Haunted by Unrealistic Expectations
Years ago I saw a friend of mine wearing a t-shirt that read DON’T SHOULD ON ME. When I asked him about it he said “there are just too many people telling me ‘you should do this’ or ‘you should do that,’ and I’m just tired of it.”
The expectations of others can haunt you for the rest of your life. John Maxwell said that most people are followers. That may be true, but there also seems to be so many idealists around with a wide spectrum of concepts. So many voices attempting to direct my thoughts and actions, telling me what I should and should not do.
Over the years, I’ve had my share of people telling me what I “should” do. I have always realized that many of these expectations were unrealistic and not worth my time. But there seems to be a problem. There is a part of me that continuously doubts my own thoughts and actions. Am I to listen to those voices that continue to tell me what I should do? Am I doing all that I could be doing?
Growing up in a traditional Pentecostal family and church, I faced lots of expectations. I remember the time in my mid-teens when I was “filled” with the Holy Spirit. I felt the overwhelming power of God’s Spirit on me and spoke in tongues. Then about a month later, several church members walked up to me and asked why I am not responding as other do in the church during the services. “After all, you were filled with the Holy Spirit.” Then they said something that astounded me: “You can’t just sit around like this. You should get up and respond like all the others who are filled with the Spirit.” Even at that age, I was stunned at the thought that my spirituality was being measured by the response of others.
That is just one example of the many expectations that I grew up with. These experiences have certainly impacted my thinking. This may be the reason I question myself continuously and doubt every step I take. Can I be trusted to make good decisions? Are all these expectations to be heeded?
I am reminded of the words of Paul: “For it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Philippians 2:13 ESV). This verse has given me lots of consolation through the years. I don’t need to live in fear that I will make the wrong choices and decisions. God will do his work in me to desire and to do his will. Certainly I value instruction and guidance from others. I don’t want to neglect that. Several mentors have impacted my life tremendously through the years, and I am grateful for that.
I may be limited by my abilities, but God is capable to do his work in me. What confidence in the midst of my doubts and all the unrealistic expectations that surround me! Still, once in a while, I get back to my old way of thinking. The expectations of others and the desire to perform and to be accepted can get the best of me. It’s a great task for me to divert all the unrealistic expectations and to be free. Free to pursue what God put in my heart.
Really – I trust God to work in me both to will and to work for his good pleasure.
What are the expectations that haunt you? How do you handle them?