Many years ago, when I was in what was at the time called “first fervor,” I wrote in my little journal, Accept everything, expect nothing. When I read that, years later, I wondered where I was and what was happening or had happened to prompt that entry. Acceptance of everything, I realize now, was far more inclusive than good judgment and mental health would endorse. Good citizenship sometimes demands non-acceptance of many things. Good spirituality always demands careful consideration of new and, very often, old ideas.
The other half of that entry was just as problematic. One doesn’t make big decisions like entering the convent at 17 expecting nothing. Expectations are the basis for choices: Is this new book, written by an author I don’t know, worth my time? Will this computer, while priced attractively, prove a good buy?
I should have expectations, especially of myself. In those days, when a young sister was assigned to teach subjects she had never studied, there was seldom room for questioning. But if she was not totally petrified of trying to explain a scientific principle to a class far more advanced than she in science, she prepared as best she could and walked into the class with an air of confidence expecting she really could do this.
The problem today is that as American citizens in 2020, we are expected to accept everything our president and Republican-controlled Senate decide for us. We have learned not to expect much in return. Promises are empty; assurances prove untrue; lies outright and excuses in abundance when promises and assurances fail to meet our expectations are the order of the day. We are no longer surprised; in fact, we have come to expect to be duped, denied and consistently disappointed.
How does a thoughtful, reasonable, conscience-aware person deal with this? It’s easy to throw up our hands in anger, to rant and rave because we have no way of countermanding bad decisions or legislation. We need to find ways, together and individually, to deal with our circumstances effectively without risking the loss of our own sanity and safety. Maybe this is the time to count our blessings; sift from our lists of aggravations all the things over which we have no control; take steps we can, even the costly ones, to make change happen where we can; and remember that God never expects more of us than we get the grace to manage.
The Serenity Prayer comes to mind:
God, grant me the grace to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage the change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
It’s that very last part that I really need to work on.