Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Expectations

Continuing on in our series looking at The Overload Syndrome, by Dr. Richard Swenson, today we move to the pressures that expectation puts on us.

And it's expectation from every corner - from our families, our friends, our society, ourselves. Especially in the Western media-saturated, affluent society there is the pressure to "keep up with the Joneses." But it's about more than money. We expect health, wealth and ease and are discontent if more doesn't come - no matter how well off we are.

We are supposed to be beautiful, thin, fashionable; to drive a nice car, live in a nice house that's always clean, and own nice things; to be the perfect parent and perfect wife.

Let's look at some of the expectations most of us hold:

  1. Car - one befitting our status so people can see where we stand just driving down the road
  2. House - Americans have doubled the size of our homes, while halving the size of our families over the past 40 years. Part of the problem is we have too much "stuff." But part of it is that we expect to buy the biggest, best house we can stretch ourself to afford.
  3. Careers -We expect that our jobs (or our husband's jobs) will provide for us, that the benefits will insulate us, for our companies to be faithful to us. In this age of downsizing, though, millions have been disappointed by their expectations in this area.
  4. Retirement - This is a completely modern notion. It is found nowhere in the Bible. Try to find it - I've looked. Actually, there are very few countries where this is even possible. And yet, we fret over whether our savings will be enough.
  5. Looks - Don't have the perfect body/face? Buy it with plastic surgery! Aren't thin enough? Your skin isn't peaches and cream? Don't have the currently in vogue stick-straight hair? There are thousands of companies willing to sell you as much as you will buy of whatever product will cure your beauty woes.
  6. Government - Through its many social welfare programs, government has helped many people. But it's also created a dependence on itself and a culture of entitlement. We must learn to be self-sufficient.
  7. Medicine - No doctor can know all the answers - they are human after all. And yet, we expect every treatment to work, to be healed of every illness, for our insurance companies to pay all the bills and mostly, for our doctors to know all the answers.
  8. Marriage - We place on our mate's extraordinary expectations to meet our needs and to make us happy. And yet, the divorce rate is out of this world. We expect more and put up with less.
  9. Parenting - This goes two ways. We expect ourselves to have all the answers, to be able to "produce" good and godly children, forgetting that they make their own choices. But also, we place huge expectations on them - they have to be super-smart or beauty queens or star athletes - something that shows that we are doing it right.
  10. Traditions - Weddings must be grand, lavish affairs. To show our love to our kids (and others) we must lavish them with presents at Christmas. We expect our holidays to look like something out of Currier and Ives.

So how do we avoid expectation overload? How do we choose to live simple, godly lives? I think the first step is to first and foremost seek to please God and let that desire be your driving force. Here are some tips from Dr. Swenson.

  1. Respect Limits - accept that you aren't Supermom, that you can't do it all. God is the one who created limits, don't forget. We inflate ourselves and our importance in life, we crash and burn. There are other people who can pick up what you can't do (bake sale, anyone?).
  2. Adjust your expectations - Our world has taught us that we should always expect more. But the truth is if we adjust our expectations downward, we will find less to be unhappy about. Bishop Wellington Boone (who I know nothing about save for this quote) said, "We thought the way up was up. But with God, the way up is down." If we understand that humanity is fallen and life is difficult, we are more likely to be content with the simple blessings God sends our way.
  3. Redefine enough - What does "enough" mean to you? For many, it means "More than I have now." Try defining it instead as, "What I have now." Know that God provides all your NEEDS, though not necessarily all your wants.
  4. Compare yourself to the less fortunate - Don't look at the celebrities. Look instead to the simple lives of those who live in Third World nations and yet are satisfied with their lot. They find joy in small things and in community.
  5. Tune out advertising - 'Nuff said.
  6. Simplify holidays - Reduce money expenditures. Focus instead on spending time with family and friends and on the faith you have. Keep it simple. I know, harder said than done, but remember, we are learning to live with new expectations.
  7. Resist inflated housing expectations - Just because we can afford that expensive house, doesn't mean we have to buy it. Choosing not to do so will give you a financial boost for decades to come. Be content where you are.
  8. Free your spouse - They will never be able to meet all your needs. Only God can do that. Our spouses will always disappoint us. Only God won't ever disappoint. Remember that you are the only one you have control over.
  9. Love your kids unconditionally - Let them be children and play. Let them grow up at their own pace (which is much slower than the one promoted by the media). Have age-appropriate expectations and lavish on the love.
  10. Don't serve on a silver platter - Even if you are able to afford to give your kids whatever they want, don't. Let them learn the value of hard work. Help them learn to be content.
  11. Free yourself from the opinion of others - For me, this is the hardest one. A.W. Tozer said this, "The heart's fierce effor to protect itself from every slight, to shield its touchy honor from the bad opinion of his friend and enemy, will never let the mind have rest. Continue this fight through the years and the burden will be intolerable. Such a burden as this is not necessary to bear. Jesus calls us to His rest, and meekness is His method. The meek man cares not at all who is greater than he, for he has long ago decided that the esteem of the world is not worth the effort."
  12. Deny yourself - This is what Christ preached - to deny ourselves and follow Him. It's a normal and expected part of the Christian life. But in today's world, we deny ourselves nothing. Self-denial is not about punishing ourselves, but about focusing us and freeing ourselves. It points us in the direction that matters most.

2 comments:

ValleyGirl said...

Man, I would never have considered myself overloaded, but there's obviously still some valuable lessons here. I may have to go out and buy that book after all! This was a great post and I love that it points out not only where we're going wrong with our expectations, but how we can fix it. Thank you so much for sharing this book with us!

Nikki said...

Great post. I've only just discovered your blog, but expect me to be lurking about a bit now!

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