By Dick Koehneke
Some years ago I attended a conference in which one of the speakers was making a point about the expectations we have of ourselves. As an illustration he asked us all to raise our right hands. I did. Then he said, “Now raise your hand as high as you can.” With stretching I did that too. Finally he said, “Now raise it just a little higher.” Surprising myself, I did. He said that is what maximum effort feels like. I realized that I was able to do more than I had thought I could. The speaker then told us we could lower our hands, which we all did, with sighs of relief.
As you begin this New Year, what do you expect of yourself?
Maybe you expect maximum effort from yourself in every area of life, all the time, everywhere. That would be like trying to keep your hand raised in the third position all the time. The reality is that you can’t keep that up. It’s exhausting.
What are you going to do when you don’t measure up to your expectations? Burnout results from chronic disappointment with one’s performance. After so much disappointment, you feel like you can’t succeed, so you stop trying. Trying hurts too much. You probably keep showing up, but your heart’s not in it. That’s burnout. It’s usually is a result of unrealistic expectations, either the ones you have for yourself or those that others have of you.
Don’t expect more of yourself than you are capable of doing. As someone has said, “Overconfidence gives you the courage to act on your misguided convictions.” When we do that, bad things happen. Falling flat on your face is a tough learning experience. Romans 12:3 tells us not to think more highly of ourselves than we ought, but to think of ourselves with sober judgment. In other words, be realistic. Don’t have expectations that are so high or wide that they are impossible to meet.
Don’t beat yourself up when you don’t fulfill your expectations for yourself. If you do, you’ll be wasting energy that could be used for creative and constructive purposes.
A major league baseball player who hits for a .333 batting average is failing in 67% of his at-bats. You know what? He’s probably going to win the batting title. He doesn’t get discouraged because he fails most of the time. He is constantly making adjustments so that he can use his strengths to their fullest and minimize the impact of his weaknesses.
That’s what we do in life, too. We learn from our failures and make adjustments. We learn to plan better . . . to get more rest . . . to try a different approach . . . to ask better questions . . . to listen more . . . to get regular exercise . . . to schedule personal devotional time . . . to understand ourselves more fully.
What do you expect of the other people in your life? Don’t expect more of them than they can deliver. Trusting someone does not mean that you expect them to come through for you all the time. No one but Jesus can do that. We need to receive grace from others, and we need to give grace to others. We’re not in the kingdom of glory yet. If someone disappoints you, maybe you were expecting too much of them. God’s Word says, “If the readiness is there, it is acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what he does not have.” (2 Corinthians 8:12) St. Paul wrote those words about financial giving, but I think the statement applies in this context too. You can’t give what you don’t have.
“I am with you always,” says our Lord Jesus Christ. His commitment to you is not based on your performance. It springs from His perfect love for you. He is ever faithful to His Word. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Rejoice in the Lord, and have a Happy New Year!