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.