I’ve been thinking lately about the burden and joy of expectation. This is just my thoughts as they come, so take them as you will. 😊 Feel free to comment.
I said to my friend on the way to a fun event in London recently that I think I sometimes ruin things by setting my expectations too high. Like we are going to a gig, or it’s nearly my birthday, or I have a trip home of a holiday coming up and I get so excited and look forward to it and romanticise it so much that sometimes the real thing is a bit of a let down. I normally still enjoy the thing, but I have this thought in the back of my head that I imagined it better. Or I am dreading it being over.
Christmas is a classic example of this. Now don’t get me wrong I LOVE Christmas mostly because I have 2 whole weeks with my amazing family. But the build up is so long; shops have the decor in already and it’s only October, I feel like I should have got gifts already, tickets need to be booked and my the time it comes around I’m already getting sad it’s nearly over and I have to wait again. And if the food isn’t perfect, people don’t love my gifts or I’m too tired or full of cold to enjoy it as much then I feel sad.
We have this running comment when I visit home – my mum says “You’re always going and never coming”. And I feel like it’s true. I get home and I’m counting down the days until I have to leave because the time is so precious. We’ve been looking forward to it for so long even at Christmas it doesn’t seem like long enough. Life goes so quickly and we are bombarded with things to do, things we should be doing, fun things others are doing and it’s so hard to live in the present, enjoy the moment and not get too caught up in expectation.
I think media (social and otherwise) has a huge share in the blame for unrealistic expectations. I’ve seen a bunch of articles lately about how because of unrealistic portrayal of women in media, cyber bullying etc girls as young as 7 are feeling inadequate about how they look and feel more judged and stressed than ever before. I’m sure it’s true for guys too. It’s been said before, but social media shows the ‘highlight reel’ of someone’s life instead of the ‘behind the scenes’ and we try and aspire to that even though it’s impossible. Beauty and life bloggers 24hour stream their lives and it seems perfect and amazing and we forget it’s heavily edited, hugely subsidised by ads and only a fraction of their lives. And we get depressed because our lives seem messy and broken and flawed in comparison.
But comparison is the thief of joy. And expectation that is unrealistic will cripple us.
Expectation can kill relationships. Friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, new aquantances, family and even with God. When I’m getting to know someone (especially of the opposite gender) and I like them, it’s so hard not to expect too much too quickly. I can see all my own flaws, everything that’s wrong with me, all the ways in which my life in complex. But with them I want them to be perfect. I want them to never let me down, never hurt me, never mock me, never doubt me, never dislike me. I want them to never show they are “too perfect” as I feel rubbish in comparison. But I don’t want them to be judgemental, mean or odd or stupid or anything I don’t like, even though I can be all those things. I imagine it to be perfect like a Jane Austin novel ending and then I do something foolish or they say something harsh and I am crushed. I don’t want to do anything to ruin my expectation and I certainly don’t want to let down theirs so I try and do everything I can to be my best. Or better than my best. But it’s not always realistic.
I’d rather have a beautifully flawed relationship than a flawed ‘beautiful’ one.
Elizabeth Bennet had it right;
I guess the ‘world’ wants us to be perfect right away, to always get it right, look amazing, be hilarious, be skinny, be well educated, be a high achiever, be fearless, be flawless. And I am sure we all agree that that expectation is exhausting and it’s not achievable for anyone.
I read the other day about a new club in LA that will only let “attractive people” in and my heart broke. So many people have so much more to offer than how they look. Or even how smart they are, how much they can do, how many achievements they have. For me; how kind they are, how compassionate, how genuine and generous they are is far more important.
God is perfect. He will never do the wrong thing, his grace is for all and his love never ends. But even of God we expect too much. We think that means will never allow us suffer (even though his disciples did duh). We think he will give us everything we desire even if it’s not best for us. We get disappointed in Him and start not to trust Him. But that’s the real test of our expectation. Do we trust God? Do we trust in His grace and mercy despite the pain and suffering we see or endure. Do we believe in his unending love? Or do choose sin instead of grace and wallow in the sadness? This is a question for myself and a challenge for myself too!! How much do I expect of God. I can expect Him to always love me, always forgive me and for mercies new each day. But that doesn’t mean I can expect life to be always be rosy. I can’t expect to do whatever I want with no consequence. I can’t expect to live in a fallen world and not see the suffering of humankind hating and hurting itself.
I have been doing the 1,000 gifts since I read the book and currently on about 1700. It’s so great to remind myself to be thankful for the really small things because it helps to put things in perspective and thank God for even the things I don’t feel like being thankful for. It reminds me to be grateful in all circumstances, which helps keep my expectations slightly more real. It’s so hard though.
I want to have realistic expectations of myself. I pray for that today. To see myself as God does but not as the picture perfect world expects me to be.
I want to have realistic expectations of my day to day and life. I pray for that today. To know it can be beautiful and blessed and amazing but also can be tricky and hard and messy.
I want to have realistic expectations of my family, friends and people I’m getting to know. I pray for that today. To know that people can be amazing, they can love me, surprise me, do wonderful things, but also they can make mistakes, let me down and be human.
I want to have realistic expectations of God. I pray for that today. To know he is perfect, always good, always loving and gives grace and mercy. But that He is also Just, omniscient and omnipotent. That if life doesn’t go as planned or I feel let down by God its that my expectations were unrealistic and the world is fallen, not that God has let me down.
I pray those things for you too today. I pray we are thankful for all the good things we have, all the love God and others have given us, and that we level our expectations but also allow ourselves to be surprised if they are exceeded.