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I continue pondering the expectations issue.  NOTE – The topic is included in the three following Stertin pieces – “Tom, theology, and parents – the sequel” (September 12, 2011) . . . . “My first attempt to help a failing marriage” (January 16, 2012). . . “Jesus, Lewis, analogies and checking your expectations at the door”  (April 30, 2011)

Our expectations are present in some of our most common experiences.  For example, do I not expect people . . .

  • to say thanks when allowing them to go ahead of me in the check out line at the store?
  • to ask permission to join a conversation I am having with a friend or family member?
  • to show kindness to one of my grandchildren, or any other child for that matter?
  • to tell the truth if I ask for directions when lost?
  • to return to the rightful owner some items they have found?
  • to use turn signals when driving?
  • to pass safely on the highway?
  • to be courteous when a salesperson has become hassled?
  • to be a peace maker?

Most likely a focus group could quickly fill up pages and pages of commonly held expectations.  Whether the list is long or short isn’t the issue.  Furthermore, the issue is not that we begin expecting people to simply be bad.  We might have reason to say that some or all of these expectations would make for a kinder or gentler society if they are realized.

But, in my case, I find myself, more and more, coming to the point of not expecting people to be either good or bad.  I simply am trying to releasing my grip on expectations.  I am becoming more and more aware that what they do is out of my control, and perhaps most likely even out of my area of influence.  (UNLESS . . . I’ll return to this as the last paragraph.) 

This is not to say that I have surrendered my ability and obligation to make moral judgments.  I can observe their actions, hear their comments, and read what they have written.  In some cases I can determine if they did good or evil, exercised love or not, were kind or not, were courteous or not, were generous or stingy.

The goal I am trying to achieve is to reach the point where my spiritual and psychological states are not determined by whether other people have met my expectations or failed to meet them.  My thoughts, at this point in my life, are that the surest way to realize that spiritual and psychological freedoms include releasing my grip on expectations.  The fewer the expectations, the fewer the frustrations, anger, desire for revenge, get-even behavior, the put-downs.   Let’s not forget, “as we think in our heart, so we are.” (Proverbs 23.7)

Now back to the UNLESS several lines ago.  I recognize that to the degree that I have something another person wants or needs (friendship, love, financial assistance, conversation, advice, instruction, tenderness, analysis, information, the giving of a grade in a course, etc.), I may have some power, influence, or control in their decision making.  That does not, however, obligate me to exercise that power, influence, or control.  But, this is a topic for more elaboration.

Comments???   Your experiences with expectations ???