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Unrealistic Expectations

Dr. James Fowler

I think I have a right to expect that my children should make me feel loved.” Those were the words of an older mother estranged from her grown children, and thus cut off from involvement in her grandchildren’s lives also. The words were uttered through much pain and exasperation, unaware of what caused the alienation with her children. She blamed the children for being insensitive and unloving, without realizing that it was she who had a most inadequate understanding of love. Love flows out of God through us to others. Such love has no expectations of response or reciprocation ­– no strings attached!

Even God, who is the ultimate essence of love, cannot make anyone “feel loved.” “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son” (Jn. 3:16), but every person must individually receive that love gift. Then, in the process of a love relationship, each person must determine to grow deeper in God’s love and thereby experientially “feel loved” by God sensing His loving arms around them, and His guidance in every circumstance of life. “Feeling loved” is not an emotion that others are responsible to grant. “Feeling loved” is a decision to accept and appreciate the sentiment and actions of another (God or other people).

It is a most unrealistic expectation to think that others should “make us feel” one way or another. It sets up a “performance trap” that will inevitably create alienation when other people are unable to effect the emotional state such a person might expect or desire. Such unrealistic expectations become a form of “emotional blackmail,” that expects another person to be responsible for your feelings. No one can make another person “feel loved.” No one can make another “feel happy.” Our feelings are a result of our own choices. We choose to be the conduits of God’s one-way unconditional love, and we choose to let God alone fulfill our human needs and desires.


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