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By Ryan Weldon

Most people say I have unrealistic expectations of myself, and they’re probably right. But I don’t see anything wrong with striving for excellence and squeezing out that extra effort, especially when the results are positive and I can maintain a healthy balance. But my expectations did lead to a problem I had to deal with.

My wife and I are your pretty typical, average American family; we have three kids. The oldest is my son. As with any firstborn, he is the benefactor of being the only child for a few years, but he was also our test case. If you’re a parent or the oldest child, you know what I’m talking about. 

It doesn’t hit you until you walk out of the hospital, take your baby into your house, and think to yourself, “Now what?” It doesn’t matter how many books you read about parenting or how many classes you took; this is real life on-the-job training, so buckle up.

I would like to say we never made any mistakes. I would like to tell you we are perfect parents and our child is a flawless reproduction of the son we had envisioned raising. Don’t get me wrong; our son is amazing, but that’s because my wife is amazing. While I’ve learned a lot about parenting, raising my son has taught me more about myself than anything else I’ve ever done in my life. He’s the way he is despite me.

Remember, I have high expectations of myself. While this didn’t create personal problems for me, it definitely created problems for my son.

From the moment he was born, I’ve imagined greatness for him. I’ve imagined that he can do anything and everything he would ever want, but that it was up to me to prepare him and lead him down that path. I have imagined that when people look at my son and how he behaves, they would be looking at a reflection of who I am and how I behave as a parent. As he’s aged, this has become more problematic because he’s not me. He is his own person. He has his own personality and way of going about life. I’m reminded of this more and more each day. 

My brain hasn’t always recognized that. When he did something I didn’t think was right by my standards, I would react in a way that can only be described as overly critical and highly disciplinary. This happened over and over again, and I became very frustrated that nothing was changing. It seemed like I was on a carousel and this situation would come up on a regular basis. My reactions became increasingly intense, to the point that my wife was becoming concerned. In a moment of pain and frustration, I decided to pray and look inward at my reaction. What transpired was nothing less than life changing. 

I realized my reaction to my son was a direct result of my expectation that he would live up to the high standards I have for myself. When he didn’t meet those expectations, I saw it as a direct reflection on me. I was expecting my child to have all the knowledge I’ve learned over the years, to know how to act and react in any situation the same way that I would. 

I know what you’re thinking: “How unfair is that?” You’re absolutely right. It’s not fair at all, not even a little bit.

But before you go thinking I’m the most terrible person in the world, let me explain why almost every Christian has done this exact same thing, even you.

After seeing the error of my ways, I started seeing how I had been placing unrealistic expectations on other people in my life, especially non-Christians.

You see, I have these standards for my life set by this guy named Jesus. They’re pretty high standards: love God above all and love people as you love yourself. This isn’t easy, especially when people don’t treat me the same as I’m expected to treat them. In fact, there have been many times when someone in my life isn’t meeting these standards and I get upset and downright judgmental.

You say, “But other Christians should also be living by those standards.”

You are right, but should I be holding non-Christians to those same standards? 

The short answer for me is no. Just as it’s unfair for me to impose my personal expectations on my young son, it’s unfair for me to expect those who have not accepted Jesus into their lives to live by His standards. In fact, followers of Jesus are expected to love non-Christians despite their actions or behavior towards us. 

Here’s the caveat: just because I don’t hold my son accountable to the standards I hold for myself, that doesn’t mean I’m not teaching him the standards by which I want him to learn to live his life. In the same way, we can be examples of Christian standards in a non-Christian setting without demonizing or promoting others’ current choices.

We’re not perfect; we won’t get it right all the time. But God is asking us to remove the barriers between us and the people we’re trying to reach. Let people be who they are, not who we think they should be based on expectations they don’t even know exist. We can meet people where they are, build relationships, create connections, and lead them into a relationship with Christ Then we can join God in showing the world that despite our inability to live up to our own expectations, there is still grace and love through Jesus Christ.

About The Author

Ryan Weldon

Ryan Weldon is currently on staff as the Music Director at Journey Church of the Open Bible in Des Moines, Iowa. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Regina. The Weldons have one son, one daughter, and one well-behaved dog. Ryan is passionate about leadership development, about showing people how to get out of their own way and realize their God-given potential.