Saturday, June 26, 2010

Expectancy and Expectation

I recently read The Shack," by William P. Young. I found it very interesting, even though it attempts to explain some things from a theological point of view that I don't necessarily agree with. One of the things that struck me as I read and continues to mull around in my wee little brain is the author's distinction between the terms "expectation" and "expectancy."

Here is how he explains it:

"Let's use the example of friendship and how removing the element of life from a noun can drastically alter a relationship. Mack, if you and I are friends, there is an expectancy that exists within our relationship. When we see each other or are apart, there is expectancy of being together, of laughing and talking. That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else. But what happens if I change that 'expectancy' to an 'expectation' – spoken or unspoken? Suddenly, law has entered into our relationship. You are now expected to perform in a way that meets my expectations. Our living friendship rapidly deteriorates into a dead thing with rules and requirements. It is no longer about you and me, but about what friends are supposed to do, or the responsibilities of a good friend."

What strikes me first of all is how much I pull expectations into all my relationships. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. Is it? Manners, common courtesy, basic human interaction and moral conduct: it's all based somewhat on expectations. I smile at someone, I sort of expect them to smile back - and if they don't, I wonder why. I step on your foot, you expect me to say "excuse me" or "I'm sorry." I expect my children to act and behave in certain ways, or to be in the process of learning to do so. Respect, responsibility, kindness, I expect these things of them. I expect my husband to be responsive to my needs, at least to some degree, as he expects the same from me. I expect that my friends will not hurt or betray me.

Our expectations are based on our life experiences, and what we are taught, and our own emotional thermostat, how strongly we feel things, how sensitive we are. All of these things influence each other and play out together.

I have felt that the important thing most of the time is to be upfront and open about my expectations. Communicated clearly. Because we all sort of have unspoken expectations of people, don't we? And we speak of having "reasonable" or "realistic" expectations. The wife of our former prominant Church leader is even quoted as saying "the key to happiness (in marriage) is low expectations" (which I think was meant to be primarily humorous).

I guess my point is that it is very difficult to do away with all of our expectations. Is is even possible?!? Is it desirable?

This quote from the book above seems to make it seem so. And the way it is worded makes it seem that by introducing expectation into our relationships, we change it from a living, changing and miraculous thing into something dead and burdensome.

Expectancy, according to this quote as I understand it, is simply enjoying and anticipating the joy of the relationship. That sounds like what we all want, right?

"That expectancy has no concrete definition; it is alive and dynamic and everything that emerges from our being together is a unique gift shared by no one else."

So how is that done? How is that maintained? How do you balance expectancy with expectation? And can you have both in a relationship? Have you ever experienced a relationship of expectancy without expectation?

I recognize that not everyone will be struck with this dilemma in the same way that I am right now. But I would like to know what anyone else thinks about this. Am I just thinking too much about this? What do you think?!? Let's discuss.

1 comment:

Ashley Case said...

Not all of what you said was "expecations" on your part would I list as expectations. I had two friends; we'll call them T and W. Both were supposed to meet me at a reunion and neither one showed up. T and my friendship didn't suffer because of it but W and my friendship did. Why? Because T made an effort and W didn't at all. If I made a plan to meet and was going to have an expectation, it would be to be at X place at X time, but I think I had an expectancy that they would try to be there once they had told me they would. There is no exact way that I expected it, just SOME effort, ANY effort. T and I haven't seen each other in a long time, but it doesn't matter; I still look forward to seeing her!

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