I’m currently on vacation. The waves and cooler weather make relaxation easy here. The sand and sun relax my body. I’m not concerned with time or what’s being eaten for dinner. If sand gets tracked into the little cottage, I’m not worried about it. The kids – who have all surpassed me in height, as of the quarantine – are burying each other up to their necks and taking pictures. We’re jumping the Pacific’s icy waves, and we’re laughing together. I am relaxed.
What could ruin our good time together?
Relaxing my body is a great thing. My spirit is confined to my body, and if it’s comfortable in that body, all the better. But relaxing doesn’t begin in the body – it starts in the mind, particularly in the area where my unspoken, subconscious expectations are hidden. These expectations – of myself, of others, and of situations – are often unrealistic, and unchecked, they have the power to damage relationships, ruin a good mood, and burden my body. Until I confront them and evaluate if they are reasonable, beneficial, or worth clenching up over, I will continue to demand someone meet my expectations.
Relaxing my mind by relaxing my expectations is a proactive approach to life. It takes diligence and practice, time and focus. It requires ownership, and yes, it is work. I don’t want to spoil the next 4 steps for you, but this little series about having conversations with people who make you mad because their ideas are so archaic and their beliefs are so out there they must have the IQ of a gnat, is actually a series on how to work on yourself.
Because the only person you can control is you.
When engaging in conversations about topics that divide people, you only have control over you.
To expect more than that will negatively affect you – mind, body, emotions, and your biological systems and responses. You’ll get tied up out there in the big world where people have the free will to think, act, look, speak, feel, and decide differently from you.
So relax your expectations.
Expect people will disagree with you. Expect to be misunderstood and judged. Expect to have convincing explanations, strong research, and loads of passion, and expect that someone may not care. Expect challenges and moments where you are tongue-tied or corrected. Expect self-centeredness to come at you, and sometimes, come out of you.
‘Ok, Michelle, so just lower my expectations, toss heavy issues I care about to the wind, and become a pessimist?’
No, that sounds miserable. And in times such as these, when hard conversations need to be had and people are hungry for a glimpse of humility within these conversations, we can’t throw away opportunities to share the truth about things that matter. Here’s the beauty of relaxing my expectations in people and outcomes: it raises my capacity to hope and remain hopeful.
In faith, I expect that God will uphold the truth.
In hope, I expect that He will convict hearts and reveal understanding, in His time.
In trust, I expect that He sees all, knows all, and He is a Judge who is perfectly fair.
Because of His love, I expect that when my beliefs are challenged, when my understanding is questioned, when my doubts are activated, God is faithful to renew my spirit and refresh my peace when I come to Him and ask.
No matter who disagrees with me, I still get to be me.
Unchecked expectations carry the false belief that I will experience security and satisfaction when my expectations are met. Hope reminds me that Christ meets those needs. I can relax. That’s good news.
The topics are big and the issues are important, but promoting change within patterns of thinking and behavior is a long game. Endurance, patience, and humility are virtues for this long game. A conversation about a polarizing issue is a hopeful step toward change and understanding, but don’t expect that destiny rests in the outcome of one conversation.
Step 1: Relax – it’s just a conversation.