Do you ever deal with unrealistic expectations? I’m afraid I would have to raise my hand here.
What exactly is an expectation? The Oxford dictionary says it’s the strong belief that something will happen.
We just experienced a holiday that often causes people to have expectations. Maybe someone expects flowers or chocolate (or both!!) or a fancy dinner out when Valentine’s Day rolls around.
Or maybe the expectation is to that you won’t do anything for each other – and then you’re surprised when something really nice happens!
Unfulfilled expectations have been a problem for me at times. But there’s one expectation that I hadn’t really thought about having until I read this quote.
“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” ~Donald Miller
I don’t think I would ever have said out loud that I expect anyone here on earth to be perfect. But the more I thought about it, I realized that maybe I do.
As with most things, I start with those closest to me, the ones who live in my house. Do I expect my husband to read my mind about how I’m feeling today? Do I think he’s going to always think, do, or say exactly what I think he should?
How about my children? Do I expect that they will never make mistakes? Am I totally surprised when they respond with a bad attitude or don’t keep their room as neat as I would like it?
If I put these expectations on my family, I’m going to be frustrated on a daily basis. And I’m definitely going to have a hard time liking them!
This can extend to our friends or our coworkers. We think, “Well, she let me down because she didn’t do this or remember this.”
If we can let go of what we expect of other people, the perfection we think they should have (or should at least be striving for!), we have a greater chance of liking them. I want to like these people! I want to appreciate my family, my friends – even strangers I meet – for who they are without piling my expectations on top of them.
I need to quit expecting them to never hurt my feelings, to always read my mind, to always do things my way.
We’re humans. We’re going to disappoint each other. And I certainly hope that no one is waiting around for me to be perfect!
I actually found this Donald Miller quote in Kay Wyma’s latest book, Not the Boss of Us: Putting Overwhelmed in Its Place in a Do-All Be-All World. Kay takes it in a whole different direction. She says this about his quote. “...I think we can quickly agree with [it] – until we make ourselves the subject of that admonition. As in ‘When you stop expecting [yourself] to be perfect, you can like [yourself] for who [you] are.'”
Do you expect yourself to be perfect? Again, I don’t think this is something we would think to express, but perhaps in some way we do.
If we know Jesus, our desire is to do right as we follow Christ and have the Holy Spirit’s help. But when our sin nature wins, as it will, we can be so hard on ourselves.
When we spout angry words or lose our patience or miss an opportunity to minister to someone, we can beat ourselves up. And while we need to ask forgiveness, and make it right, we can also accept the fact that we’re not going to attain perfection here.
Each time, hopefully, we grow a little more and learn to be more Christ-like. But that same grace we extend to others can trickle down to ourselves.
And maybe it’s not even a sin we’re talking about here. Maybe we forgot to pack that note in our child’s lunchbox or missed sending a birthday card to a relative or even just burnt supper.
It’s okay. We’re going to mess up those things, too.
So in the future, I want to work on releasing any expectations I’ve put on others to be perfect…and give myself that same gift.