Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Pearl of the Day: Part 2-What Was I Expecting?

Happy 4th of July my friends!  I would like to take a moment to thank all the men and women who have served, or are currently serving our country.  The freedoms we enjoy have not come without a price.  God bless you and your families! 

Today's message is the conclusion of my two part series on expectations.  There have been many times throughout my life when I've felt frustrated, disappointed, discouraged, and even resentful when my expectations weren't met.  I've even gotten to the point of thinking it would be better not to have any expectations at all, that way I wouldn't be disappointed when they weren't met.  As I thought about that idea, it became clear that without any expectations, life would become monotonous and depressing.  I don't know about you, but I already work hard enough trying to keep a positive attitude because of the chronic pain issues I live with, so having no expectations isn't the answer for me.

Okay, since having no expectations isn't really the answer, what is the solution to dealing with the unmet expectations we have?  I believe the first step is to take a closer look at our expectations to see if they are realistic or unrealistic.  I struggled with self-worth issues the majority of my life, and have just recently, in the last year and a half, learned that the majority of our thought patterns stem from how we see ourselves, as well as the past experiences we've had.  I've found myself, many times, comparing a current situation with one from the past because I was having the same negative, hurtful feelings I had from the past.  Sometimes we place unrealistic expectations on others as a result of our own insecurities, which means we are looking to others to give us our worth and value; that's the wrong place to look for those things.  Your worth and value do not come from any outside source.  Our worth and value are found solely in God.  He created you for His divine purpose and He loves you and sees you as a priceless treasure.  You may not feel valuable, but you are.  Our feelings have nothing to do with how God sees us.  Our feelings can be deceiving and lead us to believe things that just aren't true.

Another thing we tend to do is give the power we have for our own happiness away.  We do this by placing expectations on others to keep us "fluffed up" and happy.  We seek out other people who will constantly feed our insecurities and keep us built up because we struggle with self-worth issues.  So, instead of looking at the real problem, which is our own insecurities, we mistakenly place unrealistic expectations on others to keep us happy, and when they fail to make us feel a certain way, we resort to blaming them for not being there for us, or not being a good friend, or not caring about us.  It's a vicious cycle that I lived for many years.  I always looked to others to keep me built up and when they failed to do that, I would feel worthless and unloved.  When you look to others to keep you fluffed up, it's just a temporary fix.  There will be no lasting change in the way you feel about yourself until you realize that you have insecurity issues that need to be addressed.  Then you can begin to change the way you think.  No one can consistently make you feel good about yourself.  I can tell you from personal experience, if you are placing those types of expectations on someone else, it will suck the peace and the life right out of them.  It will get to the point where they no longer want to be around you anymore.  If you've ever had another person place expectations on you that you just could not live up to, you will understand how much pressure it can create in a relationship.  So, take a closer look at what you're expecting from others, and from yourself, to see if it's realistic or not.  You may find that many of those expectations are impossible for anyone to live up to, which will only set you and others up for failure.

I've also found that sometimes people will have certain expectations of other people, yet they do no hold themselves to the same expectations.  Having a double standard for things like this will cause resentment and hurt in a relationship.

Many times we have unrealistic expectations about how others should think, act, and feel.  We oftentimes base these expectations on how we think they should respond, which is based on how we would respond in a particular situation.  The problem with this is that everyone is different and does not think, act, or feel the same way we do.  There have been quite a few situations where another person responded in a way that caused me hurt and even caused harm, however, what I failed to realize is that they responded the way they did because that's how they think, and expecting anything more was only setting myself up for disappointment.  The way people think and the background they come from shapes how they respond and react to things that happen.  Many people come from abusive backgrounds, which can definitely hinder logical thinking, and cause them to respond in a way that is hurtful.  Does that mean we should just let people treat us any way they want?  No, not at all.  That's where boundaries come into play.  There should be consequences for other people's behavior when it is causing hurt and harm.  Many times we can talk to someone about how they are treating us and work through things, and at other times there may be people who get offended and defensive because they feel that we are attacking them or judging them, which may not even be the case, but because of their negative way of thinking, that's how they see it.  In cases like this, sometimes distance may be the best answer to allow others to work through their own issues.

Once we've looked closer at our expectations, established whether our expectations are realistic or not, we can then begin to take the necessary steps to make changes where they need to be made.  One thing to remember is that there are only certain things within our own power that we can change.  This does not include other people.  What we can do may include taking the initiative to go talk with someone about the expectations we have that are not being met, and discuss what can be done to rectify the situation.  This person may not even be aware of your expectations, so try to be patient in sharing your feelings with them.  Another thing we can do is to ask ourselves, "Am I expecting perfection?"  We may need to lower the expectations we have for ourselves, certain situations, and others.  Sometimes we are harder on ourselves than we are on others.  You are not superhuman.  We all have our limits and to expect more than what you can do is setting yourself up for failure and disappointment.  And finally, we may need to come to terms with the fact that the expectations we have may not work out the way we want them to.  I've had to do that with some of the expectations I've had about other people, certain situations, as well as about God.  Sometimes our own expectations have created our disappointments.  There are certain things I've decided to trust God with because they are out of my control.  As much as I want to see things work the way I would like them to, I know I have no control over any of it.  That doesn't mean I am not still dealing with the disappointment and hurt from those unmet expectations, but I am learning to see things from a different perspective.  Here are a few expectations we are sure to win with:

*God knows my heart and He loves me, therefore I will expect Him to do what's best for me.

*His mercies are new every morning, therefore I expect His mercies to never run out.

*He has promised to never leave me, nor forsake me, therefore I expect Him to always be there, no matter what.

*Jesus said He was going to prepare a place for me, therefore I expect Him to come back and get me when it's ready.

*God knows the plans He has for me. He said they are plans for good and not evil, plans to give me a future and a hope, therefore I expect that He is well able to bring to pass all that He wants in my life.

Our expectations may not always be met, but there is One who will do above and beyond all we expect or imagine.  Until next time my friends, be blessed!

Serenity Prayer:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

--Reinhold Niebuhr

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