Does someone expect something of you? A lot of people? What about school, work, spouse, children, extended family. Does it ever end? Somewhere along the way, usually at a very young age, someone let us know what they expected of us. Most likely it was your parents. (If not, it probably should have been and you should be reading a different blog.) Sorry, I digress. Regardless who it was at first, the expectations begin to build with each day, month and year of our life and from different people, places, society, and organizations.
At some point you may realize that you are overwhelmed and overloaded with life. That is the point where I stop and think about how I got where I am right now. How did this happen and everything start spinning out of control? I have had many different conversations with myself, many different times about this, with many different conclusions. But I really think it comes down to only one honest conclusion. I am trying to meet a certain set of expectations set by multiple people or organizations.
So, what are those expectations? I have had different ones to sort out along the way. Some larger scale ones include the typical girl issues of looking or behaving a certain way around peers, working so hard to be ‘good enough’ and prove myself, obsessing over a clean house to make someone think ‘good’ things about me, and having your children behave/dress/perform in a manner worthy of bragging. Aren’t those shameful? It really just makes me sick to see those listed there. But they are true at some point in my life. They happened because different people or organizations expected something of me and I had to meet that expectation. Or so I thought.
I have experienced smaller scale expectations that can cause some serious issues and become bigger ones if not conquered. These usually come from long-term relationships where there has been an established pattern or maybe a situation where one of the persons change and the other keeps expecting the ‘old’ person and relationship they once had. In these long-term relationships (marriage, parents, children, siblings, friends) the expectation cycle is harder to break. Because these are personal, an added element of emotion is involved.
Both the larger and smaller set of expectations were really wearing on me. I had to take a long hard look at me and examine what was driving me. I sure didn’t want my children to watch me and think they have to live up to others’ expectations. That they had to do all this ‘stuff’ to be this ‘way’. Stuff. Way. Gag. And I certainly didn’t want my boys to place the expectations on their future wife that I was placing on myself. What a way for a mom to ruin a marriage from the beginning. But that is exactly what I was teaching them.
It basically came down to me asking myself “Why do you do what you do?” What is my ‘why?’ As I sorted through this question over time. Over prayer. I discovered that I was trying to keep up with what others thought of me or what I wanted them to think of me. ME. Completely self-focused. Completely miserable. After soaking in this revelation over some time, I realized that while I was so busy trying to meet everyone’s expectations I was ignoring the One of whose expectations I should be striving. Choosing to change the direction of my thinking meant many things. It meant that many of my relationships were going to change – some for the better and some not. It meant that other people might think things about me that, eek, might not be good. It meant I was going to disappoint some people. But it also meant sweet freedom. It freed me from caring what anyone thought or spoke of me. It freed me to make the decision I needed to make instead of the one someone wanted me to. Making this choice also means that I quit placing expectations on others. I was choosing to listen to God and follow His command even when it didn’t make sense. It meant that on a daily basis I keep my eyes on Christ alone. He knows what my day holds. Heck, he made me and knows my abilities more than anyone. He knows how many hours I have, how many dollars I have, how many things need to get done to keep everyone trotting along.
Sounds so simple when I write it out. Sounds logical. But it is oh so different when you honestly act on it. I am sure I am not the only one out there who has struggled/struggles with meeting others expectations. And because I have discovered this doesn’t mean that I still don’t struggle. It is a daily process. A daily giving it all to God. But what I am 100% sure of is this. There is an unbelieve freedom on the other side. If you are living to meet others’ expectations you are living in such a trap and burdensome way. You can be free. But you have to choose to.
Psalm 146:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)
3 Put not your trust in princes,
in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation.
4 When his breath departs, he returns to the earth;
on that very day his plans perish.