For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods. ~Aristotle
This week I want to discuss "Expectations", as they relate to friendships and relationships with others.
Today, a man wrote on Facebook:
"I feel like most of the people that I care deeply about are upset with me. I don't mean to mess up the relationships I have with those that I love, yet it always seems to happen. I feel like I am a very giving person, and I would help anyone, anytime if they needed it. I guess my perception of reality must be skewed. It just sucks feeling like the ones I care about most seem to want nothing to do with me. I mean, am I really THAT bad of a person?"
And on Tumbler a woman wrote:
"Why does it seem that people are “fascinated” by me when we first start hanging out… and the more we hang out the less people seem to like me. I mean, am I really that shitty of a person? Do I have no personality? Am I that annoying? WTF, it's not like I am ever going to change how I act around people - EVER... Well, whatever! I guess I'm doomed. Bah!"
In both of these instances, there are common threads in which both men and women seem to have similar problems, and it seems that the friends are not exactly virtuous. Note that the two people are saying the same thing; that people seem to like them at first, then later decide that the person is not meeting their expectations. And, if the "friend" does not feel like their expectations are being met, they decide to become upset with the person, not like them as much or even end the relationship.
Everyone has a list of expectations. Of course, many will never admit to having a list because it exists only in their mind and not on paper, but we all have expectations of others. It is only human nature to have preferences. We like people who are fair. We do not like people who seem to have no self-control. We like people who act appropriate. We do not like people who are intimidating. In other words, we all want friends who have the same qualities as we. Or, at least, the qualities we believe we have.
And, it is okay to have preferences. What is wrong is to dislike someone or end the friendship because they do not meet certain expectations or that they do not hold the same virtues that we believe we possess. The truth is, all too often, those expectations may not be met. The two people above obviously do not want to end the relationships that they have. Why? Because they realize that no one is perfect!
We become friends with another person because we see enough good in them that we "can" accept them for who and what they are. A true friend will never expect another to meet every minute detail of their expectations. A true friend will perhaps explain what they do like and what they do not like. That's good communication, that most friends have with one another. By communicating what they perceive as a problem gives the friend an opportunity to contemplate by looking inside of themselves and possibly making a change in their virtues. But, then again, they may be quite content with who they are and do not want to change. Everyone has certain virtues that they will stand fast and hold onto, no matter what.
This should never be a problem. No two people are exactly alike and there will always be differences. As Stephen Covey wrote in "The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People - Powerful Lessons in Personal Change1":
"The cause of almost all relationship difficulties is rooted in conflicting or ambiguous expectations around roles and goals"
Whether we are dealing with the question of who does what, how to communicate, we can be certain that unclear expectations will lead to misunderstanding, disappointment, and withdrawals of trust.
All too often, expectations are implicit, in that they have not been explicitly stated, but none the less, they are brought into a particular situation. In most relationships, whether a friendship or a marriage, there may be expectations of each other in their roles. Although these expectations have not been discussed, or perhaps not even recognized by the person who has them, fulfilling them makes great deposits in the relationship and violating them makes withdrawals.
Women are more attuned to implicit expectations than men. They seldom tell the men in their lives what there expectations are, and when their expectations are not met, the statement they make is often, "You should have known what I wanted!" or "If you really loved me, you would change for me!" This is because men and women are different in their thinking. Men will never be able to understand the female mind, as they are wired completely different. They know and accept this fact. Women, on the other hand, mistakenly believe that men possess some sort of ability to read their minds and know implicitly what is required of them.
It is extremely important to whenever you come into a new situation to get all of the expectations out on the table. And, unbelievably people will begin to judge each other through those expectations. And, if they feel like their expectations are not being met, they become disappointed in the relationship. We create many negative situations by simply assuming that our expectations are self-evident and that they are clearly understood and shared by others. For many, these become deal-breakers, that unless they are met, there can be no relationship.
The problem begins when a friend (or you) explains that they find something that they deem annoying, and states that if the other person does not change, they can no longer be a friend. That is nothing more than attempting to control another, which is wrong. And, it begins with a very small issue and blows up quickly, if their demands are not met. However, their tirade is only serving as a mask in that they are unwilling to make a concerted effort to improve the relationship - with threats of ending the relationship - unless their every expectation is met. Controlling people often participate in emotional extortion with phrases such as, "Agree with me, or else...", when it is always best to agree to disagree. The sure sign of a controller is the silent treatment where they cease being your friend or take a break from the relationship as punishment for not going along with their need for control. Suffering in silence isn't love. And, it enables the controlling behavior to continue, if you give in to them cheating the relationship.
I am not saying that anyone should stay in a relationship if there is physical or emotional battering taking place and there is fear of their life. That is a different matter all together. I am saying that if a person threatens to end the relationship over something they find annoying, they have a control issue. The problem exists from their need to control others. It becomes even worse when the other person throws a childish tantrum or goes on a rant, when they do not get their way. That is just more controlling behavior.
And, yes, if you are in a relationship in which another is attempting to control you, especially with threats, perhaps you should not be in that relationship. But what if you are the one doing the controlling? What if you are the one attempting to end the relationship, simply because the other person does not meet your expectations? Instead of defending your rights to insist on having another person do what you want them to do, or to cease that which annoys you, perhaps you need to look at your own behavior and your own virtues before passing judgement on the virtues of others.
Being in a relationship with a person who needs to be critical and in control of everything can be exhausting. However, it is even more exhausting for the controller who does not understand that they are the controller. They will become emotional over issues that only they are concerned about and that no one else cares about. They hold to exceptionally high standards because they have a fear of judgment or what other think of them, when in truth they would not worry so much what people thought of them if they knew how seldom they did. They end up pushing away friends and loved ones by being a prisoner to their sense of order. This is, of course, unhealthy and neurotic.
While it is fine to be attentive to details, we must realize that perfectionism is an imperfection and we cannot hold others to the same values that we hold. This is especially true if we are driving away, or sending away those in our life that would be our friend or loved one. This alone is reason to re-examine your behavior. If you trust yourself enough, have enough self-worth to believe that someone would want to be with you if you do not make them meet your expectations. It is important to be secure enough with yourself so that you are not clingy, needy, controlling and demanding. Learn to trust yourself and realize that perfectionism is an imperfection. Embrace the spirit of acceptance. Find strength in resiliency, depth and flexibility in all circumstances.
Whether you are being controlled or a controller, you would do well to learn how to identify your own emotions, deal with and channel them, as well as learn how to accurately interpret the emotions of others to become more effective and productive. This allows you to know the true meaning of empathy - walking a mile in the other person’s shoes and being able to feel what they feel.
For without friends no one would choose to live, though he had all other goods. ~Aristotle
It should be obvious that there are many kinds of friendship. In a particularly influential section of "Nicomachean Ethics2", Aristotle considered the role of human relationships in general and friendship in particular as a vital element in the good life. Differentiating between the aims or goals of each, he distinguished that most friendship can be broken down into three kinds that we commonly form; for Pleasure, Utility, or for Good.
Pleasure - A friendship for pleasure comes into being when two people discover that they have common interest in an activity which they can pursue together. Their reciprocal participation in that activity results in greater pleasure for each than either could achieve by acting alone. Thus, for example, two people who enjoy a love of literature might derive pleasure from discussions of literature with each other. Such a relationship lasts only so long as the pleasure continues.
Utility - A friendship grounded on utility, on the other hand, comes into being when two people can benefit in some way by engaging in coordinated activity. In this case, the focus is on what use the two can derive from each other, rather than on any enjoyment they might have. Thus, for example, one person might offer to pass along some knowledge about a thing for a fee: where one benefits by learning and the other benefits financially; and their relationship is based solely on the mutual utility. A relationship of this sort lasts only so long as its utility.
Good - A friendship for the good, however, comes into being when two people engage in common activities solely for the sake of developing the overall goodness of the other. Here, neither pleasure nor utility are relevant, but the good is. Thus, for example, two people with create a loving relationship with each other for the sake of that which contributes to the overall physical and mental health of both over time. Since the good is never wholly realized, a friendship of this sort should, in principle, last forever.
Rather conservatively representing his own culture, Aristotle expressed some rather peculiar notions about the likelihood of forming friendships of these distinct varieties among people of different ages and genders. But the general description has some value nevertheless, especially in its focus on reciprocity, i.e., the practice of exchanging things with others for mutual benefit, especially privileges granted by one to another. Mixed friendships—those in which one party is seeking one payoff while the other seeks a different one—are inherently unstable and prone to dissatisfaction.
Every friendship and ultimately every relationship is dependent on virtues. Recently I wrote about Core Virtues, in which I stated:
"Meaning, and ‘meaningful’, are very subjective terms. Pretty much everything we see, hear, and feel is open for interpretation, and skewed by our past experiences. I believe it’s the meaning that we choose to place on things, whether deliberately, or without thought, that is the driving force to why we make all of our daily and long-term decisions.
"Knowing this, it’s just a matter of really deciding what our virtues are, and then basing our decisions based on these core virtues. The quality of our life from day to day, as well as where we end up in a year, five years, or even ten is going to be greatly altered. The satisfaction that we have with our life will also greatly increase if we’re acting from our core virtues."
The cardinal virtues are a set of four virtues recognized in the writings of Classical Antiquity and, along with the theological virtues. They consist of:
- Prudence: also described as wisdom, the ability to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time.
- Justice: also considered as fairness, the most extensive and most important virtue.
- Temperance: also known as restraint, the practice of self-control, abstention, and moderation tempering the appetite.
- Courage: also named fortitude, forbearance, strength, endurance, and the ability to confront fear, uncertainty, and intimidation.
These were derived initially from Plato's Republic - A Socratic Dialogue3. The term "cardinal" comes from the Latin cardo or hinge; the cardinal virtues are so called because they are the basic virtues, required for a virtuous life. Aristotle
Today, there are those who want to replace the original four virtues by new ones. Scholars, Daniel Harrington and James Keenan4, find the four cardinal virtues in need of replacement. The reasons they give are:
- Contemporary writers repeatedly express dissatisfaction with the insufficiency of justice.
- The modern era insists that moral dilemmas are not based on the simple opposition of good and evil but, more frequently, on the clash of goods – thus a constellation of heuristic guides that already resolves the priority of one virtue over another by which a preconceived hierarchical structure preempts realism.
- The primary identity of being human is not as an individual with powers needing perfection, but as a relational rational being whose modes of relationality need to be made virtuous or to be rightly realized.
Consulting multiple sources related to virtues: Artistotle, Aquinas5, the Torah, Upanishads, The Scouts Handbook and more, we find an extensive list of 37 universal moral values, including, the original four cardinal virtues in alphabetical order.
Go over the list with an extremely critical eye to see how many of the values you believe you possess. Then give the list to several of your friends and ask them to judge you on your values. You may be surprised that you need to work on some of them.
Appreciation - recognition, full understanding and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something
Bravery - courageous behavior or character
Charity - voluntary kindness and tolerance in judging others
Citizenry - ability to find comfort in any country or with other cultures
Courage - the courage of one's convictions act on one's beliefs despite danger or disapproval
Curiosity - motivation to explore new things with enthusiasm, fundamental to creativity
Empathy - to understand and share the feelings of another
Endurance - to withstand an unpleasant or difficult process or situation without giving way
Faith - complete trust or confidence in others
Faithful - loyal, constant, and steadfast; true to the facts
Fearless - lacking fear of uncertainty
Flexible - accommodating, amenable, willing to compromise, cooperative, tolerant, easygoing
Forbearance - patient self-control; restraint and tolerance
Fortitude - courage in pain or adversity
Gratitude - thankful for what they have received from life and the universe, rather than lament what they lack.
Grit - passionate commitment to a mission and dedication to its fulfillment
Hope - feeling of trust, a belief of goodness
Hospitable - friendly and welcoming to strangers or guests, pleasant and favorable
Humble - having or showing a modest or low estimate of one's own importance
Integrity - honest and having strong moral principles
Justice - a sense of fairness, impartial, objective and honest; of high morality
Kindness - friendly, generous, and considerate
Loving - demonstration of feeling or showing love or great care
Merciful - feeling or showing love or great care; bringing someone relief from something unpleasant
Optimism - hopefulness and confidence about the future or the successful outcome of something; the belief that good must ultimately prevail over evil in the universe
Prudence - to judge between actions with regard to appropriate actions at a given time
Reconcilable - to coexist in harmony; to be compatible; able to restore friendly relations
Reliable - to possess trustworthy qualities; consistently good in quality or performance; able to be trusted
Respect - due regard for the feelings, wishes, rights, or traditions of others
Self-control - to control oneself, in particular one's emotions and desires or the expression of them in one's behavior, especially in difficult situations
Sense of humor - possessing a mood or state of mind; the ability to perceive and appreciate humor
Social Intelligence - to acquire and apply knowledge and skills in social situations
Strength - the emotional or mental qualities necessary in dealing with situations or events that are distressing or difficult
Temperance - having restraint, abstinence, and moderation
Vigilant - keeping careful watch for possible danger or difficulties
Wisdom - having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise
Zest - motivation to enjoy and take full advantage of opportunities to participate actively in life situations
What would you add to this list of socially acceptable moral values?
Feel free to click here to download the two page Universal Moral Values Checklist for your own use.
1. Covey, Stephen. "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People - Restoring the Character Ethic", New York: Free Press, 1989. ISBN 978-0-7432-6951-3. The book has sold than 15 million copies in 38 languages worldwide, and the audio version has sold 1.5 million copies. It remains one of the best selling books on the market, after people learned that it was not just a "business" book, but a holistic, integrated, principle-centered approach for solving both personal and professional problems.
2. Aristotle, "Nicomachean Ethics", approximately 350 BC
3. Plato, "Republic - A Socratic Dialogue", approximately 380 BC.
4. Harrington, Daniel, and Keenan, James. "Jesus and Virtue Ethics: Building Bridges Between New Testament Studies and Moral Theology." Lanham, MD: Sheed & Ward, 2005. ISBN 0-7425-4994-1
5. Aquinas, Thomas - Born Tommaso d'Aquino, (1225 – 7 March 1274), also known as Thomas Aquinas, was an Italian Dominican friar and Catholic priest who was an immensely influential philosopher, theologian and jurist in the tradition of scholasticism, within which he is also known as the "Doctor Angelicus" and "Doctor Communis". He is heralded as the most influential Western medieval legal scholar and theologist.
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