High Expectations

“You’re such a good person Phylicia,” exclaimed Debbie. “You don’t swear, you don’t smoke and you don’t drink.” “Yeah, she’s so nice, she doesn’t even know HOW to be mean,” added Amy.  “And to never have dated!” Continued Debbie incredulously.  I really didn’t know what to say.  “Um, thanks?”  “Er, okay…”  “Yeah, you should try it!”?  On schedule, these conversations will come up —  always involving the inevitable analysis of my character.  And the diagnosis always comes out the same:  I am a Good Person.

Being the Good Person consists of several attributes, all of which (by my co-workers’ admission) I possess:  you don’t drink, you don’t smoke, you aren’t living with someone, you don’t swear and as a general whole, you’re “nice”.  “Nice” means you don’t yell at people, backstab your boss, call co-workers names or kick the coffee machine when you’re mad.  As a whole, the Good Person is a very likable, friendly individual.  But there’s one problem:  the Good Person is expected to be Good on a consistent basis.  As soon as she fails, everyone is right there to watch her crumple.

Being the Good Person is an effort.  Once you have established yourself as the resident Goody-Two-Shoes, you have to maintain the persona.  You have to continue to live up to the expectations of the people around you.  There is no room for weakness, no room for mistakes, and certainly no room for failure.  Every morning you wake up to face them again — forced to be a person you’re not sure you truly are.  Everyone will fall.  Everyone will fail.  But you must be a pillar of strength, an example to all.  You have to meet the expectations of the people who are watching, or you and the God you represent are fodder for mockery.

How do I know the life of the Good Person?  Because I have been her.  I have been the Good Girl on the job; the one who wouldn’t swear, wouldn’t joke about crude and ungodly things, wouldn’t drink or condone drinking.  But after only a little while, I couldn’t do it anymore.  It wore me down… trying to live to impress, to be an example, to be the Difference.  I wasn’t making a difference.  I was just… different. 

In living this life, I came to understand something.  We aren’t here to be the Difference.  We aren’t here to be the ones who are good and moral by the world’s standard.  And we certainly aren’t here to try to do it all and be it all to all people.  We can NEVER meet the standard the world will set for us.  Sure, we’re “good”.  We do the right things.  We abide by a moral standard.  But to try to keep up with the world’s expectations for us will wear us down, tire us out and ultimately, plunge us into discouragment and despair.  The standard can’t be met… on our own strength.

“See with what large letters I am writing to you with my own hand.  It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh who would force you to be circumcised, and only in order that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ.  For even those who are circumcised do not themselves keep the law, but they desire to have you circumcised that they may boast in your flesh.  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.” (Gal.6:11-14)

Those who want to make a “good showing”…  I ask you, are you that person?  I know I have been, and I still struggle with a tendency to be so.  I want to please People.  I want them to think well of me, because in my mind, if they think well of me, they’ll think well of Christians and Christ himself.  But there is the untruth.  Jesus said:

“Beware of practicing your righteousness before other people in order to be seen by them, for then you will have no reward from your father who is in heaven.” (Matt.6:1)

God uses us for His glory in ways we may never know.  The best way to bring glory to Him, to attract people to Christ, is to love Him, live Him and let Him lead.  Let Him draw others to you, asking about your faith,  but do not work to attract them with your good deeds.  In the end, you will be pursuing an ever fleeing goal: the goal of gaining the approval of men.  Their expectations may never be met.  Seek to meet God’s expectations for you, and all else will fall into place.

“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” (Matt.6:33)

I can’t boast in my own strength, because I am unable to maintain the life of the Good Person.  But I can boast in one thing: the cross of Christ.  It is through His sacrifice alone that I can stand in righteousness today.  I will boast in the Lord my God; I will boast in the One who is worthy.  Because I am not.

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7 Responses

  1. Phylicia, reading this was an echo of the outpouring of my heart to God in prayer this very day. I too am the Good Person, but so very tired of my niceness seeming to be a hindrance to others seeing Christ. May He help us to display His glory, even in our niceness.

  2. This post is both funny and challenging. Amen to everthing you said. When people at my work try to compliment me, I sometimes tell them about Romans 3:10, and express my dependance on Christ and Him crucified alone. When I was starting high-school, I realized that “trying to be good” wasn’t working for me, so I lived in the world instead. Then by God’s grace, the Scriptures brought me to the end of myself at age 19. I could not look anywhere but to Jesus. I was truly born-again and never can go back to trying to be good again, because as you said, “it is through His sacrifice alone that I can stand righteous today.” Thanks for this post!

  3. Amen. I can identify with being the good kid, the teacher’s pet, so I know where you’re coming from. But I think people need to see the difference between the “good person” and the Christian. They need to know why we are different but we need to live the life first.

  4. Only in Christ can we be worth anything at all… what a marvelous reminder of the greatness of our God!

  5. How well said, Phylicia. Amen.
    Again, I can relate perfectly to all you have said.

    …we must be sisters! 🙂

    Thanks for the encouragement.

  6. Dear Phylicia,
    Thank you for making time to wright on this topic. I am a pleaser and always have been. This has worked to my mom’s advantage for many years (28 to be exact). It is really wearing me down though. About three years ago I did just that, fell off my very tall very narrow pedistal and man it hurt! Now I get the silet treatment at times from my Pop (father-in-law) for some reason or another and it hurts because it usually ties to something I didn’t even know I did. Then my mom still trys the ‘ I’m so pitiful you must come see me ‘ or the ‘ I was such a bad mom ‘ thing to get me to load up my two little ones for an almost three hour trip to her new place where my children don’t nap well to then trun around and drive home the almost three hours. This makes for a long day. Really it is exhosting trying to be the pleaser. I really should be blunt and say, “Mom, it is a bit much right now in my life to make that trip every weekend we don’t have my in-laws up here. I just keep thinking my suttle hints will do the trick or that she would turn her brain on and really rememeber what it was like with two little children and how much she traveled and what a joy it was to be home.

    Sorry but you really hit a nurve in my heart when I read this entry. I have been struggling with this a lot here of late and am just about ready to ask my beloved husband if there is a job opening in Austrellia or Canada or even Eroup (all places he has mentioned in the past) for us to live far away from all the expectations for a while. I know our family doesn’t even know they are doing this to me, but when I try to mention something in the direction of this I feel so guilty. I know it’s not healthy, but it really is a hard addiction to break! Pleasing others including God that is. I have a bit of it in my merriage, but the Lord has taught me that if I tell my beloved what is going on in my walk with God and that I have been trying to plesase him rather than HIM than he understands what is going on with me and gives me a moment to get my pryorities back in line. The Lord really has blessed me in this area, but giving it ALL to him seems to be the hardest part for me. I really want all of my parents to love me and appriciate me. What I know in my head that I need to do is to make sure my one and only God and Father loves me and appriciates me and not worry about the rest of them. If they don’t love the God in me then it’s their problem, right?! Now if I can just live this I would be a much better person. 🙂

    Alright, I should let you get back to your work and I really should get on with mine here as well. Thank you for sharing your blogg address on courtney’s comments, that is how I came to read this reminder of yours. May the Lord grow you in his ways and teach you many things you never knew you could know. Remember to pray always.

    Sincerely, – me – (Mommy of two little blessings)

  7. Dear Phylicia,

    Just a quick note. It seems pretty funny, but after I left my note I noticed that I am actually 29 not 28. Sorry, but I just had to come back and fix that. I know, kind of silly. 🙂
    Sincerely, – me – (Mommy of two little blessings)

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