Competing expectations lead to conflict

The young woman sitting before me was striking.  Her makeup was dramatic with eyeliner stretching far beyond the corner of her eyes.  Her jeans were fashionably ripped, as were mine, but her jeans were more hole than fabric.  Mine just had a couple of half-hearted shreds.  A beret sat jauntily on her head and her lips were ruby red.  Her eyeshadow was deep violet.  She practically purred like a cat stalking a mouse.  I knew my role: I was the mouse.  She came in with a list of complaints she wished to lodge against her mother.  She wanted to “clear up any confusion” necessary for me to “get her mother back on track”.  Interesting, I thought. 


Just a few hours before, her mother had sat in the same chair.  She wore pearls and a tailored suit with four inch heels and a no-nonsense attitude.  Her makeup was muted but I suspected botox made her minimalist approach possible. 


Both women came loaded with expectations despite their very different presentations.  They had expectations of each other; they had expectations of me.  These expectations competed with one another for both attention and energy.  Sides needed to be taken, control needed to be exerted if anyone was going to emerge as victor.


This is how each of us experience life.  No wonder we use substances to numb and forget!  This is not how God operates.  He has much to teach us about stating both our needs and our wants clearly without demanding that someone else change to meet them.  God gives us guidance for how we can take responsibility for our own lives within the context of surrendering to his will.  This frees us from the pressure to bend to the expectations of others.  This does not mean that we get our way.  What it means is we get out of the way of all those loaded conversations where people are trying to either please or control one another.  It relieves the stress of having to figure out who in the room wins and what our part is in each skirmish.  Instead, we are given the gift of boundaries.  We begin to learn how to live within the boundaries of God’s care for us.  This is a lot HARDER to figure out than it sounds.


A soundtrack played in my head as I listened to these two women exert tremendous effort to get the other person to make them feel less anxious by asking me to serve as a velvet hammer that each wielded against the other.  The band Cake’s song Short Skirt, Long Jacket rang in my inner ear.  It speaks of expectations, often competing ones.  It sets the bar high for some random girl that is somehow supposed to fix the world of the guy who sings it.  We do not have to live this way.  But tremendous humility and willingness to change will be required if we want to get out from under the weight of living in a world that only loves winners.