Expectations and Giving

This seems a natural extension of the discussion that Adam and I were having about the two-way exchange of energy between giver and receiver (It's All Energy).

Perhaps I'm making this up, but I believe there is an interesting stereotype about Christmas. The stereotype is that poor families have happy Christmasses, while rich ones do not. This stereotype is of course--like any stereotype--not true in every instance. I think it works well for me here though, so I don't mind :-)

The vision is of a little boy, living in a cabin with his family, delighted by the rough sled that his father made for him. What a sweet child! And then the opposite side of the spectrum is the little boy living in a mansion with his family, dissatisfied and angered by the gigantic train set his parents bought him. What a spoiled brat!

What is the difference between the two scenes? It is the expectations of the two children. One knows that his parents are not wealthy, and he does not expect anything spectacular in the way of gifts. Perhaps he even expects nothing, maybe there have been Christmasses in the past where they had nothing to give. And so, because his expectations are exceeded, he is elated at the gift.

The other boy, the rich boy, has high expectations. He expects his parents to give him a gift, and not just any gift, but a gift that will blow him away. He expects, every Christmas, to get the best gift ever. And what could possibly live up to that expectation? So he is disappointed.

What created the level of expectation for each boy? Their past experiences. The poor boy experienced small gifts or no gifts in the past, setting him up to expect little or nothing. The rich boy experienced large, extravagant gifts even from a very young age, which created the expectation that each gift should be better than the last, and should make him happy beyond belief.

Perhaps next Christmas the poor boy will be expecting something like the sled, and will be disappointed.

So how could both children experience the same level of enjoyment? If they weren't attached to their pasts, then they would have no expectations on the present, which would allow them to fully enjoy whatever happened.

Expectations limit the amount of energy you can give, and the amount of energy you will receive. If you give with the expectation of the other showing gratitude, then you will hold back and only give a limited amount of energy, much less than if you'd given without expecting anything in return.

When receiving, expectations have the effect of entirely missing the energy you're being given. You miss it because you're already looking for something bigger, better, more, or different. It is sort of like using your periphrial vision, only when you're not looking for anything can you see everything.

When you are looking for something specific, it has the effect of "zooming in" on that thing, which makes that one thing big and all important, but completely cuts off the rest of the picture.

Having no expectations is like taking a wide-angle photo, where the subject is in the center, but everything is in focus. Then, the goal is easily visible, and other possibilities are not left out. Perhaps the true beauty of the picture comes from a different part than the center... perhaps the beauty of it comes from the pattern everything makes when put together. The point is that if you zoom in on one thing, you could miss the beauty entirely.

That is like life under the influence of expectations. If you expect one thing and get another, you can't enjoy what you got because you're too busy dreaming wistfully of what you expected. Or angrily demanding its arrival.

So when you detach from the past, when you no longer expect things to happen the way they did before, you will be much more free to enjoy things the way they are, the way they turn out now.

But, that will have to be another post for another time. Detachment.


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