A couple of days ago, I had the opportunity to have a conversation with someone after a meeting. We hit on the topic of expectations and how we often hold very high expectations of ourselves, often higher than other people are holding for us.
Then this gentleman I was speaking with mentioned that we also hold expectations of our Higher Power and expect Him/Her/It to have expectations of us. This is a skewed perspective.
It’s the difference between a present and a gift. A present is nice, but it comes with strings attached. It comes with a set of expectations for future behavior.
A gift is different. A gift is given freely – no strings attached and no expectations. It is given out of true love, with no desire for anything in return.
Growing up, I was taught that God had given me a life, and I needed to honor that life by serving Him in all that I said and did. There was a set of expectations (very high expectations) for the present of life that I had been given. And I worked very hard to fulfill those expectations.
My family tritely referred to it as earning mansion points. The better you behaved/lived, the more points you earned for your mansion in heaven. They often joked about how many points I earned, which hurt. I was just trying to fulfill an unreasonable set of expectations, not build a bigger/better mansion than anyone else.
I know now that those expectations come from religion, not my Higher Power. My higher power gives me the gift of life every day, but there are no expectations that come with this gift. This is the powerful thing I learned from my conversation with my friend.
My Higher Power does not have expectations of me!
We confront expectations in life every day. There are societal expectations, expectations from family members, friends, and coworkers, and expectations we hold for ourselves. I feel the pressure from all these expectations acutely.
Even when someone does not have expectations of us, we tend to assume that they do. At least I do.
And perhaps I’m splitting hairs with pointing out a difference between a “present” and a “gift.” But I’m trying to make a point.
I had never considered before now that I assumed my Higher Power also had expectations of me. But that is the way I have been living.
I assume that my Higher Power wants me to live a life full of perfection. And I lived in a constant state of failure. After all, I was taught that I was a fallen, sinful creature. How could I be good?
But I tried. Oh, how I tried. I begged God for forgiveness for every mistake I made and promised to do better. The smallest mistakes earned the harshest mental lashes. How awful, how demoralizing it is to live knowing that you will never be good enough. That you will never meet the expectations set by a completely perfect God.
I am learning to leave that God of punishment and judgment. My Higher Power does not expect perfection from me. My Higher Power does not give presents with expectations attached.
My Higher Power has given me a gift. A gift of a life. And this life is mine now. There are no expectations attached to this gift.
How freeing! That the only thing I need to do with this life is relax and live it – just as I am. That the only thing I need to do is experience life to its fullest.
I have stretched myself to the “best of my ability” and I have broken myself on the altar of religion, seeking to please a God that is impossible to please. Now, I just need to relax and take it easy – accepting this gift of life for exactly what it is. A gift.
It’s not an easy thing to do. Perhaps it’s not surprising to hear me admit that I have a hard time accepting gifts. I’m always looking for the angle. What do they want from me in return?
It’s difficult for me to simply accept a gift. Even if the giver has freely given it, I often add expectations to it based on my own assumptions. And this is directly opposite from how I give gifts, which is completely free of strings and expectations.
As we enter into this season of giving, I find my thoughts centered once again on my journey towards a closer relationship with my Higher Power. I am challenged now with dropping the idea that my Higher Power holds expectations of me.
Dropping this idea means letting go of another piece of the old God of my childhood. It means moving closer to a true God of my own understanding. It means embracing my humanity, flaws and all, as something that was created with intention.
How wonderful – how freeing! To know I am not perfect, yet still completely accepted.