The vast majority of the time when I’m really annoyed, the situation fits into one category. People are not behaving as I feel they should.
I have really high expectations. I think everyone should act with integrity. Everyone should tell the truth. Everyone’s motivations should be pure. Everyone should have everyone else’s best interests at heart. Everyone should be kind and respectful. Everyone should be reliable. Everyone should say what they mean and mean what they say.
“Should” is the most insidious word in the English language. Here’s the question. Where did my notion of perfection come from? Heaven knows I have not seen many examples of this behavior. This rulebook of mine is something I seem to have conjured up in my own mind. In fact, it’s been my experience that a lot of people behave quite abominably (see also: Washington D.C.).
If most of the crows I’ve seen in my life take flight, why would I expect them to suddenly do the breaststroke? If I know it to be true that dogs bark, why would I expect them to start singing showtunes? If your habit is to be a jerk, why would I imagine that you’d behave otherwise?
And yet I follow this pattern consistently. People don’t fit into my arrogant little box of perfection, and it drives me up a wall. It’s just so freaking frustrating!
Do I derive any benefit from my irritation? Does it serve me well? Does it change anything? No, no, and no.
I have no magical power to change people. I’m not the behavior police. The only thing I can do is work on myself.
Logic dictates that I lower my expectations of people. I need to stop measuring them by a yardstick that is clearly not of their choosing. I have got to loosen my grip on the steering wheel of life.
It would be so liberating to be pleasantly surprised when someone does something good rather than be irritated when he or she basically acts like he or she always does. It would be a relief to direct my energies toward those things over which I actually have control. It would be wonderful to just do me. I’d love to be less disappointed by others, not because they’ve straightened up, but because I realize it’s not my place to sit in judgment, and because I’ve come to accept the fact that people, as a general rule, don’t change.
Now, the trick will be to figure out how to lower my expectations without crossing that fine line into the land of no faith in humanity whatsoever.