“I do my thing, and you do your thing.
I am not in this world to live up to your expectations
And you are not in this world to live up to mine.
You are you and I am I,
And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.
If not, it can’t be helped.”
~ Frederick Salomon Perls, Gestalt Prayer …
Most of us are familiar with the idiom “to live and let live,” an approach to life that expresses the idea that everyone should be able to live their own lives in the manner in which they see fit. Yet how often do we find people becoming caught up in the idea that others should be doing things as they do them, seeing things just as they see them, or espousing the same beliefs that they themselves hold dear? And how often are we ourselves overwhelmed with those very same beliefs and desires? I find it rather ironic when I hear people state that we should be authentic and unique and not seek to be copies of others, yet turn around and express disappointment and outrage when others do not follow their advice or act in ways contrary to their beliefs. The same applies for passing judgment on others for doing or saying something we consider wrong by our standards.
Unfortunately, while most of us would claim to believe in the philosophy of “live and let live,” many of us would qualify that statement with, “as long as…,” but that is not in line with the belief. Sadly, many of us feel that if someone is not living up to what we expect of them, that they are somehow failing or letting us down, when in fact, the disappointment is actually something we are imposing upon ourselves. The truth of matter is that others are not here to live up to our expectations or to live their lives according to our means.
As a parent, I get to experience this firsthand whenever one of my daughters makes a bad decision. Perhaps one of them does not want to participate in a sport that I would like to see her try, or she chooses to associate with someone who is a bad influence on her. Of course, I am going to feel disappointed and let down. But when I take the time to think of it in the correct perspective–that we are each on our own personal journeys through life… learning, discovering, growing, and developing–it is difficult for me not to see that this is part of her life and that I, too, have my own shortcomings and have made my own mistakes in life. And regardless of whether I feel let down by a decision she makes, or I become upset from a choice she makes, her life is exactly that… her life. She is living it and making the decisions that feel right to her, and my responsibility extends to that of being her parent–her guide and guardian in life–as she matures and becomes the woman she is meant to be.
One of the most amazing elements of life is diversity. It is a given when it comes to physical traits such as gender, race, ethnicity, and religion, for such things are concrete or made visible. And yet it is can also be found in the abstract traits that are not easily recognized or noticed such as our behaviors and habits, the decisions we make and the manner in which we do things, the ways in which we interact with others and express our love, and in so many other ways. The truth is that allowing others to be different, and celebrating and taking advantage of all those differences, are some of the most important responsibilities that we are tasked with in life.
Do not pass judgment or allow the decisions of others to make you feel disappointed today.
Questions to consider:
Why is it sometimes so difficult to let others “do their thing?”
How might we go about learning to let go of expectations and allowing others to lead their lives as they see fit?
Whose expectations do you try to live up to most: your own, or someone else’s?
For further thought:
“We need, in love, to practice only this: letting each other go. For holding on comes easily; we do not need to learn it.” ~ Rainer Maria Rilke, The Selected Poetry of Rainer Maria Rilke