Have you ever noticed that most of our relational dissatisfaction stems from the failing of someone else to meet up to our expectations? The expectation can be as minimal as the unstated, “I expect you to return my call when I call you.” Now, if you don’t call back, it’s considered rude (or it used to be). Nevertheless, it’s still a basic expectation that most of us anticipate a response.
Of course, we often take expectations way beyond a simple phone call. “If I do you a favor, I anticipate one in return.” “I was there for her when her dad was dying. Why hasn’t she been there for me through my bout with cancer.”
Most of us are harder on other people than we are on ourselves. We have no trouble holding a spouse or friend to some lofty standard that we’ve concocted for them, but we’re quick to dismiss our own inconsistencies.
Dale Carnegie, in his class work How to Win Friends and Influence People, quotes Henry Ford, “If there is any one secret to success, it lies in the ability to get the other person’s point of view and see things from that person’s angle as well as from your own.” Carnegie points out that “90 percent of the people on this earth ignore it 90 percent of the time.” There’s an open door of opportunity if I ever heard one.
When we examine life solely from our own point of view, we develop unrealistic expectations of those around us. Instead, when we act out of a desire to help without expectation of anything in return, we free ourselves of the need for human approval. Since our satisfaction comes from God alone, we are free from the constraints of needing and can shift our attention to encouraging and serving.
This is not to say that we remove all boundaries and excuse those who intentionally and habitually inflict pain. But it does mean we extend grace and seek to examine life through the other person’s lens. Until we fully take time to reflect on another’s perspective, we won’t see how they are wired, understand their struggles, or know their story.
When we tell those expectations to hit the trail, we have more time to invest in others and be intentional about life, and we open to door for those unexpected blessings and relational satisfaction. Now, how may I serve you?