Well, I’m happy to report – at least in this case – to have practiced what we preached…we had NO expectation of the quantity and quality of response to this week’s message regarding the damage of expectations in relationships! That is that, Christian relationships are a zero-expectation endeavor. The “Expectations” sermon is the second in a series of four that Tammy and I are doing in the month of August called, There’s no U in relationships. Meaning, that the more self-centered U are…the more concerned about getting rather than giving U are…in relationships the worse off that relationship is likely going to be.
Maybe one of the most disturbing things many of us walked away with this week is that we can barely take a breath or speak a word in our significant relationships without discovering an expectation. And maybe that fact isn’t even as disturbing as the fact that our expectations are often rooted in some very significant and painful experiences, disappointments and even trauma.
Tammy and I talked about the distinction between expectations and legitimate desires/hopes. What struck my heart most deeply as we read through the honest and humble expectations that you feel you need to let go of, was how in so many cases there is/was a deeply legitimate desire, hope or need associated with the expectation.
The very very difficult challenge in relationships is to drop the expectations we have of others, and to honestly communicate/express and discuss the underlying hope and/or desire…and even sometimes the underlying damage, dysfunction or sin driving the expectation.
In short, our hearts were deeply moved by the many painful realities that many of you live with in some of your most significant relationships. And it should be remembered, so as not to minimize, that much of that difficulty and pain will not necessarily quickly diminish when you begin to manage and deal with your expectations.
As we prayed, we thought it might be good to help you process and to see how to move from expectations into healthy discovery and discussion about your very real hopes and desires.
SOME Q&A AND EXAMPLES
Q: “I put expectations on my girlfriend/boyfriend regarding the future. What do I do with them?”
A: As difficult as it is, those expectations are best to be released. Jesus said (paraphrased), it is presumptuous upon God to worry about the future (Mt 6:34). We have NO idea what it holds. There is plenty to be concerned about today. We would add…your boyfriend needs to be free to hear from God, to prepare him/herself, to grow in character and wisdom. AND at some point, you may have to admit that his/her lack of independent (apart from pressure and expectations…and threats!) initiative, commitment and courage are indicators of his true love and character.
On the other hand, desires regarding your future mate are legitimate longings of the heart. It is certainly no sin, nor is it wrong in any way to express your hopes to be married (for example) and have a family someday. It could be important to communicate (again, for example) how your family was so vital in your life that you are now seemingly hard-wired to continue that heritage.
Or, maybe for you it’s very different than that…in which case you would communicate how difficult or awful your family was, and that you’re realizing your marriage and family desires are almost purely self-motivated to get something you never had. You may then, together, rather than driving for future certainty you want to talk and work on healing regarding marriage and family. (In this second case, it is entirely likely that the girl/boyfriend is hesitating and anxious because he can sense, yet unable to articulate, the pressure to fill a family deficit she/he cannot.
Q: What do I do about my expectation for my for my [daughter/son] to leave his destructive life to embrace my ways and values?
A: Oh my, what a truly painful situation. Who could ever fault a parent from hoping such things for their daughter/son? No one. These are legitimate hopes and desires.
Expectations though (remember from the talk) are either legal in structure or perceived as such. Meaning that an expectation is an obligation that must be met to be either accepted or loved. Some of the most lost people are the most insightful, even genuine. And as a result have no desire to be accepted or loved under condition. In fact, they may be in the place they are because that has been the equation for love and acceptance thus far. We aren’t suggesting that is the case here, but it is common.
Some things that are necessary to explore here are the degree to which the parents social status and/or sense of significance comes from their children. It’s a mixed bag, but an important one to sort through. Oversimplifying to be sure, a discussion along these lines might be healthy: Son, it kills me to see your life, even your physical body, deteriorate like it is. For your sake I deeply hope and desire for something to help you change course. But I have realized I also want you to change for my sake and that I’ve even withheld my love as leverage. I’m so sorry. I want to love you unconditionally, but I have a lot of my own cr*p to clean up too. Is there ANYthing I can say or do now that would be helpful in ANY way? I want to set you free of me and my debilitating expectations.
And here are a few of your “expectations’ that are simply powerful to have discovered and to work on:
“I need to let go of my expectation that friends will spend more time with me.”
“For my parents to be excited and interested in my spiritual life.”
“For my husband to be the solution to me being happy.”
“Oh my, I have a lot of cleaning up to do…I expect something out of everybody…”
“For her to change.”
“My [spouse] to love and serve me before anyone else.’
“I expect my [family member] to come to church.”
“I cannot expect things to go exactly my way all the time.”