1. to defraud; swindle. 2. to deceive; influence by fraud. 3. to elude; deprive of something expected.
Some years ago, my husband’s grandfather died, leaving his heirs land and other property worth millions of dollars. Before his death, my husband and his granddad had walked this land that had been in the family since the Land Run, and his sweet old granddad told him, “this part will all be yours, the home place, your great-granddad’s homestead too, because I know you’ll care for it.” He put his property into a trust and retained his two most trustworthy sons to administer it.
About a year after the trust was established, my husband’s grandfather went into a nursing home. While he was there and still in his right mind, one of his two trustee sons was murdered by vagrants passing through the area. Now only one son was left, the son who later developed Alzheimer’s and could not be relied upon in any way. And then my husband’s granddad died, and the remaining sons took charge and cheated my husband out of his inheritance as we sat by helplessly, in spite of having hired attorneys and gone to court and spent four years trying to litigate our ways out of being cheated.
It’s especially painful when someone you trust, like, or even love cheats you. As King David said in Psalm 55, it doesn’t bother you as much when it’s an enemy who cheats you, but when it’s a family member or friend, someone you trust, someone you’ve gone to church with, someone who has lived under your roof or with whom you’ve been intimate–oh, my. Oh my, oh my. When one you broke bread with cheats you, one who “dips his bread with me” at the table as Judas did with Jesus, then you know you’ve been cheated.
Everyone has been cheated or will be cheated at some point in life. Everyone has had someone else make a promise they later broke. Everyone has been on the switch end of the old bait-and-switch cheat. Everyone has felt cheated by life or the universe or circumstances, when we don’t receive what we expected, planned, or hoped for. You marry someone you thought you knew, and six years later you discover he’s had an affair. You raise your children with every value you can muster, and when you finally have an empty nest and can look forward to a comfortable retirement with your spouse, your oldest child is diagnosed with schizophrenia. You have to raise your grandchild. You get cancer. You finally retire and go on the world cruise you both always dreamed of, and your husband dies in Ireland, on the first leg of your journey. Your child is born handicapped and you learn you will always have to take care of her. Or, as actually happened to a friend of ours, the healthy kidney is mistakenly removed and the diseased one left. “You’ll have to be on dialysis unless a donor is found,” they said. At some point or another in life, everyone is cheated or feels cheated. Being cheated is loss.
Even when they haven’t actually been cheated, everyone feels cheated from time to time due to expectations. Psychoanalyst Karen Horney wrote at length about expectations, which she called “claims,” and their use by wounded folks. She said that we often have unspoken expectations and go through life imposing them on others without getting enough reality checks to discover whether or not our claims are, in fact, reasonable. What is owed is the stuff of psychology and religion.
What do you owe me? What do I owe you? What did I give you, and what must you give me in return? How do the laws of reciprocity, of sowing and reaping, apply? Is an outcome, a hope, a dream, an expectation, a contract, a covenant something I should be attached to? Or does all attachment lead to suffering, as Buddha taught?
Can a person ever be truly free of expectations? Ought we be? Is being free of expectations a worthy goal? What do we do when we’re feeling cheated, or when we have, in fact, been cheated? What can we do afterward with our feelings of sorrow, humiliation, shame, astonishment, and anger?