I have learned one of the simplest ways to maintain happiness is by limiting your expectations. For years, I expected people to meet a level of accommodation within the relationship I had with them. For instance, I, for years, would be offended by people who would not return my call or text message in what I deemed was an appropriate amount of time. Or, if I poured out my heart to someone and they didn’t reciprocate with something heartfelt, I felt offended. I have learned that when I am anticipating people to meet my expectations, I can no longer enjoy the thing they are giving me. In my eyes, they are just meeting the status quo.
I have caused serious damage to my relationships over this. I have caused people exhaustion, frustration, and for others to feel disappointed in themselves. I have found that when I set such high expectations on someone, I have placed them on a pedestal that is not fair to them. I have subjected them to some sort of dehumanization. When I think to highly of others, when I expect them to be perfect, I have moved them closer to God. I don’t allow space for their humanity. In all honesty, they probably can’t be perfect for me. All they can be for me, is themselves.
Donald Miller said once, “When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” For me, loving someone, truly loving someone, is met at loving all of them, not just the parts that you want to. I am grateful to have friends lead the way in this for me. For years, my friends put up with all the drama, melancholy, and capacity for self-absorption. Their ability to love me, and accept me as I am, and not as they expect me to be, has allowed me to forgive myself for all of my own failed expectations. Their friendship has been the hand of grace to me.
We as human beings are the victims of anxiety, depression and loneliness. We scratch and claw at one another in order to avoid these things. There are things on this earth that we human beings cannot do. I, for years, tried to draw life from all things finite. Those things passed like vapors. When we allow God to actually be God, we shockingly allow others to become human again. With the people in my life, I have learned over and over again that only God can meet their expectations. I can only make someone happy for so long. I can bring someone peace for so long. Knowing myself, I will fail every relationship I will ever be in. I hope that we can all reduce our expectations, to love and accepts each other as we are. Then, we really see the love of God, shining through one another.