Expectations & Motives…. Tricky Business

we expect
more from others
because we would be willing
to do that much for them.


What do you think about that statement?

I think it sounds pretty reasonable — at first glance.  Probably because there’s a certain quality of “sounding fair” about it.  I can easily hear myself saying, “Hey, I would do that for you….  Actually, I have done that for you.  Seriously?  You’re not going to do the same for me??”

And here starts the tricky business….

First, my mind tries to grapple with why you wouldn’t go the distance for me, when I so clearly would for you.  Oh, I see.  You must not love me as much as I love you.  Or respect me the way I respect you.  Or see my worth as I see yours.  Or.  Or.  Or.  Which all leads to H U R T.  (Self inflicted hurt, btw.)

But really, when you boil it down, is any of that true?  Maybe.  But has the other person ever come out and told you, “I don’t love you as much as you love me.  I don’t respect you.  I don’t see your worth.”  ???  I kinda doubt it.

Being rooted in the understanding of What Is, I have to ask, what’s going on here?  By assuming the position of, “Well, I’d do it for you,” does that lead to a feeling of entitlement in having it reciprocated?  In bitterness when it’s not reciprocated?

Paramount to this topic is: what are your motives in doing something for another?  Is it because you want something back in return?  Or because for your sake, it meets some inner need?  Perhaps the need to express love or gratitude, the need to nurture, the need to feel safe?

Here’s a scenario I’ve witnessed numerous times over the years, each time by different people, but each with such charge and heat, it’s stuck in my mind.

The situation is around gift giving.  Someone gave a gift, to which the person who received the gift didn’t thank the giver immediately (or ever).  In each instance, the giver was so angry, that in two instances, they demanded a ‘Thank you‘ and in the other two instances, they vowed never to give that person another gift again.  In all four situations, the givers went from giving a gift, to being pissed off, to being hurt, and ultimately, choosing to hold a grudge.

[Interestingly, in the first two situations, the giver confronted the receiver.  Ugly, ugly.  Both ended very badly – tears, angry words exchanged.  And I must say, as a bystander, it was very disturbing to watch.  In the other two examples, the giver did not confront the receiver, but instead called me and told me about it at length, becoming more livid by the second, replaying the story over and over until I asked them to knock it off.]

I think the expectation was clear: that the recipient acknowledge and thank the giver.  In each case, this expectation was not met.  (Rude, yes, but manners fall under a separate topic.  This topic is about expectations and motives.)

Again, the expectation was clear.  But what I was left wondering, especially after witnessing the same scenario repeated by a handful of different people, was the motive behind giving the gift in the first place.  Were these gifts given out of pure love?  With only thinking of the receiver and how much they would like it?  Or maybe even need it?  Were they given for the explicit purpose of being thanked?  Or being acknowledged for what a thoughtful person they are?

Perhaps it’s not as cut and dry as this.  Maybe there are more factors at play here, there probably are.  What’s important though, is to consider our motives, and to manage our expectations.  Those are things we have a say in, and also what will give us peace of mind at the end of the day.

So, in going back to the statement:

Sometimes we expect more from others, because we would be willing to do that much for them….

…and the original question:  Does that sound reasonable to you?

Well, what do you think?  Does it?  I’m curious to hear your thoughts.


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  1. says

    This is such a big one for me, Leslie! I would have to say that my expectations are reponsible for 99% of any unhappiness I have felt. And, of course, I have to include my favorite quote on the subject!! :)

  2. says

    Nancy, thank you for being so honest and real. I know this is a biggie. For a relatively short post (considering the topic), it took me *several* re-writes before I felt okay to post. I had to condense my thoughts… there’s just so, so much on this topic.

  3. Kristen Conroy says

    I will have you know that I am procrastinating on pre-Bunco housecleaning to write in about this. :-)

    My initial reaction to this quote was very negative. I read it as a self-righteous pat on the back about how the reader/speaker expects so much out of the people around them because they give so much of themselves. In fact it made me kind of angry which I found interesting.

    Then I sat and thought about it a moment, and realized there is a whole other way to look at it.

    I think that it’s really more of an admonishment about how projecting your own sense of what constitutes how you show someone you love or care about them only leads to disappointment and resentment.

    I have done this very often in my life. I have a very clear sense of how to show affection or how to show someone they are important to you, but my way is not necessarily my husband’s way, or my children’s ways or my friends’ ways. I still become resentful at times because I don’t get what I think I deserve, when in fact all of the aforementioned people have other ways of showing me they care. It is a long process of letting go of preconceived notions and looking at the big picture of a relationship. For me, this is an extreme challenge.

    You are absolutely right about the self inflicted hurt this causes. You used the acknowledgment of gift giving as an example, but in my case it has generally surrounded how to celebrate milestones in relationships, and actually doing things to show you care. I admit, I’m hard on people, just like I’m hard on myself, but I’m learning to let go and really notice the everyday ways in which people show me love.

    • says

      Kristen, thank you for sharing. Thank goodness you like to procrastinate!! Boy, did I benefit from that!

      When I first ran across this statement, I felt as if the author meant it to be a ‘good’ thing, something that would bring comfort to the person who was reading it, like they were reminding the reader of their goodness. But that didn’t feel right at all! It was as if the line from the author was perpetuating a negative, but they dressed it up in such a way, that it looked like a positive. Make sense??

      As you know, fellow thinker and blogger, when a statement grabs you like that, with what appears to be a subtle deceit, I had to write about it.

      Thanks again for your thoughts! (Btw, your last sentence really rocks!)

      Love, Leslie

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