This is a hard one.
Like moving to music or eating ice cream sandwiches, expectations are quite natural to me. I have learned the dangers of our expectations, though. While they can help to define relationships, they also confine much more than we realize. When people do not meet our standards, some of us simply let them go. Some of us re-define the relationship or re-adjust our commitment or re-allocate our care or concern. We say in our hearts, “this person is no longer worthy of my love“.
Yes, there is a place for mutual commitment and we must be discerning about how we invest in relationships.
However, this does not negate the following: When we love (express kindness, value, and worth to another person), we must do so FREELY. Relationships can be contractual, but love is a social responsibility.
Real talk: I enjoy making others smile, offering encouragement, and reminding others of their value. It’s the empathizer in me. But it is not always returned from those I “expect” it from. Quite honestly, most times, it is rejected. And even more honestly, in those moments, I am tempted to be bitter and return the rejection. But then a still small voice asks, why are you angry?. . . And I am confronted with the parts of me that are no different from the people I’m angry at or disappointed with.
Here are some ideas for consideration.
- Stop Feelin’ Yourself In the mirror, it’s okay, but in our interactions…not so much. Paul advises, “don’t do anything out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but with humility of mind regard others as more important than you. (Phil 2:3)” Put another way (MSG), Forget yourself long enough to [give someone else what they need]. We may not realize that our disappointment with someone is sometimes linked to the belief that what we want or how we feels is more important.
- Love Is. If love was about what we received in return it would have limitations. Yes, people have limitations. We are mere mortals. Love, at least the kind of love that lovekulture represents, is supernatural. There is no end. It is overflowing. Always existing. When people treat us well. When people treat us like caca. 🙂 When friends call you back or when they don’t return your calls. Yes, the relationship could change, but the attitude of kindness, value and worth towards the other person will always be there.
- Loving Freely is Loving Forward. Unforgiveness is a terrible monster. It sits in our bellies collecting memories of every single person who did not meet our expectations, and there we are. Bloated. Heavy. Radical love is a laxative or diuretic (your choice). When we release others from failing to meet our expectations we feel much lighter, don’t we? And we have energy to love again and keep on loving! It is better to love without expectations so that we can continue to love others.
One day, I had a conversation with a very smart and beautiful woman. She told me she discovered that it was much more liberating to stop loving the people who weren’t loving her back. If she meant she stopped over-investing in relationships in which there was no mutual agreement or mutual respect, I get that….But she wasn’t. She concludes, “You know, I just say ‘f**k them’. They don’t deserve me.”
How I empathized and wanted to identify with her, but I was identifying with something much higher.
“You’re familiar with the old written law, ‘Love your friend,’ and its unwritten companion, ‘Hate your enemy.’ I’m challenging that. I’m telling you to love your enemies. Let them bring out the best in you, not the worst. When someone gives you a hard time, respond with the energies of prayer, for then you are working out of your true selves, your God-created selves. This is what God does. He gives his best. . .to everyone, regardless. . .If all you do is love the lovable, do you expect a bonus? Anybody can do that. If you simply say hello to those who greet you, do you expect a medal? . .48 “In a word, what I’m saying is . . . Live generously and graciously toward others, the way God lives toward you.”
How radical, and that’s what makes it beautiful. I challenge us to love freely and see how much love flows out, when it’s not blocked up by our expectations.