Expectations, life is filled with them. Sometimes we create them for ourselves, and sometimes society creates them for us. But either way, we always have the choice whether we want to conform to them or not. There are also times when we have expectations of those around us or for the circumstances that we’re entering into. I know that I’m not alone when I say that there have been many times when I’ve been severely disappointed because my preconceived notions for a situation were way too high. It’s good to hope for certain outcomes, or for certain trips to go well, or for people to achieve the best they can. However, we can’t go through our lives assigning unrealistic or unfair standards to the people and plans in our lives.
Very seldom are people actually able to live up to the standards we set for them in our minds, because we set the bar so high that we can barely see it ourselves. When we don’t realise that our standards for other people are outrageously high, we can begin to become annoyed and frustrated with people because they aren’t meeting our expectations. It’s even worse when we have expectations for someone, but we never tell that person what we expect, so no matter what they do it will never be good enough. This is how you ruin relationships. Unvoiced expectations breed deep-seated resentment and annoyance. We begin to feel like the other person is purposefully messing up or slacking off just to get under our skin; when in fact we never told them what we expected so they never knew what we were looking for. Yes, sometimes it is wise to keep our thoughts to ourselves especially if it is a project that we have no part in; but if it is something that we are in charge of or that we are working on then it’s vital that we voice what we’re looking for.
I speak from experience when I say that there has been many a trip that has fallen short of my grandiose expectations for it. Not because of any one thing or person, but simply because I had imagined it to be something out of a book or movie. In my heart and mind I affixed unrealistic hopes and dreams to these trips and so I set myself up for failure because nothing could ever come close to what I had imagined. This often accounts for our feelings of disappointment with ourselves in our day to day lives as well. We set unrealistic and unattainable expectations for ourselves and our futures, and then we beat ourselves up when we don’t achieve them. If I expect to fit into size 8 jeans when I go shopping then I will be disappointed and frustrated every time I try on those pants, because no matter how hard I wish for it, I won’t be able to squeeze into them. By setting up and maintaining unfair expectations for ourselves, we are leading ourselves down a path that only leads to self-loathing and disappointment.
Instead of living under the crushing weight of the standards that society (or myself) puts on me, I’m choosing to live in the light of a redeemed life. When I focus on God, and what he expects of my life I no longer live in a state of placing unrealistic standards on myself and everyone around me. Yes, the Lord expects a number of things from us, the first and foremost being to love and follow Him with all our hearts, but the amazing thing is that even when we do fall short of those expectations He’s there to pick up back up again. He doesn’t get annoyed or frustrated or write us off as a lost cause when we fail to meet His commands; He reaches down and surrounds us with His love and reminds us that it is only through Him and with Him that we are able to live a life worthy of our calling.
Stop beating yourself and those around you up about squashed or missed expectations. Choose to deal with grace and love with the people in your life, and remember to afford yourself that same courtesy. Expectations are perfectly fine and challenge us to grow, so long as they are set and voiced with love, and with the knowledge that achieving them (or not achieving them) doesn’t define our worth.