Loyalty flows through my veins like a sanguinous river. If you are in my circle, something drastic has to happen in order for me to show you the exit sign. However, this is not always a great thing. My heart is often heavy because I will go to the 15th round, bloodied and bruised because I believe people are worth my effort, oftentimes regardless of what it costs me.
In recent years, I have been setting firm boundaries. Mainly because I have to. I have to guard my hours and minutes like a mother hen watches her nest. However, my heart is the same. I want to build deep connections with the people in my life. Those who I believe God wants me to pour into and build relationships with.
But, anytime you are in relationships, anytime you choose to link arms with another human being, you will hurt them and they will hurt you. Bottom line.
Please tell my you know what I’m talking about? Have you ever poured yourself into a relationship, job, ministry, child, project, or cause? Invested everything and every resource that you possibly could….only to be disappointed in the outcome?
I have done this more than I could possibly recount.
I was attached to the outcome. I had something in mind that I wanted to see happen. I wanted different results. And when I didn’t get them, I was hurt or afraid or bitter. Maybe I wanted more for them than they wanted for themselves… Maybe I wanted something from them that they couldn’t possibly give me… Maybe I put them in the wrong position in my life…
In all the examples I can think of, I acted with expectation. One of the first things I learned in graduate school was that “unmet expectations lead to frustration”. In other words, frustration is always the end result when you don’t get what you want. Well, duh. I knew what this felt like, but I had never taken the time to process it mentally, only with my heart, until recently.
As I was pondering what it means to “act without expectation”, my mind shifted over to this question: How in the world does one “act without expectation”? Or better yet, is it even possible to act without expectation?
The life coach in me started processing questions that would help me unearth the treasure hidden deep inside this enigma.
1) Would I do what I am about to do if no one noticed? Root = desire to be recognized
2) Who am I trying to impress or gain favor with by what I am about to do? Root = desire to be loved/liked
3) Is what I am about to do going to increase the chances that another person will think I am okay, good, normal, acceptable, etc.? Root = desire to be accepted.
4) Will I be upset or frustrated if there is no mutual reciprocation of my actions? Root = being a human being
This is such a difficult topic. There has been much research on altruistic behavior. And to put it nicely, it is very rare to find people who act purely based on altruism. When most of us do things, we expect something in return. Plain and simple.
After all, we are human beings. We need and want to be recognized, loved, liked, and accepted. Right? We are all born with these basic emotional needs.
But knowing that we have these needs and learning to manage them are two separate issues. So how do we act without expectation in our relationships?
I believe the answer is completely radical to our human nature. We can’t act without expectation (well, maybe some of us can, but I’m not one of them). When we act we expect things. What I am learning to do and what I would encourage you is to not act without expectation, but to act with intention. And when you act with intention, I would encourage you to answer these questions:
1) Is what I’m about to do or say kind, gracious, and necessary?
2) Would I still say or do this if I gained nothing?
3) What is my motive behind my words and or actions? To make me look worthy, acceptable, and lovable, or something else?
4) Am I willing to accept the fact that my actions or words may not be reciprocated and be okay with it?
If you spend some time pondering these questions, I believe you will be able to discern whether or not you are acting with the wrong expectations or if you are acting with intention. If you check your intentions or motives before you speak or act, your frustrations will decrease as you realize that you and only you are responsible for your motive. When you release the outcome, you release yourself from emotional hell. You are not responsible for other’s actions, words, or motives.
Then you can act with freedom, instead of with expectations.
I am learning and living this right along with you. I pray we can both act in freedom and not be tied to the uncontrollable expectations of others. The only person you will ever be able to control is yourself. And that is more than enough for one lifetime!