Should The Toilet Seat Be Up or Down?

“Real life doesn’t always sound like it should.”

― Roshani Chokshi

“Should be” will always be a long road.”

― S. Kelley Harrell

Should The Toilet Seat Be Up or Down?

Or . . . “Shoulds” Can’t Run Your Life Effectively

It’s discussed in most all households: in its unoccupied state, is a toilet seat supposed to be up or down?

Almost as universal is the correct answer: down, of course.

But why?

I was trained well. Raised with three older sisters, married, and then after raising four daughters with my wife, I never questioned the Toilet Doctrine.

Toilet Doctrine: The seat should always be down.

There’s only one clause in the Toilet Doctrine. Six words. Nothing else is important. To question the Toilet Doctrine is to be branded as poorly bred, a neanderthal, even a heretic!

But I’ve come to question the Toilet Doctrine.

As a man, I have a problem with it. Why am I expected to always put the seat down?

I’ve heard the argument that women are vulnerable to falling in if the seat is left up. I think that’s sexist. And it discounts women’s ability to observe beforehand where they rest themselves. Since men are expected to check the position of the seat despite their scientifically-proven higher rates of refrigerator blindness (which proves their low aptitude for basic observation), then I think it’s an insult to women everywhere to imply they’re unable to briefly glance where they’re about to plant their bare backside.

Another argument drilled into me is that women always use the toilet with the seat down, so that’s the position it belongs in. Men should leave it ready should any woman happen along. But that’s sexist, too. Why aren’t women obligated to return the seat to the upright position for the next man who might happen along?

So yes, as a man, I have a problem with the assumed answer to whether the seat should be left up or down.

But as a coach and licensed therapist, my problem isn’t with the presumed answer, but with the question itself.

I want us all to stop “shoulding” on ourselves.

Yes, our constant use of the word should is far more detrimental than most realize. And other phrases like “have to,” “supposed to,” “ought to,” “need to,” and words like “must” and “gotta” can all be lumped together with “should.”

What’s the matter with “should”?

Simply put, “should” (and its brothers) are all poor motivators. You’re not likely to do what you should do. “Aw, shucks! I should really get out of bed now that my alarm has gone off.” How often has that preceded you popping up and getting to work on time?

This poor motivator affects others, too. “Mom says you have to take the trash out before you go out and play!” Did you cheerfully follow through when your sister so helpfully reminded you of what you had to do? I’m guessing not.

“Should” and its gang motivate poorly because they assert external control over us. We should because of some external principle or belief. We must according to a person or authority.

So what’s a better motivator? What comes from within?


“Want” effectively replaces “should,” “supposed to,” “gotta,” “have to,” and all the rest.

Want comes from within.

It’s an internal motivator.

When you motivate yourself from within, you feel that you are in control (rather than some external force or person controlling you).

It feels so much better to be in control than to be controlled.


So next time your alarm goes off on a chilly morning and you’re still sleepy, try saying to yourself, “Oh! I sure want to stay in bed! Aaaand, I also want a relaxed morning to get ready and arrive on time for work.”

The next time you want to motivate your little sister to take the trash out, try something like, “Ya know, Mom really wants the trash emptied before she gets home to start dinner.”

“Want” is no guarantee of better behavior, but it’s a much better motivator than “should” and “have to.” The person being motivated feels much better about it, too!


Oh, and what about those toilets now??

I want to leave the seat down for my sweet wife because I love her so!

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