Reputation, Expectation and Striving 

We are all building reputation, whether intentionally or not.

Our reputation becomes what people see most consistently. This means that if people consistently see me being crude in my language and humour, that will become the reputation that proceeds me wherever I go. 

What I found to happen once I had built a reputation, is that people would begin to expect certain behaviours from me. If my reputation was for crude language and humour, then this is what people would come to expect in my behaviour as a reflection. 

This same pattern occurred in my life when as a theology student I had answers to most people's questions when it came to faith, the Bible and theology.

Since what people saw consistently was a man who seemed to have all the answers, they began to expect me to have the answers to all of their questions. These two stages are inevitable, but the stage that follows is not.

I was at university. In a new city. Still establishing who I am.

In this insecurity of not really know who I was, I latched onto these expectations as my identity and I started to strive to fulfil them. When the expectation of others became my identity it meant that was building who I am on a broken foundation. Building on this foundation meant that when I could not fulfil the expectation of knowing the answers, I became very defensive and argumentative. 

This is not a healthy pattern of life.

When I live to fulfil the expectations of others, I am walking further away from who really I am.

I believe that an important lesson we all have to learn in life is that people will always have an expectation of others but it is not our responsibility to live up to them. In my case, people can expect that I will have the answer but I have no responsibility to have the answers. 

When we lift the responsibility of fulfilling the expectations of others, we are no longer living for others. We are now living for ourselves, which means that we get to discover more about ourselves. I started this discovery by looking at rest; living from others expectations took a lot of work.

Rest is vital as it is our focal point: It centres us for the week.

The struggle I had was working out what rest looked like.

I had so many people tell me what rest was supposed to look like. I had some tell me that rest still needed to be productive.  Others say rest is spending time on your own. Others say it is spending time with others.

Rest is simple in the sense that it is not hard to do, but it isn’t simple as it requires an awareness of our needs.

Rest should be something that revitalises you or to put it another way something that brings you life.

This is determined by your needs. I found this hard to determine at first, as later I found out through various personality test that I am a contemplative extrovert. What this means is that I am revitalised or get life from both being around people and spending time on my own, thinking, reading and writing. To find rest I had to learn how to (and am still learning) balance these two factors of my personality. I had to learn to withdraw to a quiet place on my own when I had a busy week working and being around people to meet the needs of being contemplative. Whereas if I had a week where I hadn’t seen many people, to fulfil my extrovert needs. 

Once we discover what it looks like to rest, we also begin to discover who we really are as we explore our needs, our desires and our dreams.

As we explore these areas of ourselves we will become more secure in knowing who we are.

This security helps us deal with the conflict between who we are and who others expect us to be so that we will not fall back into a place of striving to fulfil these expectations.  

Life is not supposed to be a pattern of reputation, expectation and striving. Rather life should be a rhythm of reputation, expectations and simply being.  

Author: Joel Voegeli