Friday, December 10, 2010

The Danger of Universal Expectations

I want my children and church friends to fast fully once they turn eight, but I can't turn that into an unbendable expectation for all of them. For example, there might be situations of which I am not aware that make fasting for 24 hours medically dangerous for one or more of them - like my son's diabetes. Also, I can't project a desire for perfect obedience onto them in areas where they simply aren't capable of that obedience yet. Furthermore, I can't impose an even stricter standard than the Church's basic standard and expect them to be able to live it - simply because I am able to do so. I might see it as a "higher law" and a good thing, when, in reality, for someone else it might be just as unrealistic expectation - and a very bad thing.

I know siblings from a family to whom I was quite close growing up who still struggle to this day with deep feelings of failure and inadequacy because they were expected to be perfect as children. They were taught that good kids did (fill in the blank) and bad kids did (fill in the blank) - and that good kids felt (fill in the blank) and bad kids felt (fill in the blank). One child was chastised simply because she was vivacious - so the boys liked to be around her. Everything that was said to them could be justified in some way as "just teaching the Gospel to my kids", but the black and white, all or nothing, same expectation for all approach did serious harm to those children.

My point is that we need to do the best we possibly can to teach correct principles,
but we can't ever lose sight of the fact that not everyone is going to be able to internalize every principle (or a particular one) and live them (or it) fully - right away, certainly, but in many cases not ever in this life. We have to be founded first on a charitable base and not primarily on a judgmental one.


Richard Alger said...


Paul said...

Great post!

Expectations are dangerous, since failure to achieve them so often results in shame.

Hopes (which ought to be different from expectations, not just expectations dressed differently) can be kinder in the same way an invitation is kinder than a command.

Generally a hope (and an invitation) will have a reward (or blessing) associated with it -- so we hope our children will know the blessings of fasting, and here they are...

In the world of 12-step recovery one is told to give up expectations because they are almost never met, and that almost always leads to resentment.

Anonymous said...

Beautiful Ray.I have become increasingly aware how important it is not to attempt to dominate our children in any way,even should we think that our domination is benevolent.I try to measure my behaviour to them by asking myself wether it is kind,and whilst I continue to find this challenging I do find myself increasingly given to kindness rather than the demand for rigid compliance.I think in some ways it has always been my nature,but I started to doubt myself as a consequence of a lot of what I would hear at church.It does take confidence,which may come with experience.When you are a younger parent,you just want to do your best to guarantee your children's safety.