Well, What Did You Expect?

A while ago my brother posted on his blog about expectations and potential, specifically his own.  For those of you who aren’t going to follow the links he said basically that most of his life he’s been told that he has so much potential and only recently was he ever told that he had actually met that potential and that just by one person.

And it got me thinking, I’m a fairly smart girl, I grew up with most of the advantages that can be expected (no, my parents did not spend millions on my sweet 16.  Heck , they didn’t even buy me a car, but I had one at my disposal and I went to college and … you know, the usual non-Hollywood advantages.)  And here I am 15 years after graduating from high school still without a bachelor’s degree, I have a job that I like but doesn’t pay all that well, a small home in a crappy neighborhood (sorry, if you happen to live by me but, I’m just sayin’) my house is always a mess, my kids are occasionally really badly behaved, and I’m regularly told how amazing I am, what a great job I’ve done, that I do so much, that I’m impressive and fantastic and inspirational and all that rot.

Now, far be it from me to say that those who are calling me great are wrong, in fact I think they’re right on the money, but it seems weird to me that my brother who was raised in the same environment and has ended up in a similar situation, small house, low paying job, etc… (although he does have a bachelor’s, and eight kids) has not lived up to his potential and I have.  Doesn’t that just seem weird?

And then we were talking to my sisters about it and they said the same thing, they’re regularly told how great they are and what a great job they’ve done with their lives.  And they are great, and they have all done fantastic things (a heck of a lot better then me, but then I set the bar pretty low.) but why are they commended for that so regularly while our brother isn’t?

So we’re wondering, is it a male/female thing?  Has my brother not met his amazing potential because he’s a guy and he’s not running a fortune 500 company and I have because I’m a girl and I work full time with a smile on my face? (Let’s face it, the smile is just because working gets me away from the kids anyway.)  If I were running a fortune 500 company but I had no kids would I still be meeting my potential?  And seriously, the man has 8 kids and he knows ALL of their names, how is that not meeting your potential?!?  What do you people want anyway?

I’m not really one to rail on about the evil patriarchal society in which we live but I think the bar may be set a little lower for girls than it is for boys.  I manage to get up in the morning, I even sometimes get dressed, I birthed and have manged not to kill any of my four children so anything I do above and beyond that it just exceeding expectations.

Chris, my brother, does not run a fortune 500 company but he does run 2 small businesses (at last count) he’s active in the community, having been the president of his rotary club, a member of the chamber of commerce and working with several other small business groups, he has 8 children all of whom know and like him, he grows an enormous garden every year, and then he gives a lo of it away to neighbors, to friends, to family, to whoever wants or needs it.  In fact he’ll give anything he has to anyone who needs it.  He once gave me a car.  Yes, he GAVE me a CAR.  He’ll house you, feed you, clothe you, give you a car, or a job, or you know, whatever you need, no questions asked, no strings attached.  If that guy hasn’t met his potential no one has.

9 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Kristina P.
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 18:54:37

    Interesting food for thought. It sounds like he has reached amazing potential and has done a lot of good.

  2. Susan M
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 20:26:37

    Maybe women are just more likely to pat each other on the back than men are.

  3. E
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 22:09:05

    I think Susan is right.

  4. E
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 22:13:41

    Oh yeah, and Chris is one of the coolest people I know. (Right up there with his sister!) Maybe I’ll say more tomorrow. But mostly I think you said it all-or maybe I’m just tired.

  5. Sara H.
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 08:15:46

    The worldly, materialistic, status, etc. achievements are easier to see and to measure by other people (nice house, fancy car, powerful job), but things that are of more lasting and satisfying value are harder to see and less flashy. Raising kids, having a loving (for the most part) marriage, and being a generally good person are not going to get a lot of attention. And I do think that many people (esp. at church) expect women to be focusing more on the nurturing family activities, and men to be accumulating money and goods as their primary responsibility. It’s a little bit different where I live since many mothers work on their “careers” and hire people to raise their kids. I just called myself out on that too. 🙂

  6. cheryl
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 09:11:15

    What everyone else said.

    My problem is that everyone says I’ve lived up to my potential, and yet I still don’t feel like I have. But this is my problem, not other people’s, you know?

    Ooh! Plus we should never care what other people think (emphasis on ‘should’).

  7. Janelle
    Dec 03, 2009 @ 21:35:02

    My potential radar starts beeping when I’m around people like your brother than the fortune 500 crowd.

    I love helpful, down to earth dads.

    And their sisters.

  8. bythelbs
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 16:08:49

    I’m with Susan and E. We seem to worry more about making sure women know their value, while we take it for granted that men already know. Or something.

  9. Chris Jones, Lehi Utah
    Dec 12, 2009 @ 15:20:00

    First off, my sisters are ALL amazing people. I mean that in every possible sense of the word. They inspire me to be better, and they create good in the world wherever they go. None of them is perfect, I don’t think, but I admit to a level of uncertainty on that point, and the uncertainty is growing.

    Second, I think I’m getting too much praise here. Half the time I give people things so that they will like me, and that’s profoundly selfish. I’m fighting it, but it’s a long battle.

    Third, nobody reaches his potential, not in this life. That’s a theological statement in addition to a philosophical one.

    Fourth, there is definitely a gender-based element here, and I never saw it before these comments. A female in my position would be seriously nominated for Mother of the Year on an annual basis, and I say that with shame, not with pride. Most of the mothers I know are better people than their husbands, never mind the accolades their husbands get for their measurable in-the-world “achievements”. I have the resume to be MOY, but my wife, who also has that resume and is actually worthy of the honor, will never be nominated.

    I read something this morning by Orson Scott Card, a short story called “The Originist”, which is mostly about the relationship between a man and his wife toward the later end of their lives. That relationship is deep and powerful and real, and in describing it Card says something on the order of “what I create in her is mine, and what she creates in me is hers, and neither of us is anything worth mentioning by ourselves.” And I realized that while I personally have never become a world-class singer or a wealthy man, or anything of excellence and notoriety, in my wife I have the most precious jewel I have ever seen or known of. And I cannot deny that in her, I have achieved something of infinite preciousness.

    Of course, most of what she is is HER, and not me, but there is some of me there. The best of me. What there is of me in her is far better than anything I, or anyone sensible, could ever have expected. It is far BEYOND my potential.

    I never saw that until this morning.

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