“Everybody is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” ~ Unknown
A former coworker used to tell me this all the time: manage your expectations. The implication? Hope is good, planning is better, goals are great, but have realistic expectations, maybe a Plan B…or C, just in case.
It gets really tricky when we deal with our expectations about people because more emotions are involved. Whether it’s those we deal with closely, or those we watch or hear about often, what are our expectations about people? Some might be:
- That bosses will be fair and ethical.
- That coworkers really believe in the “team” mentality and won’t stab you in the back in their efforts to make themselves look better.
- That family will support you and be there for each other, and not judge…too much.
- That those in charge (high up in charge) will make decisions based upon the foundations that important decisions should be founded on, and not their personal desires or because somebody bought their support.
- That people will “be adult” and think their decisions through before acting impulsively and doing something immature and irresponsible like rioting and destroying other people’s property in anger.
You know, reasonable expectations.
But, what if people fall short of our expectations? Tyler Perry wrote a super insightful piece about this idea. He said he was talking to a friend who was complaining about how her friends and family had let her down and she was disappointed in how they were behaving; that she wished they were different/better people. They were holding this conversation on his beautiful, green lawn and it was hot outside. She wanted to cool off under a tree, but he suggested they just stand there on the grass. She pointed out that the grass couldn’t cool her off, but the tree shade could.
When they got to the tree, he asked her “Why didn’t you get mad with the grass because it couldn’t provide the shade you wanted?” He followed up with this:
“The next time you get upset with someone because they can’t do, or can’t be what you want them to be, remember the grass. Never get mad at a blade of grass because it’s not a tree. Appreciate the grass for what it is. Let it provide to you what it can, but don’t expect more.” Just like that first picture above. If we expect monkeys to be able to climb trees, we’re good to go. But, if we expect a fish to climb a tree? We will be disappointed. And the poor fish, well…
And it’s the same with people:
“Just like that grass couldn’t provide shade because it wasn’t made to, some people are not made to give you what you’re asking for. So, stop looking for it. You will be shocked at how much peace you find when you really get this.”
The peace comes when we manage our expectations and don’t expect people who are grass to be trees. And if we really need “tree” people, maybe we should surround ourselves with more “tree” people than “grass” people?
I’ve personally experienced the let down when I pray for others to change and they don’t. It took me awhile, but then I realized that was the wrong direction to go. I shouldn’t pray for them to change, I should pray for me to change, or at least be able to put up with whatever characteristics are present, and the serenity prayer helps:
Or you might have heard this version:
And some days require this gem:
What do you think? How have you had to adjust your expectations about somebody in your life? Let me know.