Too many times lately I’ve heard myself saying, “He who expects nothing is not disappointed.” I guess it’s supposed to serve as a reminder to myself not to put higher expectations or my own expectations onto someone else. Since my expectations sometimes can be a little higher than is realistic, it’s a way of lowering my expectations to meet reality.
I’m a person who sees both sides of the coin, was taught that it was better to turn the other cheek than to fight. I have a long fuse and give people way more chances than is probably healthy for me. I hang onto relationships long after they are over.
After Jason died, it wasn’t too long before nearly everyone we knew disappeared and we were left mostly alone. With our extended family thousands of miles away, we truly expected our friends to fill in those gaps. It just didn’t happen and we were alone a lot. At the time, I made excuses. I lowered my expectations. We were difficult to be around, I told myself. It wasn’t easy to know what to say to us or what to do when we really didn’t know ourselves what we needed. I tried so hard not to make people uncomfortable. I said to myself many times that my head understood but my heart just didn’t understand. My head kept trying to tell me that it was understandable, but my heart was breaking. I tried to reason myself into understanding why people acted the way they did and to try to be okay with it.
As a personal standard, I try to do what’s right. I try to do a good job at whatever I am doing. I try to notice those in need and help out without fanfare or acknowledgement. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do?
But isn’t this a two way street, too? Shouldn’t we ALL treat each other the way we would want to be treated ourselves? Shouldn’t we expect people who profess to care about us to actually CARE about us…and show it by actually doing something, by following through on their words? Do actions meet words for the ones who profess to be Christians, send a card with a religious sentiment, put a hand on your shoulder to pray for you or hug you but then don’t actually do anything or don’t act with integrity? As a person who has a strong sense of fairness, this just doesn’t add up for me.
They say nice guys finish last.
They say the squeaky wheel gets the grease.
I am not a squeaky wheel kind of a person. I am not confrontational. I usually internalize things and try to deal with it myself. If I do anything at all, I would rather calmly communicate, trying to help the other person see where I’m coming from while also listening to their side of the issue to (hopefully) come to a mutually-beneficial resolution. It’s not as easy as it sounds and rarely works out that way. It takes two people equally willing to work together and actually listen to each other’s point of view…and then actually DO something to fix the problem or address the issue.
I’ve never been a person who likes other people to see me cry. The person who cries openly and more easily seems to be the one people gather around to comfort. Or do people just disappear and avoid the griever entirely? I’m not sure. Perhaps if I had been more able or willing to show my grief, to publicly grieve, we would have had more support. I don’t know. People who didn’t see me flat on the floor, crying so hard I physically didn’t have the strength to stand or even sit, would tell me that it was okay for me to grieve. No one saw that…nor would they want to…nor would I want them to. If your child dies, people call you brave. I’m not brave. I never was. I just didn’t wear my grief on my sleeve; it’s not easy for me to be open and ask for help.
One day early on I was so worried about Joe that I did something very uncharacteristic – I asked for help. I emailed people we were closest to prior to Jason’s death, asking for support. No one responded at all. Not one of our “Christian” friends, people we considered extended family, showed up in response to my cry for help. Those types of things have had a lasting impact on me. I don’t trust easily. I don’t make friendships easily. From experience, professing Christianity doesn’t mean a person is going to do the right thing or is someone I can trust. I totally realize we’re all human and make mistakes and fail miserably, but sometimes you’ve just got to show up.
I would have to say that some of the people who I remember most clearly as showing up are people who I would not even know if they professed to be Christians. Joe’s boss who flew up from California to be with us – an extremely busy guy who simply showed up for us. The doorman at the Westin who genuinely asked Joe nearly every day how he was doing. The Westin manager who offered us employee rates so we could get away for a bit at a time when we didn’t know how to carry on. The officers investigating the accident, especially the one who told me he wanted to do such a good job that it would make Jason proud. The officers who took time off work to show up at the sentencing hearing to support us. The firemen who came to Jason’s memorial service. We were not close to them and had no expectations from any of them. We haven’t seen or heard from any of these people for years, but we have never forgotten their genuine kindnesses and how they showed up.
I consciously have been trying to let my guard down, to reach out to people, to make friends, to trust people again. It has not been easy. We have had a couple of situations recently where we specifically made the decision to step out side our comfort zone and trust someone else with decisions that have had big, lasting impacts on our lives. A couple of them have not gone well and our expectations have been lowered so much we practically had none left at all. It has cost us in the long run – money, trust, hope.
And, so, once again, I find myself telling myself, “He who expects nothing is not disappointed.”
But, shouldn’t we be able to have expectations of others, especially those who are in expected trust situations? Shouldn’t we expect people to have integrity, to keep their word? Shouldn’t we expect Christians to at least try to act like Christ? In practicality, how far does the “faith without works is dead” theology actually go? Shouldn’t we expect people who profess to care about us to show up when we need them and to do the right thing? Should we have to keep lowering out expectations until we have none at all, no trust at all in that person?
I include myself in this. Have I been dependable? Have I shown up when it was difficult? Am I a person of my word?
I consistently remind myself that I am responsible for no one’s actions but my own, just as everyone else is responsible for their own actions. This is the important thing. I am the one that will have to stand before God some day when all my actions (hidden or unhidden) are revealed for everyone to see, just as everyone else will have to. I do believe that there may be a great cloud of witnesses cheering us on as we run with endurance this race called life. At least, that’s what I was taught in church. If nothing else, I’m sure God sees and knows all.
I’m running as best I can, but I get tired. I get frustrated. I get sad and lonely.
I was thinking recently about the story of the carpenter who had worked hard all of his life building houses, making a quality product but was never able to afford a home of his own. He was tired of working and decided to retire. His boss asked him to build one more home. Reluctantly, the carpenter agreed but his heart wasn’t in it. He didn’t build with his typical quality of workmanship. When the house was done, the boss surprised the carpenter and gave the home to him as his own. He quit too soon. He let his integrity slip because he was weary in well-doing.
They say integrity is doing the right thing even when no one is watching. I suppose our “great cloud of witnesses” could be watching even if no one else is.
Jason had more integrity than any person I have ever met. I want to live my life so that I can make Jason proud. I want to keep persevering until I see my wonderful boy again. I look forward to and long for that day.
I love you so much, my boy. Oh, how I miss you.
© 2022 Rebecca R. Carney