An Easy Lesson to Forget

Last Wednesday night’s session of the Seven Laws of the Learner focused on the power of expectations: the expectations we bring to particular events has a powerful impact on the way in which we respond. A large amount of research has been done on the “Pygmalion Effect”, showing how expectations shape reality in significant ways. The term is coined from the play of the same name, made into the film “My Fair Lady” where Eliza Doolittle is transformed from a street urchin into a regal lady, presented to a society who had been prepared to meet ‘the grandest lady of Europe’. Their expectations were well and truly met.

As I prepared for that session, I reflected on expectations I hold in particular areas of my life, wondering whether over the years I have settled for much less than I had hoped, and let my own expectations fall unnecessarily. Being comfortable with what we achieve sometimes diminishes our expectations of where we might go. I was also given pause to reflect on my own expectations of others, both those that I hold within myself, and the way in which I communicate them to others. Do I affirm good things in others, and help them to achieve even more? Or does my language diminish the achievements of others, and thereby discourage them from striving for excellence?

We are forced to admit that we Australians (in general) find great difficulty in affirming others, and in receiving affirmation from others. The end result is that we settle for less than the best, we are left feeling alone and unappreciated in the search for excellence. We are not good encouragers. Stop and consider who was the last person you gave encouragement, and how regularly you offer words of affirmation to others.

We reflected on the verses in Hebrews 3:12-13 and 10:25-26, with the urging to encourage one another daily. We as God’s people should surely be he most encouraging of all, helping one another achieve the very best that God wants us to be. It is a habit that we desperately need to relearn.

September 21, 1997
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