Our Relationship With Expectations and Assumptions
Some of our more classical expectations and assumptions: We assume a good job is waiting for us immediately following graduation. We feel entitled to justice in our business dealings and while employed in our vocational environment. We expect our spouse to remain faithful to our relationship. We assume our children should be obedient and respectful. We expect a good bedside manner from our physician. We expect our church family will think about us if we are absent for many weeks. We assume God’s presence will protect us. We assume our beliefs are sufficient to guide us when the direction of our life becomes uncertain. We expect that our pension plan and social security will serve us well in retirement. We assume that if we watch our weight, the quality and quantity of our food intake and exercise vigorously each day, we will remain healthy. Are we setting ourselves up for hurt, disappointment and anger when our expectations and assumptions do not materialize, or will we view such reversals as opportunities to expand our horizons, evoke new growth and help us further refine how we perceive?
The nature of most experiences: We must remember that most experiences are neutral in value. Every event that takes place in the material world is what it is. The event only assumes meaning when we supply an interpretation. For example, seeing a class 5 tornado from a safe mountaintop will be viewed as a spectacular, once in a lifetime phenomenon that we were fortunate to witness. However, consider how our perception would change if we were in its path, witnessing all our possessions disappear as a result of the storm’s fury. When we review our responses constantly, we may sense the impact of Jesus’ teaching, “Judge not, lest you be judged. For the judgment you use on others will be the judgment used in evaluating you.” With each decision we make, this instant judgment comes true in our experience. Our judgment reveals us, not the quality of what is happening in our midst. When our assumptions and expectations are denied, we find ourselves at a crossroads inviting us to consider a new decision and possibly a new response. We can be hurt or assume that a new lesson is coming our way.
Life is a series of adjustments: Preparing for inevitable reversals is difficult, if not impossible. However, as soon as possible, we must train ourselves to think about possibilities instead of failures and new directions instead of being a victim each time our needs are not met. The impact on us of such circumstances is immediate; each experience is like a red traffic light. The light indicates that we must “Stop” not “Stay.” The marriage in which we invested ourselves comes to an end. We counted on our son and daughter giving us grandchildren, not their death by an intoxicated driver. We trusted that our Enron pension fund would be there and it wasn’t. We never imagined that our job would be eliminated due to a reduction in force. We did not anticipate that the person we were dating was living a double life or whose need for self-gratification was placed above planning a future together.
Our moments of truth: When the unexpected confronts us, we must ask ourselves, “What am I bringing to life that will make a difference for me now? Am I truly different from others because of my awareness of life’s spiritual dimension?” Is this my moment to adjust admirably or will I spiral out of control which appears to be the more natural response?” Such moments do come in life and they will continue to come up for us if this is one of our cyclical life-themes. We are only attacked by life’s events because we have not yet learned the skills for dealing with them more creatively. Life is like a pilot’s simulator – its flow places us in moments that test our skills as well as the quality of our responses. When the test does not shake our confidence, this is not our test. For example, you lose your job and you choose to seek another one immediately or you decide to take a break until you find one that excites you. Another example: You find your spouse being unfaithful. Your love for your spouse was not possessive so you support him or her, “If this is what you want, I will not stand in your way. If, however, you want to reconsider our marriage, I am willing to work with you on strengthening our relationship.”
Are such responses realistic or mere denials? Athletes who do not believe in self-imposed limitations routinely break track and field records. Boundaries are boundaries regardless of what sphere of life they appear to govern. If our beliefs tell us something is impossible or others are better suited to succeed, our expectations will become the barrier. Spiritual skills are no different from those of the athlete. For example, consider the skill of Joseph after being jailed for a crime with Potifer’s wife that he did not commit. Consider the skill of David as he faced Goliath in combat. Consider how Jesus unflinchingly dealt with the betrayal by Judas. Think of Mary watching her son die on a Roman execution device, particularly in light of all that she had been promised prior to his birth. We must embrace change without giving up the values upon which our identity is built. Flying blind during portions of life tests our resolve, values and faith.
Expectations and Assumptions that never fail us: Most of our grieving and our experiences of doom, failure and disappointment have to do with our loss of or changes to our stuff. All relationships are part of this stuff. There have been billions of relationships throughout time and all of them have come and gone. What remains is the silent witness within each of us to all of life’s dramas. When we separate the stuff of our physical experience from spirit, we will learn what is essential for skill development. For example: 1) We are hardwired from birth for success in our evolution. None of us is capable of ultimately failing in this process. We can only engage in delay. 2) We fail not because of God or the stuff of the physical reality but because we do not access the storehouse of abilities and talents within our seed each time we are confronted by a life-enhancing lesson. 3) Fear is an automatic response. It merely reveals that we are uncertain or lack confidence while in the presence of the unknown. 4) The best relationships are the ones where our love of others exceeds our perceived need for them. 5) We do not have to understand the “why” of life in order to trust not only its flow but also the Creator who made all our experiences possible. Erasmus once wrote, “Truly the yoke of Christ would be sweet if petty human institutions added nothing more to what he himself imposed. He commanded us nothing save love for one another.”