Summary: You will be able to cast aside unrealistic expectations when you: 1. Discover God’s will for your life. 2. Learn to be grateful for the way God has made you. 3. Be yourself.
Skip Hollandsworth, writing in the December 1998 issue of Texas Monthly talks about his interview with Troy Aikman, quarterback of the NFL’s Dallas Cowboys. In the article entitled “The Real Troy Aikman” he says: “Aikman is an elusive hero, difficult to understand, clearly driven by something other than fame. On the night of that first Super Bowl victory, he delayed attending a party with his teammates, instead ordering from room service and sitting alone in his hotel room for a couple of hours. ‘I kept thinking back to the time when I was a teenager — how I thought that all the problems in my life would be solved the moment I turned sixteen and was able to get a car,’ he recalls. ‘Well, here I was at the top of professional football, and I found myself, Troy Aikman, thinking, ‘Now what? Now what?’ ‘Why would you feel that way?’ I asked. For several seconds, Aikman just stares at me. He appears dumbfounded that I would even ask such an absurd question. ‘Well, isn’t that what it’s all about?’ he asks. ‘To keep raising the bar for yourself?’ It is precisely this attitude that makes Aikman such a fierce player but it is also his curse, and he knows it. ‘I’ve always known that the lows have been lower for me than the highs have been high,’ he confesses. After a loss, he does not answer the phone, even when close friends or family are calling to console him. He lies in bed and replays each offensive play in his mind.”
There are many people, like Troy Aikman, who live with the kind of expectations that make their lows lower than their highs are high. They are driven by expectations of perfection, so that even when they reach the pinnacle, they cannot enjoy it. No matter how good they are, it is never good enough. In spite of great successes, they sit alone rehearsing what they did wrong and how they need to improve. Sometimes the source of some of those unrealistic expectations is from parents. Sometimes they come from the culture around us. Sometimes they come from friends or people at work. As someone has said, “God has a wonderful plan for your life, and so does everybody else.”
But sometimes these unrealistic expectations don’t come so much from others as from ourselves. One person I talked to said, “I don’t need anyone else to place too many expectations on me — I place enough on myself.”
As I thought about how I have been affected by unrealistic expectations, I came up with three things that have helped me to be at peace with myself and live a more relaxed and realistic life. I have not arrived, but I have learned a few things. The first thing that can help you live with more realistic expectations is to: Discover God’s will for your life. By nature I have a perfectionistic bent. Which, of course, is very frustrating since I can never meet that expectation. I can’t meet my own expectations, let alone the expectations of other people. But the wonderful thing is that I can meet God’s expectations, because they are always realistic. The amazing thing about God is that he is perfect in every way. He is omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent. He lives beyond time and space. He never makes a mistake. He is perfect and holy. Yet, his expectations of me are entirely within my reach, because he is governed by perfect knowledge of me and he is ruled by grace. Isn’t it interesting that there are some people you can never please, but you can please God? This is hard for some people to really accept. The movie actress, Jodi Foster, said to a friend: “If God knows all about me and still loves me, he is a fool.” But God does love us, even though he knows all about us, and he is no fool.
Because God created me, he knows me. And out of his knowledge of me, he has a plan for me. It is therefore essential for me to discover his will for my life, because when I learn what he expects of me, I don’t have to l try to live up to anyone else’s expectations. If you are not living out God’s plan for your life, you are living out someone else’s plan for you.
I know what some people’s will is for my life. I feel the pressures of the culture to conform to one set of expectations, and I feel the pressure of family, friends and church members to meet other sets of expectations. I feel the push of my inner drive to achieve this or accomplish that; to do this better and to improve on that. But getting in touch with God’s will for my life helps me to focus on what is actually important and necessary. It helps me to shed the unrealistic expectations that come from others or myself. The prophet Micah wrote these profound words: “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Notice that there is not a long list of do’s and don’ts there, just a basic injunction to love mercy like God loves mercy, to do justice as he is just, and to walk in a humble relationship with God. That’s it. I’m sure that if we were going to write an answer to the question, “What does the Lord require of you?”, we would have come up with a much longer list — and then add some of our own requirements.