I don’t remember how, it just came to me. I was running when I had the thought that a three-part series on—spoiler alert—EXPECTATIONS might be an interesting topic for the next few podcasts of “Can I Have a Word With You?” We could cover expectations we have of ourselves, others and God. I suggested it to my co-host Bruce. He liked the idea as well and we scheduled it for the following Thursday.
The Wednesday before, I spent the afternoon reading everything I had ever written about the subject from my repertoire of blogs. Hours of reviewing ways I struggled with and found solution for managing my expectations made me realize this is no small issue in my life. I won’t go into great detail here because you can listen to my podcast the next 3 Tuesdays to unpack each nuance more fully.
However-I have to tell you about how it was confirmed to me that I had heard correctly in my spirit when this topic came into my mind. I don’t pretend that the universe revolves around my whimsical thoughts and plans, but I also know that God has a track record of confirming my ideas and endeavors (or just plain schooling me!) by giving me the types of signs I am about to share with you.
After I spent all afternoon reading about expectations, it occurred to me that I should look up the topic in some of the books I read pretty much daily. Each has an index in the back listing all the pages that cover any number of topics. I knew there would be a long list on this particular one. I ran out of time before I went to a meeting that I attend weekly to help me maintain and stretch my spiritual and mental fitness.
This week was what we call a “topic” meeting. I don’t know what I expected, but I know what I didn’t expect and that was a meeting, selected from hundreds of potential topics, on expectations. I just about fell out of my chair.
I then got to listen to about 20 people share their wisdom and their battle with their own expectations. Beautiful.
After the meeting I made a point to connect with one particular person about what she shared. I got her permission to piggy-back off of what she said and take it a bit further with you today.
The question she posed: If having unrealistic expectations tends to get us in trouble by setting us up for disappointment or resentment, what do we call such a state of intense/pressing/overwhelming feelings? She suggested we call it “hope”.
Hope. I can do that.
You see, when we expect a person to behave a certain way or an outcome to resolve in a specific manner, we set ourselves up for disappointment and resentment. We hand over our serenity and risk it not working out to our liking and this results in loss of our serenity on multiple levels.
When we do manage to get what we expected from others, ourselves, God, and the world, we rarely celebrate because we believed we were entitled to it.
But Hope—hope sets us up for gratitude. When we hope (hope they will start taking responsibility, hope that we can heal, hope they will get sober, hope that we can love and trust again, hope they will get the job, hope they/we can forgive, hope they will return our affections, etc.) we wait with trust that ultimately God is in control and knows what’s best for everyone involved.
Sometimes our hopes come to pass and often, God exceeds them, giving us far more than we could ask or imagine.
As we talked, we landed on the visual of holding our hopes loosely so God is free to go above and beyond. We concurred that when we squeeze the life out of our hopes, they turn into expectations, leaving us susceptible to the disappointment and resentment that accompanies them.
It’s a huge topic for sure. I encourage you to check out the podcast the next few weeks to help yourself wrap your head around it from a few different angles. Maybe this post is God suggesting to you, like He did to me last week, that you might benefit from unpacking your own relationship with expectations.
Well. Here goes nothin’,,,,
Actually, here goes something that has been lingering in the back of my mind since I started writing several years ago. Until today I have been too chicken to tell this story to the masses. I am still afraid, don’t get me wrong, but for whatever reason, I am sensing that today is the day that someone just might need to hear this. Take what you like and leave the rest (for later 😬).
Part of why I have been scared to tell you about this incident, is because not only does it make me sound like an arrogant, selfish little brat, but it will shine a light on some of my current behavior, proving I have not made enormous progress in this particular area. OK-now I am just stalling….
In high school I sang in a choir. I sang soprano and regularly auditioned against my soprano nemesis for the same solos. It was a petty and ego-driven competition between us that lasted for 4 years. To make matters worse, we went to the same church. I had known her and her family for many years before that.
One day, I was sitting in my car in a downtown parking lot after shopping. A boy-friend of mine happened to pass by and stopped to chat for a few minutes, standing outside my car as I sat in the drivers seat with the window down. Somehow, this particular girl came up and I proceeded to bash her, gossiping and criticizing for several minutes.
I don’t remember what I said exactly, but I knew it was bad because my heart flipped as the boy eventually walked away and who should be sitting in the car next to me, also with her window down, but her mother!
Let’s just all pause a moment so we can digest this situation and collectively freak out……………………………………………………………………………………………………………..!
Remember, this was a time before cell phones. So I couldn’t text or call this girl immediately before her mom could get to her and relay my “message”. So I did the only logical thing a girl in the 80’s would do–I raced home as fast as I could and called that girl from my landline, confessing everything. I was humble and apologetic and admitted to her that I was jealous and insecure and was so sorry for all I had said. I told her everything I had said and made up excuses as to why, as if that would lessen the blow. I can’t remember what she said (I am sure she thought I was out of my mind) but after that, things were actually a little better between us.
There. I said it. I hate that because of social media and all our connections, many of you will easily figure out who I am talking about. That part sort of makes me want to throw up. But at least one of my most embarrassing moments is off my chest.
So, what is my point, other than relieving myself of such shame?
This is the part that is probably more embarrassing for me to admit than the story above: I still do that.
Maybe not in front of your momma, but in front of the God who created you and everyone else.
I have to realize that when I talk trash about someone, when I complain or judge or gossip or criticize it is essentially the same as me ripping that girl to shreds in front of her mom. Ugh.
I really hate to think of it that way, because it means I didn’t learn much from the shame I felt when I was caught doing so 35 years ago.
There are so many warnings and references in the Bible about how God hates it when we slander our neighbor or hold resentments against one another. How we avoid talking to the person about a problem and instead talk to everyone else who is not involved. In the Christian world we often couch it in a way that makes us seem like we genuinely want to pray for that person but then follow up with a diatribe of poor and unfair behavior we have been the victim of by said person. We say we should love our neighbor but often use hateful language about others, as if we are better than or God loves us more because hey, they are mean and annoying, right?
Lately, I have been thinking of this a lot because I have been catching myself thinking judgmental and intolerant thoughts about not just individuals, but entire people groups, political parties or organizations who do not support my belief system. Somehow I have given myself permission to bash God’s children because I feel like they are bashing me, or what I believe.
I don’t believe in my heart of hearts that this is OK. Yet I engage in it if the conversation pops up or someone I see on the news is spouting something I find ridiculous.
A few years ago I wrote a blog called, “Let’s talk about Trump.” I tell you what; from the sheer number of hits I got, I almost decided to just insert the word “Trump” in every title from then on. There were literally thousands of people reading what I might say about him. Only I didn’t talk about him. I talked about us and how we are called to “keep our own side of the street clean.” How someone else behaves is never an excuse for us to act unloving or unkind. Other people’s good or bad behavior is not my responsibility.
I am responsible for acting like a person filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control. Regardless of how you or anyone else chooses to act.
I know some of you reading may not share my belief that we are all God’s children and that He loves my enemies and those who disagree with me just as much as he loves me. So this probably all sounds nonsensical to you. I get that. But hopefully you can at the very least embrace the fact that love still wins out over hatefulness, cruel criticism and angry rants about those who hold different views than we do.
Or out-perform us.
Or get the job we wanted.
Or irritate us at work or school or at our family functions.
Or vote differently than we do.
Or have kids that seem to be thriving while ours struggle.
Or are in better shape.
Or have better stuff and more money.
Or seem to have the perfect spouse.
Or get the solo parts we audition for 😯.
Before I let any words escape my lips (which originate in my heart) I can pause, scope my surroundings, and remind myself that whatever comes out of my mouth will be heard by the very Being that created whoever I am about to talk about.
God-May my words always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so they benefit anyone who listens. May I avoid gossip, criticism, slander, a judgmental spirit and “godless chatter.” Help me to remember that I am no better than anyone else and that you have granted me endless unconditional love, tolerance, forgiveness and understanding. I want to extend that same grace toward all of your children. I am going to need your help. Please grant me the strength to carry out Your Will and Your Ways. Amen.
In the past few months I have taken a couple beach vacations. I know…don’t hate me. I am sure it is just me, but prior to each of them I felt just the slightest pressure to “shed a few” before each trip. So I was a bit more cautious about what I ate and drank and made sure to drag myself out of bed each morning to work out.
When I was on my first beach vacation, I remember catching a glimpse of my swim-suit laden body while walking past a reflective window on my way to the beach. I had the typical, self recriminating thoughts, but then paused and said out loud, “Well, it’s better than it was!”, and strutted on out to the sand.
As soon as I said it, I was reminded of a time a few years ago that I was stressing about a real estate deal and was venting about it to my team leader. He, being not as emotive as me, said, “I thought you go to some program that’s supposed to help you handle stuff like this?!” I confirmed that I did indeed and he promptly replied, “It’s not working.” To which I said, “Actually, it really is working. This is me better!” I can only imagine what I how I would have been acting if I didn’t have the tools and training I had been integrating into my life the year before. I might have been close to injuring someone!
“This is me better.” When I think of it that way, I can give myself a break from expecting perfection. Ever. I will never be anything more than human. And humans are flawed, broken, sinful, imperfect people.
All I can really hope for and work toward is growth. It’s a life of “progress, not perfection” as they say in my circle. I may not have arrived at the level of serenity and sanity I desire, but I am sure as heck a lot further down the path than I was a few years, months and even weeks ago.
When I am tempted to pick on myself, ”should” on myself ( I “should” be further along than I am now) or shame myself for not being perfect, maybe I can simply redefine the word perfection the way author and therapist Melody Beatty defines it:
“Perfection is being who and where we are today; it’s accepting and loving ourselves just as we are. We are each right where we need to be…I am right where I need to be to get where I’m going tomorrow.”
In that sense, we might all have a fighting chance.
Today, I may not be the loving, kind, patient, gentle, peaceful, joyful, humble, selfless, godly person I long to be. But this is me. This is all I’ve got.
This is me better.
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