In a previous post, I announced that we would begin a new series on how to love one another. As followers of Jesus, we all know we are supposed to love one another, but what does that really look like in practical terms? This subject is of the utmost importance, because it is easy to give lip-service to love while habitually treating one another in unloving ways. As we will discuss in this post, some of our unloving actions revolve around expectations we place on other.
Release People from the Burden
Here is a truth we may all know, but of which we all need to be reminded: our spouse, parents, children, friends, neighbors, elders, and ministers cannot read our minds. There is only one person in the whole world who knows your mind, you. That’s it. No one else knows what you are thinking except you.
So, it is not fair or loving to expect people to be able to read your mind. The following statements are examples of sentiments that we sometimes express when we are expecting others to be mind readers:
- “She ought to know I don’t like that.”
- “He should know I would like his help with this project.”
- “If they loved me, someone would have called or come by to visit me.”
- “If he really loved me, he would know why I’m mad and what I need to hear from him right now.”
It is not loving to expect someone to do what no one is capable of doing. No one can know how you’re feeling, or what you’re thinking, in any given situation unless you tell them. It is not loving to be mad at someone or resent someone because they haven’t heard your thoughts or anticipated your feelings.
What if you were to make a commitment right now that you will release people from the unfair burden of trying to read your mind?
If you have a need or an expectation that isn’t being met, the loving thing to do is say something along the lines of, “Would it be possible for you to…?” Sure, we all know, it’s nice when someone does something kind without being asked, but allow those acts of kindness be a surprise. Don’t expect people to do kind things for you, and if you do expect something, then do the loving thing and communicate your expectations.
In the church, sometimes we have expectations of ministers, elders, and deacons. We sometimes assume it is their responsibility to anticipate our needs and minister to us without having been asked. But those expectations are neither loving nor biblical. James 5:13 says, “Is anyone among you sick? Let him call for the elders of the church, and let them pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord.”
If you are sick, hurting, or in need, it is your responsibility to call on the elders and ask them to come and minister to you. Sure, church leaders can do their best to try to minister to people without being asked; but according to Scripture, it is your responsibility to ask them to minister to you when you’re in need. Which means, none of these kinds of statements, “If they really cared about me, they would call me.” If you want someone to minister to you, then ask them, “Would it be possible for you to come by and pray with me?” Being mad at a preacher, the elders, or your church family because they haven’t read your mind is not loving.
Of course, if you ask someone to help you and they agree to do so, but fail to follow through, it is reasonable to be disappointed. You can expect people to keep their word; but you cannot expect people to meet expectations of which they are completely unaware or to do that which they never agreed to do.
What if you were to make a commitment that you will not expect anything from anyone that has not been verbally agreed upon?
Do Unto Others
Most of the practicalities of loving one another come down to Jesus’ words, “Whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets” (Matthew 7:12).
Just ask yourself, do you like people expecting you to do things for them that they never asked you to do? Do you like finding out someone is upset or angry that you didn’t meet their expectations? I suspect the answer to those questions is, “no.” I don’t know anyone who appreciates having unspoken expectations placed upon them. And if that is something we don’t like others to do to us, then it is something we ought not to do to others.
I cannot tell you how many conflicts I have seen that could have easily been avoided if people would have just loved one another enough to lovingly communicate their expectations and only expect what has been agreed upon. The church and the home would be much more loving places if we would just treat one another the way we wish others would treat us.
I love you and God loves you,