If I had a nickel for every time someone quoted some part of 1 Corinthians – whether in reference to a wedding, an anniversary, parenthood, friendship, or any other situation where having patience or putting another first may come in handy…I could build a stairway to the stars entirely out of nickels. We know, honestly, all of the things love must be in order to be perfect. Herein lies the rub, we aren’t perfect. For that reason alone, we are not capable of perfection in life, in love, in anything for that matter. We are imperfect beings living in an imperfect world. Yes, it’s nice to consider all the philosophical and esoteric writings on how to be more holy, more loving, more caring, more “perfect”. Those things all lead to what ought to be a better way of living for all of us. Read, digest, work toward attaining those bits of perfection in this imperfect universe, because it is a noble and right cause to strive towards. That said – let’s be real for a moment.
Expectations are the stuff of fools. Having the stubbornness to hope against hope that others may approach the world, situations, and other humans in the way that the one having that hope deems appropriate, and desired, can only come to frustration. I will grant that occasionally someone actually does what is being hoped for, or seems able to guess that magic number inside the head of the one hoping against hope that everything goes as planned. It happens! Rarely, but it happens. More often than not, the scientific principle of motion comes into play – that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. Trust in this being the most likely outcome of expectation. If what one hopes for in giving friendship or care to another is the return of that care and friendship in similar like and kind, generally, one should plan for disappointment. Sure that person will most likely be a friend and offer you friendship and care in return for what you’ve given, however their definition of friendship and care is not yours. Their ability to give may not meet your standards, and their reaction to your expectation, may be to move in the opposite direction. It would be lovely if we could all count on others “doing unto others, as has been done unto them” and it would be magical if everyone lived in the literal wording of 1 Corinthians poetic description of perfect love, but that just isn’t realistic. And it may lead down a path to disappointment or depression.
I have great hope and love for people. People are on their face, and in their hearts, good by nature. This is what I believe and how I approach folks initially. That said, generally people all stand in their own shoes, viewing the world from their own mountaintop – the mountaintop which they have climbed because of the challenges and experiences of their lives. Every mountaintop offers a different view, after all, we bring our baggage and our perspective with us as we travel this world. So how then can we expect that another would give, care, love, share, understand in the same way that we do. And how then can we be self-centered enough to believe that the way WE give, care, love, share and understand is the right way? I mean our mountaintop is our own, we too are products of our lives and road we traveled, potholes and all. I believe that we are destined to in some way disappoint one another. Not out of intention to do so, or spite, not out of wish to behave in a way that hurts another, but simply because of expectations held in the hearts and heads of those around us – to know what others expect would be to guess a number between 1 and a 1,000 correctly every time we try. It is human to get it right sometimes, and to guess incorrectly at other times.
Is it wrong to have expectations? No. It is normal, we’re human, it’s what we do. Is it wrong to feel hurt, frustrated, even vastly disappointed when others we love, care about, trust or believe to be our friends hurt us deeply (intentionally or without malice)? Of course not, it is normal. People may try to talk us out of feeling our feelings – to discount the hurts and the bruises that are left behind when someone we care deeply about fails to guess that number in our head, fails to know what we need from them or what we don’t want them to do at that moment. So feel your injury, it is not a sin to declare loudly, “HEY, it hurt me when that happened!” It is ok to be where you are with a situation in life.
Now to the hard part, at some point you also need to allow yourself to climb out of the valley laid low by the unintentional hurts in life. Forgiveness, is the cure for expectation. Forgive others for not doing what you needed, and perhaps for hurting you with what seems like intent (remember you see things from where you stand, not from where they stand, they probably don’t even know they hurt you). Forgive them. In doing so, you level out the low places and build a pathway for yourself back to the mountaintop. Even if they don’t deserve it? Yes. Forgive them anyhow. The only one you hurt in holding a grudge against someone who didn’t meet your expectations (especially those they didn’t know you had) is you. So, take a deep breath, decide to forgive them, and move on knowing that they are your friend, your loved one, someone who cares about you in the best way they are able, in spite of the fact that it isn’t the way you may have hoped. Meet others where they are, since really that is the only place people are able to be.
Easier said than done – but worthwhile is this effort.
Karen Quinn 2013