No Great Expectations

He’ll notice the non-existent tear in the corner of your eye, and ask what’s wrong.   She’ll have your favorite dinner, perfectly prepared, waiting, steaming hot on the table when you come home.  He’ll intuitively know when to bring you a rose for no reason.  She’ll know the perfect words to say to remind you of the man you are.  She’ll always be beautiful.  He’ll always be able to fix the leaky sink.
She’ll know when to take you out for coffee and just listen, and she’ll know when to interrupt.  He’ll know when to get you to come over and play X-Box and to let you kick his butt.
She’ll know when to hug you and put a band-aide on your owy.  He’ll know when he needs to call you Princess and scare the teenage boy cowering behind you – mostly because he wants both you and the boy to know how very special you are.
She’ll glare at you whenever you pass in the hallway.  He’ll call you names behind your back.
He’ll ask you why you didn’t try harder on the test…again.  She’ll give you slack because she always does, and let you get by with it again…this time.
He’ll take care of everything, make sure the world runs smoothly, make sure none of the children go hungry or get hurt.

I once had a friend tell me that he was working at not having any expectations in his relationships.  And I thought he was crazy. You need expectations, right?  Otherwise people will walk all over you; otherwise people will use you.  Otherwise you’re the only one giving in relationships.  Otherwise you’re directionless.

But, the longer I live, and the more relationship experience I have, the more I realize how wise my friend is.  Expectations in relationships – romantic, friends, parents or simply someone in your social circle, or even of God  – are incredibly damaging.

When we think we know how someone should react, or what they should do, we limit them to our standards.  No, seriously, think about it.  If you have a certain idea of how your best friend is supposed to treat you, when she doesn’t it, it’s incredibly painful for you.  And you probably get angry, because she didn’t do what you needed to do; she didn’t do her job as best friend.  Shouldn’t she know better?  So you punish her (get angry, pout, stop talking, or simply hold it against her until you can’t hold it in any longer) until she gets the hint and starts acting the way YOU want her to.
And when you carry those ideas around with you, you’re really hurting your friendship.  You’re not allowing her to be her*.  And, you’re saying that she has to act a certain way, when maybe she never thought of that, or maybe she was trying to do something better for you, or, well who knows.  The point being, you had expectations of her, and now that she didn’t follow through, some part of you that was banking on her doing that, is incredibly hurt.

See, the thing is, our expectations are one way we exercise control over people.  We expect them to be, or do, or look a certain way.  And we get hurt and furious when they don’t.

The same is true of God.  When we have expectations of who He is, or what He’s like, or what He should or can do, we limit Him, and we try to control Him.  Our expectations dictate what we think His actions should be.  But the crazy thing is – He’s GOD.  As Job found out – who are we to say what He’s like, what He should do, or question His letting children in Africa go hungry?  I know, I sound super shallow saying that.  I sound like callous, like I don’t care.  But I do.  So I do everything a poor, broke white girl in the US can do.  But I don’t get angry at God.  He’s God.  He is GOOD.  He has a plan.  My expectations of Him only damage our relationship.
So I let God do what God does best – be God.  I trust that He’s going to stick with who He is, the solid truths I know about Him.  And so I’m just along for the ride.

The thing is, we think that we can’t give up those expectations.  That somehow releasing those expectations of the people around us will allow them to be less than who we need them to be.  Or that the need that they sorta-almost-kinda fill will be completely neglected in us.  And it’s painful.  It’s harmful.  But the thing I’ve discovered is that holding grudges for expectations not met, for keeping those expectations when it’s obvious that person is NEVER going to live up to them, is actually incredibly more painful and harmful than if we were to let them go.
If you let them go – if you let the expectations go – than you allow that person to be who they really are.  You’ve given them freedom.  And who knows but that in their freedom they now have the room to be who you needed them to be – even if you didn’t realize you needed them to be that.  And somehow, in your release of your expectations of them – you allow God to step in and fill the spots that your friend or family couldn’t.   And that’s when healing begins.

We all have expectations.  Boyfriends and girlfriends have expectations of each other.  Husbands and wives have expectations of each other.  Daughters have expectations of their daddies.  Best friends have expectations of each other.  We all (whether or not we realize it) have expectations of God.  Let them go.

Let them go.  See what your relationships look like if you allow that person (or God) to simply be who they are.  See what your relationships look like if you allow God to fill the needs in you that right now, you’re expecting someone else to fill (and they’re failing miserably at).

I’m betting your pain will be dramatically less, and the relationship, over time, will get healthier than you’ve ever imagined.   Granted, it will be incredibly hard.  It’s natural for humans to have expectations of each other. It’s just what we do.  It’s part of how we make sense of the world around us.  And it’s part of how we kill each other.

So now I’m striving to live as my friend does –  relationships with No Expectations.

*Now, there are times we need to confront (gulp) our friends or family or even God when they really aren’t doing something we need them to do (or are doing something we need them NOT to do).  But if we hold expectations of how they should act – that confrontation is an angry confrontation.  While, if we didn’t have those expectations, that confrontation is a gentle one, one of humility and need.

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “No Great Expectations

  1. marly

    I think I understand what you’re getting at here, and I think it is important to analyze our expectations in relationships because we often find errors in them. But I think it’s even more essential to talk about those expectations. Because in a lot of ways it’s just not practical not to have expectations.
    When Cassie says she’ll stop by the store and get the chicken I’m making for dinner, I expect her to do that. Or in another much more likely situation, I decide to stay longer than I planned chatting with a friend and I don’t text Cassie to tell her where I am. It’s not her fault that she worried about me, because she had an expectation of where I would be. We depend on each other and look after each other and that’s ok. In fact I would argue with you that God made us to help each other, to live in community.

    Perhaps another way to look at this is it’s not ok to have an expectation of someone you won’t tell them about. I certainly wouldn’t be able to say to someone, I need you to take care of my every physical need for the rest of my life, would you do that please, would you? so therefore that’s an unrealistic expectaion. And if I didn’t ask Cassie to pick up the chicken it’s not ok for me to expect it of her. But if I ask her and she agrees than what we have is a relationship, where we can ask for things we need and receive love and support, and practical partnership and that’s a good thing.

    I know you’ve done so much living and growing since I knew you well, but the Amy Leigh I knew and loved was very good at hiding that she needed anything from anyone ever! I just hope this eliminating expections isn’t a cover-up for that. Because it’s ok to ask people for help and to tell them what you need. Jesus did, and He asked them for what He needed from them and sometimes they were able to give it and sometimes they weren’t, because they were human, but He asked and He told them when they didn’t do what they said they would that they hurt Him, and I guess I think that’s ok for us to do too.

    I hope my ramblings aren’t too convoluted. Miss you and think of you often my dear!

    • belovedmeadow

      Marly!
      Hey!
      Your ramblings aren’t too convoluted…or at least I don’t think they are! Let’s see if I actually understand what you’re saying.
      So, what I’m “hearing” you say is that some expectations are good – so long as they’re spoken. That God built us for community and relationship; that we need others to help take care of us, and we need to help take care of others. We just have to make sure those expectations are spoken expectations.

      If that’s what you’re saying than I totally agree.

      What I was more trying to get at here was the unspoken expectations we have – or the ones we speak to everyone else except the person on whom we have the expectations. This is when it’s unhealthy. There is just so often when we go through life with unspoken (maybe because we don’t even realize we have them) expectations. And these expectations (like the many I had in college) are the ones that really, are poison, and can kill a relationship and cause bitterness. Sometimes we develop these quiet, unspoken expectations on our own, sometimes society hands them to us. Sometimes they need to be discussed, sometimes they just need to be disposed of.
      We expect the boyfriend to fill the loneliness because that’s his job, right? That’s the point of a relationship. Or the spouse to be spontaneously romantic even when that’s not how they work. Or, in Disney Princess style – for life to be “Happily Ever After” after the magical wedding. Or for your father to actually fulfill the role of Father – even if his father never gave him the tools to function in that role. And we definitely have expectations of who God is and how He will react to certain situations. And when He doesn’t (always)…. faith can be lost. Relationships can be incredibly broken.

      Now, that being said, often in these sort of relationships, when someone notices they have these expectations, instead of just trying to ignore them right away, they need to be talked about between the two people. And, if it’s decided upon between the two, that these expectations can’t be met, than the one with the expectations needs to work on getting rid of the expectations. And maybe the other person simply didn’t realize they weren’t meeting this expectation but definitely wants to try – than great! But, as this expectation isn’t a habit yet, the person with the expectation needs to have lots of grace for the one who is working on it.

      So, maybe what I’m really trying to say, is hold your expectations lightly? As you discover you have them, and as you discover someone not meeting them, be willing to talk about them, be willing to give them up. Because, in at least my experience, when you give up those unmet expectations because that person, for whatever reason, can’t live up to them, when you no longer demand that the other person meet these unmeetable expectations, you give the relationship room to breathe and actually survive. The cool thing is, in my experience anyway, when you surrender them, God comes up with a better way for those expectations / needs to be met in your life.

      And no, this not an attempt to justify my not-talking-ness, my not speaking up for my needs. I’m getting better at that, by the way.

      And um, I still want to see pictures of your and Cassie’s big day!!!!!

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