Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Preconceived Notions

The gap between anticipation and result is where most of our human frustration lies. At least for me, anyway. I have a series of preconceived ideas about how I want a situation to go, or a person to act, and when it doesn't turn out the way I hope it will, I become disappointed. Managing these expectations takes up a lot of my precious time and energy, and often I set myself up for failure by expecting what others cannot provide.

Life would be much easier if we didn't expect anything from anyone. We are all human, and we all fail, so you would think this knowledge would help, but often it becomes lost in the shuffle. As a culture, entitlement is at an all-time high, and I chafe against the idea that my children should feel owed anything at all, so why do I often get caught up in this mistaken belief?

As I get older, I like to think I'm getting wiser, and in some areas I can say with certainty that I am improving. Not so the case in other areas. The bar for myself is set impossibly high, and I neglect to lower it for others. Hell, I can't reach it for myself, so I have no idea why I would hold other people to those same standards.

I can only do what I can do, and for others the same principle applies. I know this, somewhere in the murky recesses of my mind, but my soul often hangs on to the preconceived notion, when I should be opening my tightly clenched fist and letting it all go. Holding on to hurt and anger doesn't hurt the other person nearly as much as it hurts me.

We all need, and we all hurt, and we must all own what belongs to us. No one else will be inspired by our stoic stiff-upper-lip. If we hurt, we must talk about it, and share, and ask for what we cannot provide for ourselves. I would sooner lose a limb than admit I need help, and this is a problem for me, one that I am slowly working through and trying to find a solution. I can't hold this shortcoming of mine against other people.

It's easier to reach out to those who we know will not wound us. The problem is that we have all been hurt, even by those we love and trust most, and sometimes those scars run deep, and form who we are at our core, and we need to learn to break out of our shells and trust again. Life is hard, but it is hard for everyone, and I do find that it's better to expect less from others, and try to provide what I need for myself, or look to a more perfect being for ways to fix the gaping holes in my psyche (i.e. God).

Accepting that all human progress is bumpy and messy and awe-droppingly beautiful all at the same time is the only starting place I know of. There are no quick fixes, particularly for long-held problems, and understanding that the road is long and dark helps to bring peace to the trouble I see all around me. We are meant to hold the light for each other when our energy flags out and we can no longer see. That's what encouragement and community is for. If we don't build into others they won't build into us, and we won't have anyone to help us share the load.

Working to lower my expectations on others and myself is a life-long process. Being aware that it's an issue is the first step, and after that comes a lot of emotional mess, but sorting through it bit by bit offers the chance to grow at every turn. It's better to offer as much love and grace as we can, to ourselves and to others, and hope for the same in return. Where it doesn't come back to us, we have choices. We can stay and try to improve the give and take of the relationship, or we can leave, and forgive to let go of any lingering resentment. Life is too important to waste being angry and feeling let down. I am not perfect, and I make mistakes, and I must remember this when it's easier to look at the shortcomings of others.


  1. Wow. I seriously could have written this myself. Word for word.

  2. I'm so glad to hear it meant something to you this morning, Jenn. We've both held some light up to each other's path. Thank you.