Monday, November 26, 2018

Expectations in Relationships

“How can I please you if I don’t know what you expect?” That is the salient question in many relationships. Thus, it would seem to be important for both parties to communicate requirements clearly. We should express general expectations such as being fair minded: if it’s good for the goose, it’s good for the gander. Both parties should communicate general expectations about being treated as one wishes to be treated, or about casting aside ego and truly expressing interest in the feelings, pursuits or desires of the other.

The writer of the ancient book of Micah in holy writ gets specific about expectations. In the New International Version of the Bible, Micah, chapter six, verse eight, we find these words, “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the Lord require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” And, in relationships, it would appear that justice, mercy and humility solve a lot of problems.

Most of us are familiar with that often-replicated statue of Lady Justice. She is blindfolded, holding a perfectly balanced scale in her left hand. In her right, there is a sword, pointed down to a book, presumably opened to Exodus 20, the 10 Commandments, upon which our idea of justice is founded. The blindfold denotes equality: all are to be treated the same under the law. The scale represents even-handedness—the just do not cheat anyone in any fashion. The sword gives us a view of the power of the law and the fact that it points to the old law of Moses gives credence to the venerable ideas upon which much of the Judeo-Christian world is based.

The second requirement, that of mercy, is certainly related to justice, but goes beyond it in human relationships. What has come to be known as the Golden Rule, treat others the way you want to be treated, has its counterpart in many world religions. In Christianity, it means preferring others to yourself. Part of the Great Commandment given by Jesus is to love others as we love ourselves. Note that we must love ourselves before we can love others. There is no room for low self-esteem, but too much ego fouls things up, too. Atticus Finch of Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird says that one must put himself into the shoes of others and walk around a little bit to understand them. Being willing to be so shod is a primary requirement for merciful relationships.

Now, that final requirement is double-barreled—walk humbly with God. When you leave a person who is truly humble, you do not say, “Wow, that person was self-effacing and unpretentious.” Chances are you say, “That person seemed truly interested in me.” A truly humble person is self-forgetful and other-centered. That kind of demeanor goes a long way in healing broken relationships. But what about the “with God” part? I don’t know about you, but I cannot be just, merciful and humble on my own.

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