Expectations cause conflict

If I believe that something is true — that one thing is true in the face of other things that are false or that one thing is right and other things are wrong -– when that truth becomes threatened I want to defend it.

If I develop a specific expectation of how something will be and then it doesn’t turn out that way, I feel hurt and I want to hold someone accountable. I want things to be how I expect.

This is the problem with our traditional view of the nature of truth. When I come to believe that something is true then I expect it to stay true forever, for all people. I want to count on it. I can become so attached to “the truth” that I close myself off from other possibilities. I can become so secure with my belief in something rock solid that if someone threatens to take that away from me I will fight. Some of us will fight to the death and or send others into war in the name of what we believe to be true.

Big truths are represented by creeds, doctrines, deeds and proclamations. And they cause big conflicts.

Small truths are represented by everyday expectations, and they cause conflicts too.

When I call someone and leave a message I expect them to return my call. This is a small truth for me. I believe that when someone calls and leaves a message for you, the right thing to do is to call them back. It’s how I was raised. Yet for someone else when a phone message is received they might think it’s okay to e-mail a reply or not reply at all or not even listen to the message. They might think, “Well if that person really wants to reach me they should text me.” Or they might think, “I don’t do phone messages.”

If I believe in the traditional notion of truth, that there is a single right answer to every problem, it’s my job to correct the behavior of the other person; bring them into line with my expectations. Or it’s my job to be angry at them and think of them as having done something wrong; that they are bad.

And it’s the other person’s job to defend their belief in what’s right. Perhaps that person is not even aware of any kind of ethic at all about phone messages. That person “knows” that the proper way to communicate is by text, not voice message. A voice message? Seriously?

So now we have a conflict because of mismatched expectations. I expect you to adhere to my truth and you expect me to adhere to your truth.

What if we had a new way of thinking about truth? Instead of reacting negatively when I leave a message and don’t get a return call, I simply shrug my shoulders and say, “Oh, perhaps that person doesn’t return voice messages. I’ll send them a text message.”

What if I instantly accepted that someone else could have a different truth than me? Instead of being in a conflict with someone about the right way to do something, what if we each instantly accepted each others’ truth. Rather than engage in conflict about which truth is truer or better, what if we tried solutions that simply work for the each others’ truth?

Letting go of what I think is true and embracing multiple truths seems like radical thinking. Yup. It is. We need radical thinking.

The way to peace is not steadfast adherence to a particular truth and expecting everyone around me to adhere to the same truth. Rather the way to peace is acceptance of all truths, openness to change, and detachment from expectations.


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