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When Appreciation Turns to Expectation

January 21, 2020

I can distinctly remember one of my first speaking engagements.

It was pouring down rain. As I pulled up to the event venue—wipers working furiously against the raindrops pummeling my windshield—I noticed the option to valet, entertained the idea for a fraction of a second, and turned into the self-parking lot. $22 for valet? That definitely wasn’t in the budget. Decked out in the nicest suit I owned, I stepped out of the car into a puddle, opened my umbrella, and attempted to balance my laptop and umbrella in one arm, and a giant box full of my books in my other arm, as I made my way to the venue entrance. With socks soaked through, I walked on stage and gave it all I had.

Thankfully, things look a little different now—at least most of the time. With more experience, I’m landing bigger speaking engagements with better benefits. My days of lugging books around and trudging through parking lots full of puddles still happen, but they are few and far between. At my last speaking engagement, the company who hired me didn’t try to cut corners. I pulled right up to the main entrance of the Ritz Carlton at Lake Oconee, handed my keys to the valet attendant, and was immediately greeted by a host: “Welcome, Mr. Scott. We’re so glad you’re here!” 

Talk about a contrast. It’s truly humbling. I love what I get to do.

I’ve heard Jeff Foxworthy talk about the progression in his comedic career and describe a similar experience. He went from doing any comedy gig he could get on nights and weekends to hosting sold-out shows across the country. He went from being treated like the 3:00 a.m. slot at the local comedy club to “Mr. Foxworthy, how can I serve you?”

I’m nowhere near as successful as Jeff Forxworthy, but I can see a similar progression.  You have a little bit of success, you gain additional benefits, and people start treating you differently. Jeff Foxworthy said that when clients and hosts first began treating him better he was genuinely humbled and thankful, but the more he progressed in his career, the more he began to expect this special treatment. He said it became easy for him to forget where he’d come from and be genuinely grateful for the care he received.

There’s no problem with people choosing to treat us better, but when we shift from appreciating it to expecting it, it becomes a heart issue.

This plays out in so many different areas of our lives. Our first experiences of care, kindness, and service make us grateful, but once we get into a routine, it’s easy to take them for granted and to expect others to go the extra mile. 

When you first begin dating someone, you’re amazed by the things they do and the ways they love and care for you. But down the road, after you’ve been married for a little while, it’s easy to expect those things. When they bring you a cup of coffee as you’re getting ready, you aren’t appreciative because you expect them to do it. 

When you’re a new member of a church, it’s easy to appreciate your pastor and the hours of work he puts into teaching and serving your community. But once you’ve been a member for a little while, you begin to expect it, and you stop thanking him for the work he does for you week after week.

Early on at ADDO, I remember being so thankful and genuinely appreciative of people willing to work extra hours and put in additional effort to help a client and our company succeed. But I have seen seasons of our organization where I began to expect people to do that. 

Here’s what’s interesting: When I am appreciative of what others do, I find that most of the time they are appreciative of what I do. But the inverse is also true. And that’s the danger. When we move from appreciation to expectation, we get on a slippery slope that makes our relationships transactional.

This week, I want to challenge you to live a life of appreciation. If you begin to notice yourself expecting something that you used to appreciate, stop, take a deep breath, and intentionally grow in gratitude. 


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