Feet of clay

A work of art

OK, I agree. 

Every man would like to have such sexy feet. You are allowed to be envious guys, I understand, I really do. Great goat’s wool socks too. Rare these days, huh? Did you know they still exist? I wear them all the time. Summer and winter. 
Beautiful is kind of a spiceless expression regarding to my feet of clay, is it not? 

Anyway, it is so nice to write in a language other than your own. I didn’t know for instance “feet of clay” is a common expression for a weakness or hidden flaw in the character of a greatly admired or respected person: “He was disillusioned to find that even Van Meegeren had feet of clay.”

Expectations and disappointment

Feet of clay. Expectations and disappointment. The two are interconnected I think. 

In a wedding ceremony, couples exchange vows, which then establish expectations about faithfulness and constancy. These are legitimate expectations and when they are violated there are good reasons for disappointment and outrage. In these cases, people are also more than disappointed, they are also harmed by the breaking of vows. These are expectations that hence need to be taken seriously and when you enter into a marriage you are creating these kinds of expectations and promising to fulfill them. A wife expects to grow old with her husband. A husband expects a wife to care about him. Some of the expectations that arise in this relationship are well founded, some of them not. Managing the ones that are well founded is a task of practical judgment. And managing to dissuade the other person of the ones that are not well founded is a task of practical judgment.

The philosopher Kant says that the key to managing other people’s expectations is first of all to become aware of them. When people first marry they are not aware of all the expectations that are unconsciously lurking. It is only in living and facing the frustration of the expectation that we become aware of the expectation and then can modify it or change the circumstances. And as we become aware of other people’s expectations of us some of those are not going to be conducive to our best self-interest. In these cases, we need to learn how to help other people change their expectations of us in an effective way. Getting angry can sometimes be effective but not always. Sometimes anger just gets anger in response.

It is often very helpful to simply tell the other person what your expectations are so that they are aware that you too have expectations. Most people can adjust to your expectations if they don’t have strong expectations themselves. But conflict is going to occur when they have strong expectations. A person with good practical judgment will be aware of expectations and will pick up subtle hints of their reality and will also subtly replace them with more appropriate expectations. However, where subtlety is not effective the only alternative is to explicitly set her boundaries in a kind but firm way. A human being cannot be all things to all people and some expectations are simply in appropriate or too excessive.

The key of course is to communicate about your expectations. Before they turn into disappointment. 

And your feet will be covered in clay.

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