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“I have to” versus “I get to”

A worn, wooden plaque hangs in my grandmother’s home that reads, “It’s not doing the things I like to do but liking the things I have to do that makes life blessed.”


Quite regularly while I am unloading the dishwasher to begin preparing another dinner for another evening, I consider that I “have to,” do the dishes. And in the next breath in this silent conversation with myself, I am reminded that I “get to” do the dishes.

While it is technically true that I do “have to” do the dishes, a more positive, more grateful perspective of that and every other chore sure makes the task more enjoyable. And who wouldn’t rather their must-be-done chores be as enjoyable as possible? It certainly beats the alternative.

Dishes that need to be done mean we own plates and silverware and glasses.

Dishes that need to be done mean we had food to eat.

Dishes that need to be done mean I have family members to fill the chairs at my table.

Dishes that need to be done mean I have hot, running water and even a dishwasher to make the task easier.

Dishes that need to be done mean I have the joyful hope of tomorrow — a new day when my family will need all these dishes once again.

Dishes that need to be done mean that I have the honor of being the only person on the planet who gets to plan and cook meals for my family, serving them in a special and personal way that can affect their stomachs with nutrition and their hearts with love. These are my people, entrusted to my care as a wife and a mother. How special that I have been given this all-important role in caring for them. What a blessing that can be counted.

Every job has routine, monotonous aspects. Whether employed for a paycheck or working as a homemaker, every worker has “grunt work.” It may be filing papers in a cabinet, filling out tedious paperwork, making a long list of phone calls, cleaning toilets or a litany of other tasks. Whatever it is, no matter the task, it is possible to find ways to view it as something you “get to do” instead of something you “have to do.”

It is truly amazing how one word can change your perspective and in turn change the tone and mood of your entire day. The Bible says to choose joy (1 Thess. 5:16) and to live with continual gratitude (1 Thess. 5:18). While sometimes joy just “happens to you,” like when an adorable puppy leaps into your lap, most often joy comes when it is chosen.

Make the choice today to choice an attitude of “I get to” over “I have to,” and see if it doesn’t begin to transform drudgery to joy.


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