It was supposed to be the catch-up of all catch-ups. We hadn’t seen each other in more than a year since she lives out of town. But then (my) life got in the way, and I had to complete an urgent work task that simply couldn’t wait.
As soon as I realised that there would be a conflict of obligations, I sent a message ahead of time to apologise for being a few minutes late.
But I arrived to a cold reception and despite a second apology, our planned lunch together chatting about everything under the sun as we usually did, remained stiff and impersonal, no more than a superficial exchange of information. The heart connection was missing. I am hoping, however, that the many years we have already walked together will mean that it is not altogether lost.
She probably could have handled me being a few minutes late were it not for the fact that she had (I came to learn) expected me to take the day off work to spend with her. On the other hand, I am in a very busy season of work and family and gladly put myself under pressure to spend time with her in the middle of a workday. I thought I was doing what I could under the circumstances. She thought I wasn’t doing enough. The result? Unmet expectations. On both sides.
Truth is, life doesn’t always go according to plan. The disappointments and unmet expectations of others show up unannounced, often taking us by surprise.
But whether knowingly or unknowingly, we all place (sometimes unrealistic) expectations on ourselves, others and even God.
This experience was an opportunity to revisit how best I can deal with unmet expectations (those of others as well as my own) in a way that honours God and my relationships. In her article, Expectation in the Bible — Managing Your Own Unmet Expectations, Diane Shirlaw- Ferreira encourages us to:
- Pray – Ask God to show us any expectations we may be placing on Him or people in our life and trust Him to meet our needs, in His time and according to His purpose.
- Journal – Write down how we are feeling each day and consider where we may be placing expectations, particularly unrealistic expectations on the people in our lives. Also include what we are grateful for, as gratitude is the perfect antidote to being upset when things don’t go our way.
- Be accountable – Allow others to speak into our lives concerning our expectations of others and ourselves.
- Give grace – Commit to assume the best of people, and be understanding of their life circumstances, adjusting our expectations where necessary.
Sometimes, relationships are not easy and our busy lives can make it harder to nurture them in a kind and loving way. But it starts with us. With our relationship with ourselves, and with our God too.
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