I’m just giving up on expecting so much of other people.
And I couldn’t be happier about it.
When I was sixteen I knew a guy named Andrew. Andrew was, ahem, a breath taking sight. He was smart, funny, handsome and kind. However, he was terrible at finding someone to date. One night, Andrew, his older brother David, and I were talking about Andrew’s terrible dating dilemma (it was like an episode of Dawson’s Creek). Andrew was blathering on endlessly about how difficult it is to find a soul mate, when David stopped him and said ‘You know what Andrew. If you’re having trouble finding a woman who meets your expectations, all you have to do is… lower your expectations.’
I use to think David was an idiot. Now, I think he might have been onto something.
The other day my husband and I were talking about ministry. We are both involved in our church, and we were discussing the pros and cons of what we were going through. While we were chatting it out, I said to my husband that, for me, I thought the hardest part of ministry was…. watching people fail.
If you’re well churched, you know what I mean.
Hell, if you’re just a regular person that has your shit together, you know what I mean.
Okay, if you have a Facebook account and a vast array of friends, you know what I mean (but I digress).
When you are in ministry (at least at the church where my husband and I serve) you watch people come in and out the door. We are lucky to have a solid base of amazing people that come to our church. However, we also have a large portion of people that come in and out on a regular basis.
Some people I meet once, and never see again. I probably couldn’t tell you their names, or even remember their faces.
Some people I have gotten to know for a few weeks or months, and then they leave to go onto something else.
The group that I struggle with, are the people that come for a long period of time – and never do anything with their church experience. They never serve anywhere. They never try to meet other people. They never try to dig into The Bible. They never try to understand God. They never try to become a better person.
Honestly, if I really think about why the hell it bothers me to watch people fail, it is likely three fold.
First, it probably bothers me because I see something in them that I also see in myself. I see anger in them, and am pissed off that I still struggle with anger (yes, I see the irony). I see a lack of forgiveness in them, and I feel sad that I struggle to forgive so many people (too many people). In a sea of people, all I can see is our sins.
Second, it bothers me because – really – there isn’t a damn thing I can do about other people choosing to continue life patterns that I disagree with. Our church is full of resources. We have small groups for people to meet others with similar life styles. We have volunteer opportunities within the church, and within our community. We have amazing pastors who are the most giving people I have ever met. We have congregants who would give their limbs to help a stranger. And – most importantly – 95% of the time – all we do is talk about Jesus. If you walk in the doors, we will shove Jesus down your throat – because He is just that fucking awesome. The hard part about ministry is, you can bring a person to Jesus, but you can’t make them drink the Holy water. And it is SOOOO painful for me to watch people, day in and day out, just stand at the pool and never jump in. I’ve tried pushing, it doesn’t work. I’ve tried dunking, it doesn’t work. Only Jesus can lead you to Jesus. Not me. And damn it, it is sooooo frustrating.
Third, and finally, it bothers me because people aren’t doing what I would do. Let’s be honest, most of us pick friends who agree with us on most issues because all we really want – is to know that our thoughts and opinions are valid. And if I see a bunch of people who are living in a way that is opposite of my lifestyle, it can make me feel like I am somehow less valid. When I see someone who won’t stop drinking to save their family, I get pissed off that they can’t see beyond the bottle. When I see someone who spends all their time on work, and completely abandons their children, I get ticked off that they cannot see their own priorities. All I see is – everything that everyone else is doing wrong. All I see is – everything that everyone else should be doing because I do it that way.
And that thinking – my thinking – is just the shittiest thinking of all.
It is the shittiest thinking of all because it pushes all focus on to – you guessed it – other people. And the moment you are focusing on other people’s shit, you start thinking that your’s doesn’t stink.
We need to – I need to – stop expecting so dang much of people. People will never be what we want them to be, because we should not be living to please other people. We should be living to please God. I’m not sure what lowering my expectations looks like. I don’t have a list of rules or guidelines. But I know that if I keep living this way, it will lead to bitterness. Bitterness towards other people, and Bitterness towards God.
And if I am expecting so much of others, what are they expecting of me? Do people look at me and see someone who still can’t get it together? Honestly, sometimes I think they should. Because I don’t have it all figured out.
There are so many things I struggle with. I struggle with anger, forgiveness, sarcasm, control issues, and so much more.
Yet, how on earth can I be struggling with these things, when I am surrounded every single day by all of the resources of one of the best churches in the world?
And when I stop thinking about what everyone else is doing wrong, and only focus on myself… what happens?
Suddenly, all I see is a pile of brokenness that feels like it will never be fixed.
The only thing I can think to do when I feel like that broken pile, is to stop and take a look around. In that moment, what I see is a group of other people that are just as broken as I am.
A church is not full of perfect people. A church is just full of people. We come to church hoping to get better. I hope we do. I hope I do. We can all help each other become better people.
But in the end, there is only person that can fix it all. And He will. And He does.