Depending on what your life consists of, you may or may not hear this word often. Expectations, a key word a few years ago for every Christian and now a common stance for the feminist movement. This word can speak volumes to everyone but I don’t think we’ve captured what it really means and how it affects us.
Bob Rosenthal studies rats for a living and happens to be a research psychologist. He ran an experiment a few years ago in which he went into his lab placing signs on different rat cages. For some rats, he posted a sign that said those rats were incredibly smart. For the other rats, a sign that said they were incredibly dumb. None if these things were true. They were average rats used for such experiments. Rosenthal told the experimenters which rats they were getting, whether an intelligent rat or a dumb rat. Their job was to have the rat go through a maze and the result was outstanding. The smart rats did almost twice as good as the dumb rats. The results of the test were as follows: The expectations that the researchers held about the rats translated into acute behavior changes in their treatment of the rats. This treatment lead to a higher or lower performance. The rats that were smarter, were treated better and resulted in a better outcome of the maze. The opposite is true for the dumb labeled rats.
This is the same thing that happens with people. Think about the people you talk to the most and the people you talk to the least. Usually, the ones you talk to the most are the ones you consider the most successful. Your expectations affect how you treat yourself and how you treat other people. Some use expectations to help determine whether or not they are on the right path, however, I think we have it all wrong. There are two ways of seeing expectations: limits and lies.
Expectations have the power to push us or crush us. Most of the times we lean to the side that crushes us. We are raised by our parents’ expectations of us. It has always bothered me when I hear parents or grandparents say what their newest family member will become because of certain things they like to do. If someone is good at math; she will be a mathematician. If he likes to help cook; he will be a chef. Expectations are everywhere, but their are limiting. We are raised with the idea that we have to become what we said we were going to be. While that works for some people, the majority of the us don’t end up becoming what we said we were going to do when we were freshmen in high school.
I would like to suggest that we start looking at expectations solely as strengths that other people see in us. I think this is what people mean when they speak about expectations, after all, our parents and peers don’t mean to limit us. When they make declarative statements like, “he will make a great engineer,” they are simply calling out what they see in us. Someone who is great at math, and someone who can cook well.
On the other side, expectations can be lies. We can fall into the trap of letting false ideas or statements of ourselves trap us. I am sure you have heard some of these. You are a man therefore you don’t cry. You are a man so you have to like sports. You are a man so you should be into anything that is associated with rough play, physical touch, screaming, and never get too emotionally invested. These are all common expectations most men are born into. But they are lies. My wife and I always laugh at the fact that most studies about the personalities of men and women tend to be opposite for us. I am the more talkative and she is the more mechanical. I am all about hospitality and service where she is more organized and logistical. I am a dreamer and a risk taker and she is a doer and a planner. We don’t fit the mold and we love it. I use that to my advantage all the time now. But it wasn’t always seen as an advantage. I use to believe the lies about having to do certain things because I was a man.
The expectations we are raised with sometimes have nothing to do with who we really are. They are lies. One way to step out of the lies is by reminding ourselves that we are all created uniquely. Maybe that Sunday school lesson starts playing in your head, but it's true. Listen to it. God created you to be unique. He crafted you with a version of your true self. (Psalms 139:13-14) You are also created for good works. That means there is something good for you to do. (Ephesians 2:10). There are countless examples of what God calls us to be. My suggestion is to focus on those things. He calls you be his child, and parents only want great things for their children.
I asked my parents not too long ago what expectations they had for me as a child. They responded with something out of a Hallmark card. It was beautiful, but not what I wanted to hear. I think what they were trying to tell me was that they had no expectations. They wanted me to become what I was to become. God sees you as the best version of yourself. Strive for that today! Your job is to know yourself as God intended you to be, and you should strive for nothing less. Our journey into selfhood will help us eliminate the limits and lies we have believed about our self, and will welcome a new life of a uniquely created person whose greatest gift will be to know itself.
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Beto was born in Sonora, Mexico and moved to the U.S. at the age of 10. After studying at LABI, he transferred to Vanguard University where he received his Bachelor of Arts in Psychology and is currently pursuing his Master's in Leadership Studies. He is married to Caitlin and they just had their first son, Malachi, in March 2016. Beto is the Spiritual Formation Pastor at Faro Church in Lake Forest, California and loves a good cup of coffee.