Pentecost 112

Pentecost 112
My Psalm 112

You Are Loved

Recently I needed to describe this blog. I found myself stymied. The description was really a statement of my expectations, the reason for writing it and after over two hundred blog posts, I would have thought such a description, a statement of what, why, and where I hoped it would lead, would have been easy. Ultimately it was, once I stopped thinking of combining a brief synopsis of each post and simply described exactly what I sat down to do, what I hoped you did when you read this. In other words, I just needed to explain my hopes – of myself and you, the reader.

Having decided what the description should be based on, I was suddenly bombarded with a host of “Does every blog meet this?” or “I might not have done that completely each time.” In other words, negative thinking came into play. “Did I meet my objectives each time close enough to put them in a description?” My final description again came very easily….once I silenced the negative voices in my head. I write this blog, this conversation between me the writer and you the reader in order to have discourse. Hopefully that discourse sometimes creates a new line of thinking for you and expands your universe just a little. We call that growth. However, even if your reading this just solidifies what you already believe, that’s good as well. We have engaged in a digital conversation. We have communicated (I really do appreciate your feedback, by the way!) and, more importantly, we have reached out.

This week a cabinet member in the United States of America reported he was leaving his post. The first person of his race to hold the position, he has held it for six years, being the fourth longest person to hold this position. It is not a job that is voted on directly by the general public, unlike members of Congress. It is a political appointment which means the President of the United States makes a recommendation and then the Senate approves by vote. Most people in this position have remarked that it would be easier to gain the voting support of the entire country sometimes than those one hundred senators! It can be a laborious process and every part of a person’s life comes under scrutiny, regardless of the Cabinet post.

When the news of this individual’s resignation, many people had the exact same reaction: “What did he do?” Very few remarked on his tenure, and there are probably those who do not even realize he was the first in his race to hold the position. What was commonly shared by many was a negative expectation.

One of writer Sylvia Plath’s most famous quotes deals with negative expectations. “If you expect nothing from anybody, you’re never disappointed.” Author Pat McCormick echoed that sentiment in her own writing: “Look. I have a strategy. Why expect anything? If you don’t expect anything, you don’t get disappointed.” Humorist Bill Watterson explained it this way: “I find my life is a lot easier the lower I keep my expectations.” It is tempting to blame this negative expectation most people seem to have of life on more recent trends in society but it actually goes back to the earliest of mankind and eloquently recorded in an updated Beatitudes of sorts penned by classical writer Alexander Pope. “Blessed is he who expects nothing, for he shall never be disappointed.”

In the book “Emotion and Adaptation”, author Robert Lazarus upholds the belief that one can be complacent about their life experiences and that this is due to their expectations. Expectations are simply those things you predict will occur and are usually based upon a low opinion of others and/or of one’s self as well as past, present, and future events. In his book, he repeats a commonly ace[ted philosophical theory that “Happiness depends on the background psychological status of the person… and cannot be well predicted without reference to one’s expectations.”

Born into a family of immigrant Russian Jews in Philadelphia, sociologist Robert K. Merton, once aspired to become a magician and therefore changed his name for a better state presence, explored the common-held belief of the self-fulfilling prophecy of expectations. Merton was educated at Temple University and taught at Harvard and Tulane before arriving at Columbia where he taught for over twenty years before his retirement. Merton’s son would later win a Nobel Prize in economics towards the end of the twentieth century.

Merton created one of today’s most common buzz word phrases – role model, a result of his study on the socialization of medical students at Columbia University. His self-fulfilling prophecy concept is based upon a progressive belief that upholds one’s expectation, whether correct or incorrect, will affect the outcome of a situation or even the behavior of those involved, sometimes individually but also within an entire group. He would later expand this and describe behavior based upon it.

Merton maintained that conformity was “attaining societal goals by acceptable means”; innovation, the “attaining of societal goals in unaccepted ways”; rebellion, a combination of rejecting” societal goals and a substitution of other goals and means”. Merton even described ritualism as “the acceptance of the means but the forfeit of the goals”. Merton developed many concepts but a few were directed at his own field and the scientific world. He sought to correct how the social world of science and how credit is given conflicted with the ethos or morality of science. His “obliteration by incorporation”, the concept where an idea of belief becomes so widely accepted that the inventor is forgotten, can be applied to many things in the twenty-first century. One such example was the basis for his book “On the Shoulders of Giants” in which he takes a well-known quote of Isaac Newton and traces its origin backs to the seventeenth century. Because Newton was intelligent and a scientist, everyone expected that his famous quote was original: “”If I have seen farther, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants.”

Stephen Covey explains the pitfalls of negative expectations in his book “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”: “Treat a man as he is and he will remain as he is. Treat a man as he can and should be and he will become as he can and should be.”

In her book”Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy”, Sarah Ban Breathnach, on the listing for January 11th, gives us all some excellent advice: “Today expect something good to happen to you no matter what occurred yesterday. Realize the past no longer holds you captive. It can only continue to hurt you if you hold on to it. Let the past go. A simply abundant world awaits.”

We are not born with negative expectations. An infant reaches out to the world, to each and every new experience and they don’t stop doing that. A child learning to walk falls down….but then gets back up and tries again. Life is not for the faint-hearted nor can it be lived successfully with negative expectations. Like writer Jeff Kinney says in “Diary of a Wimpy Kid”, “You can’t expect everyone to have the same dedication as you.”

Although written in a romance fiction book, a genre of late which has had its own negative expectations, Lisa Kleypas, writing in her best-selling novel “Love in the Afternoon” gives us one key for successful living and relationships. “You are your own worst enemy. If you can learn to stop expecting impossible perfection, in yourself and others, you may find the happiness that has always eluded you.”

My Psalm 112

Dear Spirit of All, creator of goodness,
Give us eyes to see,
Arms to embrace,
Ears to hear,
Courage to enact
The potential that is within our lives.
Help us to remember we are worthy
But none more than another.
Let us remember
The best retort
Is a life well-lived in all things:
Charity, Kindness, Generosity, Compassion.

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