Expectations

We all have expectations.  Optimists have positive expectations.  Pessimists have negative expectations.  And most of the issues we have with people and life are based on our expectations.  So a question we should ask is, ‘Why have expectations at all?’

Expectations lead us to the pain of ‘hope deferred’ (Proverbs 13:12).  If our expectations are not fulfilled we become upset and that can lead us to strife with others or cause us to pull back from them.

People often express displeasure with others based on their expectations.  Consider the conversations you hear among your friends, or even on the media.  People often express their disapproval of the actions of their spouse, children, boss, employees, friends, government, etc.

But just because we hold an expectation does not make us right.  Our expressed disapproval might sound like an expression of high moral values and our privileged right to find fault with others, but it is actually a violation of God’s instruction to us that we are not to judge others, otherwise we will be judged (Matthew 7:1).

Wrong Expectations

Our expectations can be completely wrong, no matter how deeply held.

A wife might complain, “My husband comes home and watches TV!”

Well, that puts him among millions of other husbands.  So, what’s the problem?

The problem is she had a different expectation.  She may really want him to do chores, or to give her personal attention, or to play with the kids, or help the kids with their homework, or make repairs or just be busy rather than appearing lazy.

Whatever her expectation it is the basis for her judgment, disapproval, frustration, resentment, etc.

Similarly a husband may complain about his wife not pleasing him, when she does many things for him that other wives do not do.  The problem is not the amount of things she does, but whether what she does matches his expectations.

Those expectations could lead to bitterness, feelings of rejection and even divorce.

These issues are often brought up to couples planning to wed, to show that the families of origin have different modes of operation and different values, which lead the couple to have different ideas of what they and the other should do.

The word EXPECTATIONS cuts to the heart of this problem.

Susan’s Expectations

Recently my wife expressed disappointment with me because we had arranged to chat about something and her expectation of how I would engage in the process was different to mine.  I did not realise she had a specific expectation of me and my failure to meet her expectations was a disappointment to her.

This simple moment of mismatched expectations became a good prompt for me to distil the process of unfulfilled expectations impacting our lives.

Expressing Expectations

We all encounter times when others, especially our spouse or family members, do not meet our expectations.  And at times we may even feel that God has not met our expectations.

Consider how easy it is for people with expectations to say such things as: “He wasn’t supposed to do that”; “I never expected to hear her say such a thing”; “Why did God let it happen?”; “Are you just going to sit there and do nothing about this?”; “I never thought you’d let me down like this”; “You don’t care, do you?”; “You’ve really let me down this time”; “Life wasn’t meant to turn out like this”; “Why did this have to happen to me?”; “I deserve better than this”; “I have every right to be angry”.
On the other hand, people often find themselves facing the disapproval of others without really understanding what they have done wrong.  “I had no idea I was supposed to do such a thing”, “What in the world did I do wrong now?”, “Why can’t you be happy with what I do?”, “I did it the way you said”, “I thought you’d like it, that’s why I went out of my way to do this for you”, “What’s the use? No matter what I do I get in trouble”.

Inner Needs and Desires

Expectations are based on our inner needs and desires.  We want people to please us.  We want things to go well for us.  We want things our way.  So we set up expectations that others will please us and we will get our way.  When this doesn’t happen we accuse the others of failing us, rather than facing our own inner expectations.

When our expectations bring us into strife with others we can be sure that they are based on pride and selfishness.  When our expectations cause us to feel hurt by others it is most likely that we have made that person an idol in our life and are looking to them to bring us fulfilment and personal benefits which we should be looking only to God to bring to us.

Expectations and Wants

Our expectations are closely linked to our wants.

Consider the interchange of the word ‘expect’ and ‘want’ in the following sentences.

“Surely you don’t expect me to believe that!”

“Do you expect me to wait around all day for you?”

“The children expect me to wait on them hand and foot.”

“I expect you to take notice of my wishes and to fulfil them.”

“I expect this mess to be cleaned up by the time I return.”

If we have many expectations of others then we could also be seen as someone who is highly demanding or desiring to control others.  Expectations, wants and demands are often interchangeable.

Death to Expectations

Imagine what life would be like if you had no expectations and made no demands on others or on life itself.
If you saw your life as a responsibility to please and worship God and to fulfil His will for you life, with no expectations more than that life will happen and you will enjoy eternity with God when this life ends, then you would not end up in arguments with people about how they fail you.

If you had no expectations of others, or of life itself, you would accept whatever comes your way and do your best for God’s glory.  Husbands would love their wife no matter how she treated him, and wives would submit to their husbands no matter what he was like.  Parents would love and train their children without resorting to disapproval, manipulation or control.  People would serve God whether it was easy or hard and endure all manner of challenges with faith and patience.

Expectations are Toxic

When we hold expectations of others we elevate that person to the place of an idol in our lives.  We see them as a source of something we want, when God is our source.  We think that if our spouse, parents, children, others or society was to treat us a certain way then we would be fulfilled and happy.  But we are to be fulfilled and happy in God, not by the provisions of others.  If we look to others then they are effectively an idol we have put our trust in, in the place of God.

Expectations of God

We are to have positive expectations of God, because He is holy and totally reliable.  His word is true.

But even there, we must remember that God is sovereign and that when God does us good it may not be the way we would have ordered it.

Deep trials are often a way of God doing us good, as we see illustrated in Psalm 107.

We also see how David the shepherd boy faced two fearful menaces, a bear and a lion.  That’s not what the average shepherd sees as a good thing.  They would not normally order such experiences if they had the choice.  But for David his encounters with the lion and bear qualified him to take on Goliath and become a champion (1Samuel 17:36).

David’s famous Psalm 23 talks of having our head anointed with oil and sitting at a banqueting table.  But the road to such a place is through the “valley of the shadow of death”.

Claiming Scripture

God assures us that “all things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28) and we are to believe that God “is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him” (Hebrews 11:6).  We also know that nothing can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:38,39).

So we are to have high expectations of God.

Yet Revelation 4:11 tells us we are not on the planet for our own pleasure but for God’s pleasure.  Jesus told us to “seek first the Kingdom of God” (Matthew 6:33).

We are to live in high expectation of God, while at the same time trusting God when things appear to go wrong, and allowing God to take us on His road, not the road of our choosing.

Let Go

As we mature in life we have each learned to let go of things.  As we do, we experience increased freedom.  So why not accelerate your personal growth right now by taking stock of your expectations and letting go of them?

Let go of your expectations of your spouse.  You probably expect them to please you and fulfil you.  Well, let go.  Give up such expectations.  If you get such things treat it as a blessing, not as a right you can demand.  Choose to love and serve God, no matter what your spouse is or does.

Let go of your expectations toward your children or parents.  Much of what you want them to be or do is probably linked to your personal values and wishes.  Thank God for your family.  Trust your children to God.  Do what God asks of you as a child and as a parent, and leave the rest to Him.

Let go of your expectations of life.  It has been said that ‘happiness is a means of travel, not a destination’.  Enjoy the life God has given you and do all you do to the glory of God.  Rejoice, whether you abound or are in lack.

Ask God to show you your expectations and as you discover them from time to time, probably by feeling upset by someone not meeting your expectations, ask God to forgive you for holding such expectations and for judging others, and then give up that expectation altogether.

I believe there is great freedom for us all to enjoy as we do.

Tensions at Home

When home life becomes sour, husbands and wives tend to fall into predictable patterns. While these are not universal they do have historic and Biblical recognition. So, I want to point out the patterns which you are tempted to fall into and the Biblical solution to wrong responses.

Interpersonal relationship is made difficult by the fact that it is “personal” – inter-personal. We look for close affectional bonds and relationships of mutual respect and trust. We want to be loved, appreciated, valued, empowered, given room to express ourselves and so on. These ideals are anchored deep in our “personal” self.

Stop Being Personal

When someone offends us or strains our relationship with them it is hard not to take that personally. When we take it personally we spiral into predictable patterns and responses.

argument 2

The solution, then, is to stop being “personal” about life. But that’s like saying, “Stop breathing!” We are so distracted by our inner self and our hopes, dreams, insecurities, fears, longings, and so on, that it is hard not to be “personal” about them. In fact, for many people, EVERYTHING is personal!

You stop being “personal” about life, not by numbing or destroying your inner self, but by resolving and releasing your inner self. When you find true love, joy and peace, with wholeness, confidence, trust in God, faith in God’s Word, release from your inner slaveries, and similar spiritual impacts of walking with God, your inner self is realised and released. You can then soar above the regular or even more challenging issues of life, like an eagle soaring high above a storm.

You will “mount up with wings like an eagle”!

Back to Earth

Eagle Shmeagle! What’s the point of this talk about eagles when you live like a Turkey among a bunch of Turkeys?! While soaring above the problems is your ideal and the goal of your life, the reality is that most people can’t even jump, let alone soar above the issues.

Humans are incredibly useless creatures. We are tied up in the things of our “flesh”, such as our pride, lusts, evil heart responses, sin, weakness, selfishness, independence, and so on. Man does not have the key to unlock his problems or the wisdom to plot his own path.

“O LORD, I know that the way of man is not in himself: it is not in man that walks to direct his steps.” Jeremiah 10:23

That’s why New Year’s Resolutions generally don’t work. Those resolutions rely on flawed creatures, who can’t save themselves.

Man’s hope is not in himself. It is not in the strength of will or the force of personality. It is not in controls and regulations. Man needs the input of the Divine to empower him to overcome the limits of the Temporal.

Lead Feet

Your lead feet keep you on the ground. Your lead feet are those things that hold you to the ground and make it impossible for you to fly. And that includes all of your “fleshly” aspects. Your flesh buys into life at the level of your self-interest, lusts, pride and folly.

“And the LORD said, My spirit will not always strive with man, because he is also flesh….” Genesis 6:3a

Your “flesh” is your lead shoes. If you can die to your flesh, you can soar. If you insist on protecting your selfish interests (your fleshly focus) you will never escape your problems and your slavery.

“And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.” Galatians 5:24

Personal is Personal

Inter-“personal”- relationships are “personal”. They are ‘person to person’. The more open and honest each person is with the other then the deeper and richer the relationship. A formal relationship is not personal. And when one party is not interested in being open and honest with the other then deep relationship is not really possible.

Now, when an issue gets “personal” it is because it has impacted the personal limitations of one or other of the people. Something is only “personal” because it challenges the “person”. That’s why in some homes and communities certain things are discussed that others will never mention, because those things are too “personal”.

One person may speak openly about their failures while others take their whole life trying to hide any of their failures.

Personal Vulnerabilities

If you are full of personal vulnerabilities then just about everything will be personal to you. Those who are delightfully free on the inside don’t get personal about things that come up. They can face the issues without feeling their inner self compromised or challenged. They don’t have fears or shame to contend with. So the issue is a “light” one to them, while it is unbearably “heavy” to others.

So, the limitations upon interpersonal relationships relate directly to the quality of the persons involved. Tensions in the home result from each member taking things personally, based on their “flesh” perspective on life. The more pride, selfishness and unresolved issues a person has, the more things that come up will be “personal” to them. They will not be able to dismiss things or forgive others as freely as they should.

Predictable Patterns

Because humans are not free from their limitations there are predictable patterns which are repeated over and over again, through history. I will explore these patterns in greater detail in the next posts in this series. Allow me here to point out the predictable patterns which you will clearly recognise.

When women, especially wives, are offended or upset in a relationship, they tackle their husband or those they have taken issue with a tenacity that will not let the matter rest. Women tend to go on the offensive with words and persistence that may drive their husband crazy. He is likely to say, “She won’t let up!”

When men, including husbands, are offended or upset in a relationship, they tend to shut down and withdraw from the offender. If the offence is serious enough a man will erect barriers between himself and the offender. Those barriers can be completely impenetrable. A wife is likely to say, “He just shuts down and locks me out of his life!”

The Solution

The simple solution, and this is a perfectly real solution despite its simplicity, is to become free from “self”. When we live for God, outside our own selfish orientation, we can rise above the demands, foibles and limitations of our humanness and fleshly self.

We are not able to achieve that of our own will. We need God to make that possible for us. Don’t give up by saying, “I could never do that!” You are not supposed to do it. You are supposed to let God do it in you and for you.

So, no matter how much you have messed up your relationships there is a powerful solution. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it. And it will be wonderfully effective. And all of this will be more fully explained later in this series.

Women With Wise Words part 2

In part 1 of this topic I pointed out that women are known historically for being contentious. That means that some women tend to say things that make for argument and strife.

“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house.” Proverbs 21:9

“A foolish son is the calamity of his father: and the contentions of a wife are a continual dropping.” Proverbs 19:13

I pointed out that the basis for such trouble-making words is “pride” and that it involves a desire to “rule” others and be their “judge”. Insecurity has a part to play in that as well.

bossy2

I won’t repeat the background points made in part 1, but if you missed them I encourage you to go back and brush-up on the points made there.

Wise Words

The point of these articles is to teach women and all who need to know it, to stop contending and start sharing. Wise words do not lead to contention. Hasty, angry, thoughtless words will tend toward strife. So I want to give you some wise counsel about alternative ways to respond, rather than with contentious words and argument.

There are two issues that need to be addressed. One is your heart and intention. If you are given to strife, like the woman I mentioned in part 1, then you will step into strife all the time. That woman ended up in strife with another lady in her church, and she was known as a difficult person to befriend.

The second issue is the appropriate process to follow. Even with the right intentions we need people to give us guidance about the best way to do things.

Let me discuss these two issues with you, to point you in the right direction.

The Heart of the Matter

If you are contending with your husband, your children or others, there will be something going on in your heart that prompts you to do so. You may be wrestling with disappointment, that your family and marriage are not what you want them to be. You may be wrestling with unforgiveness for offences they have brought upon you. You may be frustrated because you have not been able to achieve some personal ambition, which may even go back to your childhood.

Whatever the issue that is gnawing at your heart, you need to resolve it and give it to God. You are to cast all of your cares upon Him because He cares for you.

Casting all your care upon him; for he cares for you.” 1Peter 5:7

Stop looking to people to deliver you from your challenges. Trust those issues to God. Your husband, children, family, friends, career and social connections cannot do for you what God is meant to do. If you trust in people to be your saviour you bring a curse upon yourself.

“The LORD says; A curse on the man that trusts in man, and makes flesh his arm, and whose heart departs from the LORD. For he will be like the heath in the desert, and will not see when good comes; but will inhabit the parched places in the wilderness, in an uninhabited salt land.” Jeremiah 17:5,6

Determine to trust God, and not to carry heart issues toward people who let you down. People are imperfect and only God can be your deliverer.

Control Your Speech

As you deal with your heart attitudes also take steps to control your speech. Hasty, impulsive, reactionary words will keep you in the unhappy cycle of contention. Stop contending and start sharing.

When your husband or child says something that you want to react to, stop yourself immediately. Don’t leap into the automatic response that you are urged to offer. Bite your tongue and hold yourself until you can find a wise and honouring response.

It is not easy to tame the tongue. The Apostle James warned us of that.

“But no man can tame the tongue; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison.” James 3:8

We cannot do it in our own strength and so we need God’s grace and power to master our verbal responses. Start by trying to hold your tongue. And call out for God’s help at the same time.

Wise Counselor

Stop taking the position of ruler and judge and take on the role of wise counsellor to your husband and children. Stop violating their will, by being demanding, argumentative, emotionally charged and manipulative. You are not their king or judge, so drop that role. Take on the much more valuable role of being a godly counsellor to your family.

Compare the Roles

In one home the children are about to head off to school. As they do so the mother calls after them with a bunch of questions, like, “Did you remember your book?” “You’ll need something warmer than that!” “Don’t dawdle on the way home.” And so on.

The children are not really paying attention, because they know that if they have forgotten something their mum will take up the issue for them. They are just mindlessly running out the door as they always do.

In a nearby home the children have all gathered to their mum before heading off to school. She will pray with them, but not until they can account for all the things they need that day, to show they are properly prepared.

When she sees that one of them has forgotten something she wisely asks, “Now, isn’t there something else you said you had to take to school today?” Thus she prompts her children to remember. When they are all fully prepared she blesses them and sends them off with a hug.

The second mum is coaching and counselling her children as she shares her life with them. The first mum is acting like their ruler and judge, apart from their life, rather that sharing it with them.

Helping Hubby

In one home a husband announces that he thinks it’s time to buy a new car. His wife reacts with irritation and scolds him for thinking about a new car when they can’t be sure they have the money for other expenses. He defends by saying he was only thinking about it, but she launches in and gives him the history of all his unwise decisions. She further blasts him for never listening to her, always doing his own thing and making her feel so worthless.

The husband shrinks away, rattled and stung. He finds some excuse to be out of the home and away from the woman who is contending with him. It is better for him to be in the pub, or at work, or anywhere else, than with his wife when she is in that frame of mind.

In another home a husband announces that he thinks it’s time to buy a new car. The wife smiles and affirms her husband. “You do love cars, don’t you? What do you have in mind?” The husband begins to share his thoughts and the wife enjoys them with him.

After a time of happy discussion she asks him how he can possibly afford it at this time, and if there is anything she can do to help make it possible. Together they realise that it is really only a dream, until they can get on top of some other commitments. However they thoroughly enjoyed the dream and will both be delighted when it is realised.

In the second example the wife is sharing life with her husband. They are partners in the process, not adversaries contending over an issue.

Getting the Picture?

Can you see how dropping the role of ruler and judge takes the contention out of the discussion? Sharing life together is much more rewarding for you and your family, than becoming an adversary to your loved ones. I hope you are getting the picture that even disagreements can be worked through, rather than turned into a stand-up fight.

I want to give you more examples of “sharing” instead of contending. I want you to feel comfortable with changing the way you relate and speak to one another. I’ll give you those examples in part 3 of Women With Wise Words.

To go directly to Part 3 of this series click this link:
http://chrisfieldblog.com/?p=1193