GREAT EXPECTATIONS VS REASONABLE EXPECTATIONS

It’s a couple days away from Valentine’s Day and I had the occasion to speak with one of my sister-friends who has Great Expectations for the day.  She is a hopeless romantic and therefore would like for her husband to pull out all the stops plus the ‘red carpet’, in celebrating her and the day.  She has one problem though.  They are mismatched in the romanticism department.   

In essence, this is what she told me.  “He is such a wonderful guy, and he is easy to please, but he does not have a romantic bone in his body.”  One of my responses to her was that you might have married someone who is not only romantic to you, but to every other woman he meets, so be grateful.  That aside, I think she is hoping he would surprise her by doing some of the things that she would like, but I could already hear in her voice that she was lowering her expectations. 

I listened to her and being that I’ve been married for almost three decades, I had a bit of advice to give and it went something like this.    I’m not sure who penned this quote, but it has been a guiding light for me in navigating my significant relationships.  It says, “Expectation is the mother of disappointment.”  In other words, if you don’t expect anything, you cannot be disappointed.  And I’m only referring to earthly relationships here.

Although, I agree with the quote, I believe that there are expectations that are reasonable to have.  For example, I expect my son to love me because I have been an exceptional mother to him.  He hasn’t disappointed me yet.  I expect that there will be mutual respect between my friends and I.  Up to this point, my tight circle has never disappointed me. I expect that my husband will take care of our family as he has been doing for the last three decades.  After all these years, he hasn’t disappointed me in that aspect of our lives either.  Reasonable expectations.

Make no mistake, even reasonable expectations can produce disappointment, but at least there is the experiential to support them.   And that is the difference between Great Expectations and Reasonable Expectations.    Sometimes we are expecting in a vacuum with neither experience nor assurances that the expectation will be met. And that’s when we get hurt. 

The Word of God is filled with references which assures us that our expectations of God will never end in disappointment. Even if we don’t have personal proof as yet that He never fails, all we have to do is research His word for historical proof of what we can expect from Him. Even those of us in New Testament times have experienced how God has kept His word through every changing season in our lives. This is the only person that we can have Great Expectations of because He will never fail to deliver on His promises.

Sometimes we look at a person’s age, education, religious persusaion or social orientation and we expect certain attitudes and behaviours from them, but I’ve learned that a person cannot give you what they do not have.   And the only way to determine what they have is to experience them over time.   You may get hurt but I’ve never known anything to grow without some discomfort and pain.  

This brings me to what I’ve learned especially within the bonds of marriage.  We have expectations of others based on our frame of reference.  And this frame of reference can be based on family of origin relationships or other relationships in general.  In our present relationships we come to expect certain things based on what we’ve experienced in the past in similar relationships. 

For example, when I got married, I expected my husband to play a more active role in domestic activities.  He, on the other hand, expected me to be satisfied just being at home.  Why?  Because that is what we both experienced in our family of origin.  These are the kinds of things that cause frustration in marital relationships because many times we don’t take the time to discuss our expectations of each other before we say ‘I Do’.

This happens a lot among those of us who are believers who feel that once someone is a Christian, and we ‘love’ one another, we’ll be able to work through our issues on the back end. Many of us have found that this is not true.  Many relationships are on the rocks or are barely hanging on by a thread because of this misconception.

Communication is one of the fundamentals that need to be established and maintained throughout the life of any relationship.  Honest and open communication is necessary so that each person knows where they stand especially before marriage, to determine whether they can deal with certain nuances, habits, mindsets for the long haul.

Our expectations of others should be moderate and reasonable. Communication tempered with understanding is the tool that will help us to formulate those moderate and reasonable expectations.    Instead of constantly being frustrated with each other, we will educate ourselves about our partners by 

  • Engaging in ongoing research – you don’t stop learning about your partner or their history after you get married.  Issues in the relationship will cause you to want to find out “where did this or that come from”.  Pay keen attention; look, listen, and learn.  Education is ongoing.
  • Talking about the hard-to-discuss issues.  My father-in-law used to say, lay everything out on the table. Even if the discussion becomes heated, at least you’ll know where you stand and what you are dealing with.  He was right.  Not talking about the pink elephant in the room does not mean that it does not exist.
  • Saying what we want, what we need, what we expect.  As much as we like to say we know someone, we don’t know what’s in their minds.  This kind of knowledge comes with years of growing together and even then…
  • Applying grace as you would want them to be gracious to you.  Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
  • Being patient.  Growth takes time.  Becoming one takes time.  Understanding each other takes time.  

Many times, we look at couples who have been married for many years and we admire how comfortable they seem with each other.  Newsflash!  Over time they engaged in everything that I outlined above and more to get to the place of peace that you are now witnessing.

I will close with another quote that, not even if I tried, could I have expressed it any better than Mr Rasheed Ogunlaru.

“Expectation has brought me disappointment.  Disappointment has brought me wisdom.  Acceptance, gratitude and appreciation have brought me joy and fulfillment.”

Again, it is okay to have reasonable expectations and even then you will experience disappointments, but what that quote expresses is where I’ve grown to and I am so grateful for the lessons learnt.  I pray that as you have read this, you will make that shift in your mindset that would eventually bring you to that place of joy and fulfilment in your relationship as far as expectations are concerned.

As far as your Valentine’s Day celebration goes, make the peace, joy, and love of your union your focus.   Make your partner your focus and not the things that he or she should do for you.  Why not decide among yourselves what you will do for each other on that day?  Never mind that it will not be a surprise.  Surprises are over-rated.  Your biggest concern should be that both of you feel special on that day.  That you create a memory that both of you can recount with warm feelings when you are old and grey. Who knows?  You may be surprised how that little conversation will spark something more than you expected. 

Save yourself and your relationship by keeping your expectations moderate and reasonable. Don’t let your Great Expectations overshadow the memories that you can create by having Reasonable Expectations for the day or for life. Enjoy the moment! Create memories for a lifetime.

My soul, wait thou only upon God; For my expectation is from Him. Psalm 62:5

LIFE IS SHORT…

Good Family and Friends are a Scarce Commodity

While living in the United States there were six months out of the year that I yearned to be in Anguilla.  They were the cold months and although I enjoyed the experience, there were many days when I imagined myself splashing in the warm, blue-tinged, crystal clear water of Rendezvous or Meads Bay.  Therefore, I told myself, whenever I returned to the islands, I will make good the privilege of living on an island and I will never, ever take sea-bathing for granted.  

For the past couple of weeks, I have kept that promise to myself and today, as I drove back into my yard after exercising and sea-soaking, the thought came to mind – “Life is short and good family and friends are a precious and scarce commodity”.

You see, I went to the beach alone and except for when I am home with my family, most of my time, if I were to take note of it, is spent by myself.  I have no family here but there’s more to it than that.  

I am a pastor’s kid and when we were growing up my mom had an experience that caused her to become overprotective.  My dad had migrated to another island and she of course joined him.  Therefore, she also did not have any family close by.  What she did was kept us very close so that we would not get hurt as she did, but the result of that was both positive and negative.  On one hand we did and still do not really need company to be happy; but on the other hand, when we did go out as teenagers and even young adults, we were socially inept.

Despite the negative, I have matured, and I am no longer socially inept, but I have also grown to appreciate that if I don’t have company, I am quite fine.  Also, in a community where, human beings can sometimes be quite mean for no apparent reason, being able to enjoy your own company is a gift.

Be that as it may, God has blessed me with some precious family and friends for whom I am so grateful.  So, here is what I have to say.

Life is short.  We have been given 70 years and by reason of strength, 80.  When you stack that up against time that has gone and the time that will be after you exit the scene, 70 to 80 years is a drop in the bucket.  Therefore, the moment that you have right now, is precious.

Good family and friends are precious and a scarce commodity.  If it were not for good family and friends that covered and supported me over the past two years, I don’t know where I would have been.  So, believe me when I say, I know the importance of having people in your life that get you and still love you.

I thank God for the opportunity to travel and live away for a while.  It opened me up to the fact that although interacting with some people can make you gun-shy to socializing with others, there are still wonderful people in the world.  There are people who even though they have their flaws, they are about loving and caring for others.  And I have been privileged to meet persons like that all over the world and it has given me hope.

Life is short and good family and friends are a precious and scarce commodity.  You don’t know when your time will come to leave this place called planet earth. So cultivate those relationships with the time that you have left.  

Be there for your family and friends as they are for you.  You don’t have to call or text every day, but as often as possible let them know that you are thinking good thoughts about them.  After all, if we don’t have good family and friends, what do we have?  With the way that the world is right now, those relationships make life worth living.

Guess what?  I am going to take my own advice and hope you do too.  It could mean the difference between living a full and fulfilled life or one that is very lonely.  And being alone does not necessarily mean being lonely.  But for those of you who may be feeling lonely right now, I leave this food for thought with you. “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Be blessed. Much love.

FRIEND OR FOE?

Once upon a time there was someone that I called my ‘best friend’, but I do not know if the feeling was mutual. Maybe in word, but judging from my experience, not heart.  My wakeup call came when I found out from someone else, what was her alleged life situation at the time.  It was something big.  Something life-changing and yet, as close as we were, I did not hear it from her.  I had to ask her about it, because that’s how I am with friends.  Of course when confronted she admitted it was so, but from that day my view of our friendship was altered, permanently.

After that experience, I have been very careful who I give the title of ‘friend’ to.  As a matter of fact, I have not endowed the title ‘best friend’ to anyone since then. From that time until now, I have formulated some critera that I use as markers to give me an idea of who I am dealing with, give or take a few.

  1. Is that person willing to share their life experiences, within reason, with me as I do with them?
  2. Are they willing to gently tell me the truth even if it hurts?
  3. If they ask me a question, and I respond, do they accept my answer, or do they try to change my mind in a way that seems pushy?
  4. Are they always argumentative no matter the subject being raised or discussed?
  5. Do I always feel like I need to justify everything I do or say?
  6. Are they always secretly competing with me?
  7. Do they give the appearance that life with them is perfect, while punching holes in mines and everyone else’s?
  8. Are they supportive of my dreams and aspirations or do they find cause to be critical?
  9. Do I feel comfortable being myself in their presence or do I always feel pressured to be someone else?
  10. Do they covertly try to make me feel inferior to them?
  11. Do they cover me in public while confronting my wrong in private, or do they expose my shame for the world to see.

As the Bible said, and I think it goes without saying that we should always endeavour to do unto others as we would like them to do unto us. (Matthew 7:12)

So, here I am today at 51 and I choose my affiliations very carefully.  As a matter of fact, if after the ‘getting to know you phase’ I find that any two or three of the above markers are evident, I will go into self-preservation mode.  Life is too short to always be trying to justify yourself and your thoughts to others. It is certainly too short to always be struggling to make a friendship work.

Jesus said in John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  I try to maintain that peace as much as possible and that means choosing my friends wisely.  As a matter of fact, I let the God who knows every person’s heart, choose my friends for me.

And let us always bear this in mind as well, “A man that hath friends must shew himself friendly: and there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother.” (Proverbs 18:24)

Shalom!

LOVE? I’LL TRY

Welcome!  This tour will take some sharp twists and turns, but I urge you to sit back and pay keen attention.  There may be something that you can relate to or learn as you traverse through the musings of my mind on the subject of Love.

Loving you is not easy because it goes against my natural reaction to your natural actions toward me. I want to revile again as you have reviled me. I want to treat you as you deserve, because that is the fair thing to do. I strain to do the opposite. Yet I am compelled by something greater than myself to be the bigger person. And it hurts. It’s not fair. I deserve better because I am ‘good’.

Ahhhhhh!  Why can’t I be like everyone else?  Why do I have to take the high road?  Don’t I have the right to fully express myself?  To feel and revel in my emotions for just a little bit…before I hear you saying, “You know better than that, so do better”?  Or “Your feelings will wreck you if you don’t check them”?

Am I not allowed to be human…for once?  No!  You are not only human!  You are a spirit, with a soul housed in a body.  You are empowered to go against the grain and live above what’s natural.  You are endued with power to do the supernatural.  You are graced with a super-human strength to love the unlovable.  “My grace is sufficient for you and my strength is made perfect in your weakness” (2 Corinthians 12:9 paraphrased).

Okay.  So, it is a new day.  I have a new determination…again.  I am going to take a deep breath and once again patiently be good to you.  I am going to support you even when you find it difficult to support me.  I will gladly give you your props, rejoicing with you at every victory and letting the world know how awesome you are.  I believe the best about you, covering you in your times of weakness, all the while keeping it real and one hundred behind closed doors.  (1 Corinthians 13)

I groan under the weight of such a mandate, but I am encouraged because it was heavy for you too.   You followed through on your commitment.   You didn’t shift blame nor complained to your Father when the pain got unbearable. You toughed it out and pushed through even when you felt forsaken and alone.  You persevered because there was a ‘cause’.  I am persuaded to do the same and find comfort because I know you understand. 

Feelings?  What feelings.  I am dead and my life is hidden with Christ in God.  My affections are set on things above – not on the beggarly elements of this world.  I am a new person and my mind is renewed every day based on the knowledge of Him who created me.  I am not malicious, nor do I blaspheme.  I may get angry, but I do not sin.  Swearing?  What is that? (Colossians 3; Ephesians 4:26)  

Today I put on this beautiful dress. It is heavy because of all the rare jewels that were painstakingly acquired and sewn onto the fabric. Gems such as mercy, kindness, humility, meekness and patience. Peacefully and with much gratitude I walk through my day forgiving those who hurt me because it is the best thing to do. Love is the foundation garment that I wear. It smooths out all my bumps and holds me accountable to the greatest love of all, Jesus Christ.

And He makes me shine.  He puts me on display making all other efforts obsolete and unnecessary.   His love for me trumps all.  I love Him and aim to please Him which makes it possible for me to love you.  I love you!

Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. (1 John 4:11KJV)