Asymetric Moral Expectations


I have noticed an asymmetry in how I expect myself to act compared to what I expect from other people. Specifically, I normally hold myself to higher standards than the people around me. For example, if I go through a door and there is someone behind me, I will probably hold the door open for them. In contrast, if the person in front of me holds it open for me, I am always a bit surprised. I apply this even to people who I intellectually consider to more righteous and/or caring than I am.

When I think about it, this really seems a bit unfair to the people around me: I am assuming that they have lower standards than I do, which is arguably an insult. It also could be a instance of pride, in the sense that I am implicitly claiming to be better than everyone else. And then, given how often I do this, it is arguably an instance of self-deception. None of these seem good.

On the other hand, this results in me frequently being pleasantly surprised at how the people around me act, which makes me happy, feel really glad to know them, and want to be with them more. It also often results in me trying to be nice to them back, which, I assume, makes them happy, glad to know me, and want to be with me more. So, it would appear that too-low expectations contribute to happiness and friendship.

Note: I have deliberately avoided defining what I mean by high standards of righteousness. I assume that different people use different standards when the judge others, and exactly what they are is not relevant to the point.


I got the following interesting response:
Low expectations is what is believed to be one of the top reasons Denmark (my husband's country) has been ranked the #1 in the happiest people in the world for over the past decade. If you don't want much, and don't seek much, than whatever falls in your lap is a very happy circumstance!

Could also be why North Americans are so miserable. We are the most impacted by the "Hollywood disease," where we are encouraged at infancy to dream the impossible and become anything; put into bubble-wrap lives where we are so protected that we live-to-play video games so that we feel like we are accomplishing something, and told what we see on TV should reflect our lives. We expect to live a life repainted by graphic artists and dazzling lights, and then wonder why 1/3 of us are clinically depressed, or why we have skyrocketing suicide rates...

I don't think it is an issue of pride unless you believe that you deserve ____ (whatever thing or action). "The first shall be last and the last shall be first" we can see it so clearly! So for those of us who know Christ, we should walk humbly and let our actions speak louder than words. "By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another".

We are surprised when we encounter a good neighbor in the world - very similarly to the Samaritan man. When we are in trouble, sometimes those that we expect help from, do not offer it; but instead a 3rd person, we had not considered, is who God sends to us. Instead of believing ourselves deceived, we must realize that we do not know the whole story. God spoke to Job and asked if he knew how God kept the ocean and the land separated (and many other obviously "no" questions). We do not know why, yet God does. Sometimes they are for our benefit, sometimes for someone else's benefit, and sometimes to give glory to God through our faithfulness.

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