a lesson” from mistakes for which we judge ourselves harshly, I worry about the nature of the energy behind that kind of change and learning. I’d like change to be stimulated by a clear desire to enrich life for ourselves or for others rahter than by destructive energies such as shame or guilt.”

“In our language there is a word with tremendous power to create shame and guilt… This violent word is ‘should’. Most of the time when we use this word with ourselves, we resist learning, because ‘should’ implies that there is no choice. We were not meant to succumb to the dictates of ‘should’ and ‘have to’, whether they come from outside or inside ourselves. And if we do yield and submit to these demands, our actions arise from an energy that is devoid of life-giving joy.

“Our challenge then, when we are doing something that is not enriching life, is to evaluate ourselves moment by moment in a way that inspires change both (1) in the direction of where we would like to go, and (2) out of respect and compassion for ourselves, rather than out of self-hatred, guilt or shame.” -Marshall Rosenberg, Nonviolent Communication

These excerpts from Rosenberg’s NVC are a brilliant denunciation of unbiblical personal development. I think of Paul writing of how difficult it is when he tries to motivate himself with “should” and how he just ends up doing what shouldn’t do anyway. I think of Jesus’ teaching on judgement- being careful not to pass judgement on others because you’ll find it just as easy to judge yourself- and the destructive power of giving out grades to yourself or others.


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