I recently received a comment from a reader in Alaska wondering why we needed one more article telling women how they need to do more and more and more. Good question because women are notorious for placing endless expectations on themselves and I certainly don’t want to add more. I write this blog as an encouragement and I want you to know, my readers, that you will never, ever hear me saying you are not enough, because this is your journey, not mine, and you are exactly enough for whatever you meet along the way.
I did give this idea of expectations a lot of thought, however, and realized it is an area we all struggle with. Some of my greatest sources of frustration stem from unmet expectations in myself and others. How we deal with expectations is critical to peace both inside our own hearts and within all our relationships.
When I got married, Jon told me to never expect anything from him so that I’d never be disappointed and sometimes pleasantly surprised. Now, he wasn’t off the hook that easily, but it does make some sense. We move in relationships with a certain amount of expectation and the higher the expectation, the higher the chance of being disappointed which can produce resentment, anger, withdrawal, and other unhealthy responses. I’ve learned that the more I expect of myself, the more I expect of others, and often they are simply unable to meet the demands.
So, what’s the answer? We can’t possibly go through life with no expectations for fear of being hurt. Yet, we also can’t emotionally beat up those we love because they aren’t “doing their part”. I haven’t figured it all out yet, but I can share what has helped this achievement junkie mellow out a bit and realize my world won’t fall apart simply because my toilet’s dirty, or my friends forgot my birthday, or my husband didn’t thank me for an incredible dinner.
Here’s how I keep from going over the expectation ledge:
1-Make sure my expectations are clear. I have no right to expect anything if I haven’t made it clear what I desire. Telling my children to have the house cleaned is not a guarantee that will translate into toilets being scrubbed and furniture polished.
2-Set realistic expectations. I don’t expect my seven year old to fold the laundry exactly like I do any more than I expect my forty (something) self to keep up with my young marathon-running friends out on the track.
3-Be consistent. This means I choose to base my own expectations on God’s word, which never changes, rather than on the shifting opinions of people. It simplifies life. Likewise, the people I love shouldn’t have to guess where the bar is each day because the standard is too often based on my mood. I can’t count how many times I could handle the kids running through the house acting like, well, kids only to flip out the next day because Mom’s had a long day and “has had it up to here”. It’s safer to say, “Hey, Mom’s tired and unless you want to see me act like a raving lunatic, play outside.” Problem solved without tears.
4-Forgive. Always. That includes forgiving myself. I’m not perfect and neither is anyone else. I try to remember that the goal is excellence, not perfection, and we’re all doing our best. And since I know God says he’s not finished with me yet (Phil 1:6), I try to remember he’s not finished with them either.
So, let’s keep trying to lighten up. Let’s aim for the best but accept that good is often good enough, and let’s have grace for ourselves and others when it’s not quite ideal.