Yesterday in my sermon I spoke on growing into an emotional mature adult. I said that growing into an emotional mature adult is not natural – it needs to be part of our discipleship/our growth as Christians. In the Bible we are told things like: love your neighbour as yourself, speak the truth in love, be quick to listen but slow to speak, in your anger do not sin, etc but we are NOT told the specifics on HOW to do these things. This is why we need to make learning HOW to do these things a part of our discipleship. We need to learn, what I am going to call, life skills. These are skills that are going to help us grow into emotionally healthy adults.
Over this past year and a half I was introduced to some life skills through the book “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality” and through the “Emotionally Healthy Spirituality Conference” that I went to last April. I want to spend the next several posts sharing some of these life skills. These life skills have had a tremendous impact o my life – that is, when I apply them. I want to start by sharing about the life skill: Learning what VALID expectations are.
Unmet and fuzzy expectations create chaos in relationships. For example: If my pastor REALLY cared about me he would call me when I am not at church; I shouldn’t have to tell my husband to help me with the dishes. He should just know.; My children will come for Christmas this year because they didn’t come last year. What happens is that we expect other people to know what we are thinking and what we want without us ever having to tell them. Unfortunately, these types of expectations are INVALID. Here are some marks of INVALID expectations (1) They are unconscious (we are not aware of them until someone disappoints us) (2) They are unrealistic (we may have illusions about others) (3) They are unspoken (we never say them but we get angry when they are not met) and (4) They un-agreed upon (we had our expectations but it was never agreed upon).
In order for expectations to be VALID they must be: (1) Conscious (I am aware of my expectations of others) (2) Spoken (clearly, directly and respectfully) (3) Realistic and (4) Agreed upon. In order for an expectation to be VALID it must be MUTUALLY agreed upon. Here is a little exercise for you to do to determine if you have VALID expectations or INVALID expectations. (1) Think about a recent, simple expectation that went unmet and it made you angry or disappointed. For example: I expected my husband to accompany me to my office party this weekend; I expected to socialize with members of my small group outside of meeting times; I expected my teenager to put their dirty dishes in the dishwasher and I expected my boss to give me at least a 5% cost of living raise last year. (2) Compare it with the marks of a VALID expectation. Remember expectations are only valid when they have been mutually agreed upon!
As I think through this exercise, the first thing that comes to mind is the other night when I expected my wife Lauren to come to bed when I went to bed. I decided to go to bed and I just expected that she would come right away. Well, she didn’t and I got frustrated waiting for her. Obviously this was an INVALID expectation. I didn’t tell her and she didn’t agree to it! We can save ourselves a LOT of conflict and frustration by learning to have VALID expectations.
What has been your experiences with expectations? Are they usually VALID or are they usually INVALID?