If someone were to ask, “What makes the perfect bishop?” or “What does a perfect relief society president do?”, it probably wouldn’t be hard for you to come up with a list of honorable behaviors: he is always smiling, she knows everyone’s names, he makes everyone feel loved.
We naturally carry expectations for those we interact with, including our Church leaders. And, to some extent, those expectations can be useful. It is healthy, for example, to expect yourself to feed your children, or to expect that your spouse will not abuse you.
However, when expectations rise too high, and when our emotions become tied to those high expectations, we run into trouble. In her most recent interview with Kurt Francom on Leading Saints, Jody Moore — a faith-based life coach who is especially popular among Latter-day Saint audiences— explores how we can drop our unnecessary expectations. Doing so will lead us to see, think, feel, and act with less judgment and more mercy.
Drop the Manual
Whenever you buy a car, it will come with a manual. When that car’s behavior doesn’t match what is laid out in the manual, you will take it in to the shop to get it fixed. We often treat our relationships with other people like we do our relationships with our cars. We create a manual for what a spouse, parent, bishop, or relief society president should look, act, and talk like. Sometimes we even use gospel doctrine to construct our manuals. A wife may become irritated when her husband does not live up to her definition of what it means to “provide the necessities of life and protection for [the family],” as is outlined in “The Family Proclamation.”
Did Heavenly Father give us “The Family Proclamation” in order to drive a wedge into our marriages? The answer is clearly no. Yet it seems that Satan sometimes twists the doctrines, policies, and commandments of the Church in order to do just that: create strict manuals that put conditions on our love.
The thing is, people are not cars, and writing arbitrary manuals for the people in our lives only sets us up to be disappointed — “expectations are just premeditated disappointment,” Jody says. Instead of criticizing a bishop who is not meeting our expectations, we should move to a place of compassion. Counter negative thoughts with merciful ones: “Maybe that bishop is doing it wrong. Maybe he’s not following the policies as they’re laid out. But he means well. He’s doing the best he knows how. He’s a human being, so of course he’s going to mess up.”
Jody suggests a more powerful focus for our thoughts: rather than ask yourself how others could improve, ask, “Who do I want to be; how do I want to feel?”
The irony of focusing on how you wish others would improve is that, in the meantime, you are likely falling short in many of the same ways in which you believe others to be flawed. Jody illustrates this idea, which she calls “mirroring”:
“If I think that my bishop is doing it wrong . . . then I am inevitably, unless I choose consciously otherwise, going to start doing it wrong. In other words, [I’ll stop] being the kind of ward member that I probably want to be . . . I’m not sustaining my bishop; I’m not supporting him. That’s what feels terrible to us — [it] is us not living into the kind of being that we all at our core want to be — which is like God . . . . We’re not feeling bad because bishop is doing it wrong, we feel bad because we’re doing it wrong.”
So, what do we do to get out of this downward spiral of judgment? “We can break the cycle by thinking, ‘Okay, this person is showing up this way. But I don’t want to feel that way. I don’t want to behave that way. So, I’m going to choose something different.’” We learn from the mistakes of others, rather than dwelling on those mistakes and becoming frustrated by them.
Give People Permission to Be Themselves
It is safe to say that most, if not all, people enjoy the sense of security that comes with being in control. However, it is critical to recognize the things in life that we can and cannot control. When we get caught up in trying to change others to make them what we want them to be, we are attempting to control the behavior of others — which, thanks to our God-given agency, is impossible.
Despite the irrationality of such an attempt, many people still try to control other people. Jody gives an example: “I see this in spouse relationships, where I might tell my husband, ‘Hey, this is my love language — gifts. So, I need a gift or a nice note every now and then.’” The husband then might start giving gifts and writing notes, “but if he’s doing it just because I told him to, then I’m connecting with this version of him that I manipulated and created. I’m not connecting with him, really.”
Jody suggests a different approach: “What if our only expectation was just that everyone would be themselves?”
She further notes: “This doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t make requests of people . . . The difference is that when we hang our emotions on whether or not they do it, and we choose to be grumpy and unhappy if they aren’t willing to do it or don’t do it, [then] we’re getting into trouble. I make requests all day long. I just know that I’m responsible for how I feel . . . And I might [feel disappointed, but] that’s on me. I don’t give my emotional control over to other people.”
In Church leadership, we can apply these principles to our councils, quorums, and classes. Within any organization, we will find individuals whose opinions, backgrounds, and personalities clash with our own. Instead of wishing that everyone else was just like we are, we can adopt a more mature and godly mindset by recognizing the beauty in diversity. We might even intentionally choose counselors or advisors who contrast with us. We will only expect that those people will be themselves—and we will even hope that they will do so, for the best ideas will come when we have a wide variety of ideas to choose from.
Only Have Expectations for Yourself
Jody explains how, as a life coach, she measures her own success only by her own standards, and not by the behavior of others. If she expected others’ behaviors to give an accurate representation of her work, then she would never be mentally or emotionally in control of her work.
“My goal can’t be that [my clients] like me or that they’re happy. My goal is that I’m showing them and telling them the truth. I define success for myself around the things that I have control over.”
Likewise, leaders should not depend upon the opinions or actions of others for their own validation. As Kurt describes, most bishops will find that 15% of the ward dislikes them, while another 5% will likely hate them. But it is not the bishop’s, nor anyone’s, job to please others.
The only expectations we should set are for ourselves.
The only opinions we need to worry about are our own and God’s.
Whether you are in a position of leadership or of being led, you will inevitably encounter personalities, behaviors, and ideologies that differ from your own. Rather than resist and judge such diversity, we can make the empowering choice to see others as Christ sees them: not for where they are currently, but for what they can become. We can let go of unneeded expectations and instead see the divine in those around us, which will ultimately aid us in our own progress towards divine goals. (Get in touch with Jody Moore Coaching.) website: https://jodymoore.com
Brooklyn Edwards is a student from Evergreen, Colorado, attending Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah. She is majoring in editing and publishing with a business minor. Her experience in Church leadership includes a full-time mission in Sweden as well as various callings within YSA wards, including service in Relief Society presidencies and activities committees. Brooklyn interns as an editor for BYU Continuing Education’s strategic marketing team. Along with writing, she loves running, reading, violin, cooking, and spending time with friends and family. Her desire to lead by following the Savior is what brought her to Leading Saints and keeps her passionately listening to and sharing its messages.