About a week ago I began a blog posting about the expectations we have towards friends and aquaintances in our lives. After working on it for over an hour, I went to another tab in my internet browser and lost the whole story. I was pretty bummed at the time and thought perhaps it was a topic that I was not supposed to broach. At the time I felt as though it was perhaps one of the most coherent things I had written in quite some time.
A couple of days later, I came home and with pen and ink on paper tried to sum up the gist of that thought process and what follows is the substance of that endeavour.
Each day presents itself to us with an attached list of expectations a mile long and two miles wide. Among this list is a line item in how we expect to be treated by those significant people we work and spend our leisure time with. When these people don’t meet or exceed our perceived expectations, we are presented with an opportunity to be offended by them. This offense is called “The Bait of Satan” by Christian lecturer John Bevere. If we take the bait, the offense will produce fruit that is rotten even before it ripens. And the scale of offense shifts according to the person in question—since we have low expectations of a sinner and or street person, if they spit in our face we are not so much offended as we are able to rationalize the action. If a minister doesn’t visit us in our time of need however, because we “expected” more, we can easily be offended by this action.
Bevere says that we can “take” the offense and all its ugly ramifications or let it go in forgiveness with the latter choice leading to a healthy life and the former leading us into sin and bitterness towards the offender.
In my mind expectation/offense and personal affirmation/validation are connected in a molecular way.
Life as we know it and have experienced it is neither as good or as bad as we think it is or remember it being.
We have our successes and failures in terms of a life that is linear in nature. In other words it follows a straight time-line.
The idea at hand is putting into practice what we have learned about expectations and our need to be validated or affirmed by others.
In the original article I juxtaposed this thought (being affirmed by others) with what we know God thinks about us and how we can take that knowledge to the bank and deposit it and make withdrawals against that account when needed. In other words God affirms that we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14).
Yet, my life, and I would suggest most of our lives have been lived with the expectation of affirmation and validation from our co-workers, friends and/or significant others up to an including our spouses and parents. Life has definitely taken its twists and turns and in many ways has not turned out the way we might have expected or envisioned it.
If we are currently more satisfied with our lives than less, it would suggest to me a success in coming to terms with the substance of our days. And that the peace we feel is a result of putting life’s lessons into practice. Yet even when we understand the principals of growth in a specific area, we are often hard pressed to say that we are always successful when it comes to applying these principles to situations that arise on a daily basis.
Our need for affirmation and validation is a case in point. Everybody likes to have a pat on the back from time to time and to hear that we are special or have done a good job. The list is endless. The need to be accepted is universal and basic to our human nature. However, as we have lived out our years, the need for “external” validation/approval should have lessened or significantly diminished. As we have found, expecting affirmation from others often results in disappointment when we don’t get from these people what it is we think we need to feel accepted and therefore good about ourselves.
When our expectations in this regard are not met, perhaps even squashed, we experience disappointment with our lives which can and often does, lead to our being offended by these self-same people. In other words, when we don’t get what we feel we need or expect form others, maybe even being wounded by them in the process of relationship, we can become offended, which when unchecked or dealt with can lead to anger and hatred. This is the bait of Satan in full bloom.
It would seem to me at this point that a successful life journey would produce a person who doesn’t need the approval of others in order to feel whole and at peace with themselves.
Having said all of this, I am not sure if this will ever be fully realized in my life or yours. What I can say is this: the energy we put towards allowing ourselves to be affirmed by God is well worth the effort—it works even if we only gain ground in this area an inch or two at a time.