The Best Question I Learned This Year
I was taking notes studiously in the workshop I attended until she stopped me with a question: "Ask yourself: Where is that written?"
I was in a crowded workshop in a hot room - worst case scenario in my "I need to breathe real air or I die" brain - but the Professor leading the session on counseling had my attention with her sense of humor ("God snatched me right outta that club and saved me!") and her downright *brilliant* information she shared, so I was scribbling down notes as quickly as I was able.
But at one point she veered off into a conversation on expectations - both those we put on ourselves and those we put on others. And that's when she stopped me with her question: "Ask yourself: Where is that written?" She went on to explain that when others are struggling with anxiety: "Everyone in this room has to love me." or others are putting expectations on you: "You should've been better at that." or we put expectations on ourselves: "I should have gotten that better grade, I should have a better job, I should have... on and on." We should stop and ask: Where is that written?
For instance, as a mom, I might put heavy weight on myself that a good mother makes homemade dinners every day, packs lunches for the kiddos every morning, helps with homework, volunteers, cleans house.... on and on and then struggle under the weight of those expectations. Her suggestion? Ask yourself: "Where is that written?" Where do we pick up these expectations of what a mother does? And why do we load them ALL on ourselves without taking the time to ask, "Where is that written?"
I may be upset when someone gets angry with me at some perceived slight. And then get down on myself for not living up to their expectations. (Expectations I wasn't aware of...) And then spiral into shame that someone doesn't like me and decide I'm a terrible person. Ask yourself: "Where is that written?"
I may take the brunt of someone's angry words and feel upset and defeated instead of asking myself, "Where is that written that they can say those angry words and I *wouldn't* feel upset?" Emotions are real, reactions are real - look at them, don't just squash them down into that growing pit of shame!
Can I just say that this question has been so helpful to me in the last few months?
In parenting, I've tried to remember to use the question with my kids: When they're upset or defeated or just trying to figure out high school politics: "Ask yourself: Where is that written?"
In both shallow situations, when someone comments on my spending money on Starbucks, um, yes: "Where is it written that I can't make my OWN decision on whether I'm sipping this DELIGHTFUL drink or not??"
And in heavier situations: "I should have known exactly what to say when I was presented with dire news." "This person is accusing me of something using God as the barometer of whether our family is Christian or not...where is that written that I need to parent exactly the same way this person does or we're not Christians?" "I needed to ask for help when I didn't know where else to turn, I should have not reacted in that way..." "I cried when I shared with them, how embarrassing!"
Be gracious with each other by not putting expectations on others' heads or acting passive aggressive with "well, if you loved me, you would have..."
Be proactive in our own health by asking, Where is that written that I should, or I must.
Know your safe people - who really matters to you as far as being able to listen, respond, convict (if needed) or encourage you on your boundaries and expectations. FYI: This should be a very short list.
This question is NOT an excuse, because, yes, there are situations where expectations are written (For me, that's the Bible) and we should follow God's word, but you'd be amazed at how few of others' expectations are found in His Word...
Next time you feel yourself walking into the path of shame, anger or defensiveness through your expectations or someone else's:
Ask Yourself: Where is that written?