I went to visit a friend a back in March and told him about how I was writing on expectations, inspired by two friends of mine – two friends who live their lives without expectations, so they are never disappointed.
He was all for it. Not the writing. The living life without expectations.
So when I was working on my post from last week I texted him, asking him for a fuller explanation as to why he believes in living life this way. His response was that it was about caring for others… that not expecting anything from anyone was equivalent to unconditional love.
I would be curious to know if people who live their life without expectations would agree with him, but regardless, I am concerned at what he meant by love. Because I was pretty sure that what my friend meant wasn’t really love, but acceptance. And our culture is moving towards this meaning, too.
If we saw someone in our life taking a wrong path, it would be unconditional acceptance to let them go down that path. It would be unconditional love to confront them on their behavior and walk alongside them as they turn away from what harms them. The unconditional part comes in when it’s time to walk alongside them, in the good and bad.
God loves us unconditionally, but does not leave us where we are. He will not accept us living our lives in sin (though his love for us is not conditional on our behavior, of course.) I am all for unconditional love, but if someone isn’t treating me right, I don’t believe in unconditional acceptance of that behavior. God has given me enough respect for myself to make sure of that. If someone tells me there are going to do something, I expect them to follow through. It’s not unreasonable for me to do so. If there is someone in my life I see as a friend, but only taking and not giving, this isn’t a healthy relationship. I expect to be treated similar to how other friends treat me – with kindness, love and respect. I work to treat them the same way. This is not unreasonable. This is not unfair. This is love – working with one another to become the best version of ourselves.
I don’t know that too many people would disagree with what I’m saying about friendship. But when the rubber meets the road and it comes down to the details of living this out with the people in our lives, often the biggest obstacle in our expectations of others are the unhealthy ones.
That’s where this gets tricky.
The Stoics believe that we are to live free from passion, unmoved by joy or grief, and submit without complaint to unavoidable necessity. The emotionally detached person lives life at a distance, scorning others for not having control over their emotions, and living a life with no ups or downs, not feeling passionate about anything. Sounds like what many are looking for in order to avoid disappointment (i.e. hurt.)
If you swing the pendulum to the other side, you get co-dependency – clingy and unrealistic relationship dynamics. Where jealousy overtakes a single interaction, insecurity reigns in your heart, and no one can do anything that will satisfy you.
This comes down to a very basic human interaction: give and take.
Invitations will only be extended for so long before one’s rejection of them puts a stop to the invitations. Sharing part of yourself with another without reciprocity is being in a one-sided relationship. If you are always the one taking, that person will eventually run out of resources. If you are always the one giving, you will eventually exhaust your own capacity to give and tap out.