Expectations: Help or Harm?
Have you ever noticed that over the course of time, conversations with different people begin to develop a theme? It is not intentional and not necessarily arising from a topic either party is passionate about. It may not even seem that there are any correlations between the different discussions. However, I noticed a theme when a particular topic arose recently with a friend. I noticed because she suggested I do a hub about it. I was not planning on doing one, but then I realized how much the subject appearing and reappearing in various conversations over the past year, maybe more, has made me examine my own thoughts on the matter more closely. So here you have it, folks - my thoughts about expectations.
Expect: the dictionary definition
- to anticipate or look forward to a coming or occurrence
- expecting company or a phone call
3. suppose, think
4. to consider
a) to consider probable or cercertain
- expect to be forgiven, expect things to improve
b) to consider reasonable or necessary
- expect hard work from students
c) to consider bound in duty or obligated
- expected to pay your bills
One thing I often hear is not to expect anything of others and I will not be disappointed or hurt. While that may be true, I also cringe at the suggestion. For one thing, the world already has enough jaded and hardened hearts. Just imagine the implications of that.
Simply being human is to expect. From the moment we are born, we naturally expect to be nurtured and taken care of. It is instinct. In faith, we trust what we cannot prove or see. Faith and hope are forms of positive expectations and anticipation. In general, to love is to trust and to trust is to love. It is all taken in good faith.
The way I see it - there is no in between. One either expects something or does not. One cannot not expect if one does and one cannot expect if one does not. Even expecting or hoping a little is expecting some. It is just the way it is. Why would I want otherwise? I would not feel like me. I would not feel alive if I deadened my heart that way. I also would not be able to give the best of me to anyone, to allow anyone close to me, or to meet or exceed expectations on a job. Expectations are everywhere. No way around it.
Society has built-in expectations of us all. We start learning them as a small child and continue to do so throughout life. These learned expectations enable us to function as well adjusted individuals within society. They teach us appropriate behavior, responses, and responsibilities.
Most of the time, we strive to meet these expectations. Several of them become our own personal standards to uphold. In many situations, we not only strive to meet these expectations, but to surpass them as well. Doing so provides a sense of accomplishment and self worth. Besides, there are consequences for failing to meet them. Failing at work may mean the loss of a sale or the loss of a job. Breaking the law might mean a fine or jail time. Failing to study earns a bad grade. And failing to meet certain expectations within a relationship may mean the end of it. On the other hand, the rewards for rising to meet them are great.
When it comes to relationships, expectations are tricky things to manage. There is a balance between expecting too much and expecting that certain standards can and should be upheld. Respect, for instance, is essential.
However, even on the best of days, one thing remains true - we are all only human. As such, we sometimes let ourselves down. We do not meet our own expectations, let alone someone else's. So the one thing I have always expected above all others, as far back as I can remember, is that people will sometimes disappoint me, sometimes let me down, or otherwise hurt my feelings. And I have done the same to someone else and will again. Everyone makes mistakes. That is just the way it is. But my nearest and dearest friends have stood by me through all of my humanness and vise versa.
I give my heart in friendship not because I expect love in return. I do not see it as an obligation or a demand. But it is all the more gratifying when it is offered in return and appreciated beyond measure. A trust is built and the closer one becomes to another, the more one can conceivably rely on that trust, that truth of love and faith in a bond. Therefore, it is not an unreasonable expectation to think that a friend, a spouse, a family member will still be waiting with more love to give even after a disagreement or a dispute of some kind.
The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are,but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them; we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. ~ Thomas Merton
When I feel intentionally left out or that someone is purposely turning away from me, that is when I feel the most hurt or let down. Just developing the trust needed to believe that someone truly does love me for me and not for someone I am expected to be leaves my heart feeling quite vulnerable. Still, if I dare to trust that the gift of love offered in good faith was real, I must also believe in good faith that it simply still is and always will be so. I can accept that my human errors and failures will not be held against me. And I in turn hope that the other person realizes I do not stop loving because I feel hurt or disappointment. Because, again, the bond of love simply is.
An idealization is not what I love. That is what makes letting go so hard. When someone turns away from me intentionally, I failed somehow to meet expectations of me either not to do or be a certain way or to do so. And I can apologize in all sincerity for my humanness, but that is sometimes just not enough. I find myself wondering if what I failed to do was worth ending a relationship? Did I deserve it for failing to do whatever was expected of me? Or did I simply misplace my faith and trust, not in the person but in the reciprocality of unconditional love?
Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. ~ Maya Angelou
If I could know ahead of time a relationship will end, would I still do it? I don't know. Maybe not. But do I regret taking a chance on ones that did end? No.
Maybe I could save myself a world of hurt in just expecting all relationships and friendships to end eventually, but there is a certain thrill and magic that even disappointment cannot dull when I am free to believe I am accepted just as I am even when I am broken. Scary as it is to rely on that trust, there is more freedom to admit when I am in need, to allow someone to care enough to support me in ways I need as best he or she is able to. There is even more freedom for me to reach out in ways I may not have otherwise done to perhaps offer something more meaningful than imagined in return.
And the rewards far outweigh any disappointments when a bond truly is real. Rare as they may seem, that is how life-long relationships develop and last. That is how friends stay in touch for decades and how lovers spend a lifetime together. Somehow both parties choose to rely on their positive expectations. They forgive mistakes, letdowns, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and all the flaws of an imperfect human love.
I do not expect perfection or never to be disappointed. I hope to develop real, meaningful friendships that see through flaws to the heart of an individual. And when I think I have found them, I will not expect never to be let down; I will have faith enough in the love offered and in the bond created to know they will last. To do otherwise is to not fully open my heart enough to appreciate what I have when it is there or after it is gone.
Not having faith in a relationship also hinders going forward after a problem arises because it prevents me from focusing on all of the things I like and love about a person and from accepting the things I like less with ease. In short, the relationship is not as rich as it can be. It is limited by negative expectations. So, I will gladly accept the risk of getting too close then getting hurt for the chance that a rare bond with unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness might be formed. They are truly priceless gems.