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Expectations Revisited

Posted in A Class Act by Linden Barrick on February 4, 2013
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Reblogged from June 2012 –
I needed the reminder this week. Maybe you do too!

Expectations are a part of everyone’s daily life. I expect my children to mind their manners and my students to follow the rules. My family expects me to buy groceries. My boss expects me to show up for work. Life’s roads have fewer potholes when everyone does what’s expected of them each day.

But sometimes expectations ruin a situation. They can be the enemy of happiness and wrench all enjoyment out of an experience.

We’ve been reviewing for end-of-year tests in my classroom. I have a box of candy, toys, and other incentives to reward the students when they do well on a practice test or win a review game. After receiving incentives for a while, the students began to expect them. They’d walk into class and say, “Do we get candy today?” Talk about deflating my balloon. I love giving the kids goodies to keep them focused and motivated, but when they ask for them? Very frustrating.

If something you like to do turns into a duty or expected responsibility, you might not like it as much. I love to bake and cook. I make cakes, cookies, breads, and especially decorated cupcakes. I also enjoy making appetizers and complete meals when I have time. One year my principal hired me to cater our end-of-year staff party. What a shock to find all my pleasure stripped away when great cooking became an expectation. My nerves and anxiety ruined the experience. I discovered a cherished hobby shouldn’t always become a job.

Have you ever planned to take a gift or a meal to someone who is sick or just moved into the neighborhood? I usually I take food because it gives me an excuse to bake, of course. But few things annoy me more than a well-intentioned but controlling person telling me what to do. One time I received an email from a fellow church member who had “scheduled” me to take a meal to someone in our congregation. Had I planned to take that person a meal? Yes. Did I plan to do it on the day I was “scheduled” to do so? It just so happened that yes, I had planned it for that day. Was I happy about being told to do it? No, not in the least.

I readily admit this is my own rebellion against someone else controlling my decisions (that topic requires a whole blog series by itself), but all the joy of preparing a meal as a gift vanishes if someone else tells me to do it. It’s like requiring a mean-spirited toddler to say, “I’m sorry.” When he does so, it lacks sincerity. If I’m forced into kindness, it loses its authenticity.

I think the main reason expectations are the enemy is because they cause us to feel resentment toward others. If you expect to have fun and laugh with someone, that anticipation adds joy to the relationship. But if one person in the relationship expects something such as a phone call at a certain time every day – and gets annoyed if it doesn’t happen – the expectation depletes the relationship. If I can learn to eliminate many of the expectations I place on people and avoid the irritation they cause, life would be more enjoyable.  If I try to live up to God’s will, not that of someone else, disappointment will diminish as I experience the blessings of life every day.

Do you expect too much from someone? Do you resent expectations other people place on you?

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