Recently in a conversation with an acquaintance, this person mentioned that they “choose to just believe the worst about people and in doing so, they are not hurt by others”. At first glance, this may seem like a good way to live…have little or no expectations of others and you won’t be disappointed…but, what are the true repercussions of this view? What may at first seem “self-protective” can easily give way to bitterness, anger, and a judgmental spirit while leading one to hurt his/herself and others. It can create walls of separation and isolation. In short, it’s just no way to live.
Looking more intently at this viewpoint, I see that this “no expectations” mantra is really an expectation that others are not good, are not trustworthy, are not kind, and so on. In converse, we can also swing in the complete opposite direction where we have heightened expectations of others to do or say certain things because, “That’s how we would do it” or it’s just how we think it should be done.
“Expectations kill relationships” – Ann Voskamp in One Thousand Gifts
When I first read the above quote, I lingered over it, reading those words over and over again, not sure if I agreed with what was said. I was stuck and struck by the comment. Should we not expect others to treat us with respect and compassion and love and…and…and…?
There is a delicate balance between expecting the worst and expecting what we view as the best in others. In a world that promotes “self” we could be easily swayed to think that other people owe us anything. It can be a struggle to land in the middle, and I admit that I’m guilty at both ends of this spectrum. It is a slippery slope to find the middle ground of hope because a twinge of doubt can quickly slide my thinking to see the worst in others, whereas a heightened view of self can quickly slide my thinking to view others as owing me something. In either case, I am harboring expectations and find myself disappointed and lacking in joy.
Ann goes on to say, “Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment? The joy-filled do not fill with expectations, the joy-filled expect nothing – and are filled.”
How many wonderful moments have I missed because of my own expectations? How many times has my tendency to slide around on this slippery slope colored my view of God and squelched His joy in me?
But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled, my steps had nearly slipped. – Psalm 73:2
To live in the middle of two extremes, where I believe hope is and ultimately joy fills my soul:
"the knees must bend humble and the hand must lie vulnerably open and the will must bow to accept whatever the Giver chooses to give." (Ann Voskamp)
Lord, help me live a life where hope and joy rule.