Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Thoughts on Unrealistic Expectations

I was talking with a couple of friends a while ago, and something hit me that I want to share:

One was raised in a home with incredibly unrealistic expectations; the other one converted as an adult with young adult children. Both of them faced similar issues, although they were caused by different circumstances.

The first one felt expectations from the time he was a young child to not be like "the Gentiles" - to not be a sinner - to be a perfect example to others. This led to feelings of inadequacy as he realized that standard was beyond his reach - that he was a sinner - that he couldn't be a perfect example. The second one struggled to help his adult children understand and accept his radical change when he joined the Church - to see why he no longer would do much of what he had done for so long with them. His children didn't understand the change and rebelled to a degree. It took him years to develop the same kind of relationship with them that he had prior to his conversion, caused almost entirely by their perception of his expectations of them - expectations that he actually did not hold or attempt to press on them.

This would sound absurd to many who cannot understand it, but I have a deep and abiding sympathy for Laman and Lemuel. I picture Lehi in much the same light as I picture the good men who raised my friends (and Brigham Young, fwiw): a complicated man - loving, opinionated, spiritual, judgmental, gentle, harsh, demanding, caring, sweet, bitter, humble, arrogant - full of contradictions. On an intellectual level, I think I know why Laman and Lemuel struggled as much as they did, especially after Lehi's conversion. The sudden change in expectations and the radical change into a "prophet" probably seemed like pure lunacy to them, if I am correct about his life prior to his "converting vision". I'm sure they couldn't reconcile the man who raised them (if, in fact, he was around much to help raise them) and the man who returned home one day as a "prophet".

I believe in expectations, but on an emotional level, I feel for these people - deeply, just as I feel for others in this day and age who are raised by good parents who are doing their very best but transmit unrealistic expectations (actively or only through perception) to their children.


SimplyMe said...

Thanks, PapaD. Your perspective on Lamen and Lemuel and how you embrace that perspective as you listen to your friend's stories is inspiring.

The story of Nephi seems to get a lot more positive and attention; having perfect faith, being perfectly obedient (high and unrealistic expectations). Whereas Lamen and Lemuel are two heroes that, I think, most ambiguous people can relate to more. Regardless of their dissenting views and behaviors they continued to strive to be obedient, often with difficulty and with much sorrow. The story itself seems to imply that there is good with Nephi and Sam, and bad with Lamen and Lemuel. You have to be faithful or you are faithless. But your interpretation of this story is one of ambiguity, as I see it. And I see ambiguity as a gift. It is where compassion and understanding live for most of us. One extreme is not better or worse than the other. Your example of Brigham Young in this perspective is helpful. He had characteristics on both extremes and I would imagine that he had lots going on for him all over the middle as well. Ambiguity is a beautiful and intriguing place to be; it makes me want to learn, accept, and understand more. And it further inspires my interest in people and their stories.

Thanks for sharing.

SimplyMe said...


I valued your blog so much that it stayed with me all day. I created a second post on my new blog and where ever I discussed ideas from your post I stated your name or blog. I hope that that is ok, me being new to this. I am planning to add you to my blog list and I hope that you are ok with that.

Thank you!

Papa D said...

SM, feel free to quote and attribute to your heart's content - and if you remember something that you can't find right away, feel free to quote without attribution. *grin*