I believe our lack of satisfaction in life and in relationships is connected with the expectations we hold. One reason we are dissatisfied is we base our expectations on past experiences. If someone grew up in a prosperous home, he may expect to live at that level of (or greater) prosperity as an adult. If someone is accustomed to plenty of time for leisure activities, she will expect lots of leisure in her future.
Just like “keeping up with the Jones,” we compare ourselves with others and expect to have what our peers have. It becomes our expected norm. We become entitled in our thinking. This attitude of entitlement affects us on a deeper, basic level.
In short, we have Great Expectations. Life is great if we get these things and stinks if we don’t get them. We come to believe “this is how it is supposed to be.”
Not only are we “supposed to” have a great job, modern housing, nice stuff and stimulating leisure activities, we also are “supposed to” have great relationships with people who do what we expect them to do, when we expect them to do it. Our Great Expectations affect all of our close relationships—with our kids, our spouses, even our relationship with God!
When we don’t get what we are “supposed to” get, we feel cheated. We are left in frustration and pain which can result in anger or depression, or both. Much of our pain and frustration comes because we have the wrong expectations, or the wrong level of expectation. We expect things in abundance and are devastated if we don’t get them.
Do you know anyone with Great Expectations like I’ve described above? Of course you do! Don’t we all fall into this category, at least part of the time? But, what do we do about it?
Get back to Reality: Needs or Wants?
Our expectations are not necessarily realistic. Too often, what we believe to be needs are really our wants. Reality Check—Why are those things so important to you? Do you really need them?
Lower Your Expectations of Others
While there are legitimate things you can expect from your family members, no one will meet all of your expectations. If you lower the expectations you have of others and try to be more realistic, you will save yourself a lot of heartache and pain.
Contentment: Learn it! Practice It!
While in prison, the Apostle Paul gave good advice—“I have learned to be content in any and every situation” (Phil. 4:12) and “give thanks in all circumstances.” The secret is to remember He is with you and won’t let you down. Even if others let you down or if you are in a tough situation, God hasn’t forgotten you. Turn your concern into prayer and thank Him for helping you today.
Reframe your Expectations
Instead of hoping in things or accomplishments or in people, put your hope in God. He is the One who won’t disappoint. He promises a bright future to all believers in Christ. And, He promises to strengthen and help you today (Is 41:10).