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  • Writer's pictureJohn Whitehead

Unmet Expectations

Most of us go through life with many expectations. Some of those expectations are contingent upon us while some are contingent upon others. Here is where “unmet expectations” have the most impact.


You see, when we fail to meet an expectation, we can always rationalize a reason why, but when someone fails to meet our expectations, it is much more difficult to accept.


I believe this is because we understand why we fall short, but we do not always understand why others do.


This is a convenient truth and one we all practice on a regular basis.


The question I have is, why we can see and understand when we fail to meet our own expectations but cannot accept “unmet expectations” when they pertain to others.


Perhaps it goes back to our willingness to accept more grace than we are willing to give. Or could it be we can be so disappointed in someone we cannot accept their shortcomings, while we cannot even see our own shortcomings.


The answer may be different for different people and circumstances, but the truth remains constant. “Unmet expectations” lead to unfulfilled desires, which can cause disappointment and pain.


When this occurs, it is often very difficult to show the grace necessary to move on. When this happens, relationships can be damaged, if not destroyed. The question is, are our “unmet expectations” more valuable to us than the relationship itself?


In some cases, it appears expectations are more important. How can this be? How can we not value others more than we value having our expectation met? I do not have the answer, but I do know it is happening all around us all the time.


Marriages are broken, families divided, and hearts hardened due to someone having experienced “unmet expectations”.


I have witnessed this in my own life and know the damage is real and the hurt and confusion related to having either not met someone’s expectations, or not having mine met has caused relational decay, which seems to be irreparable.


As I consider this, I realize it does not have to be this way. I do not have to be hurt by “unmet expectations”. I can simply believe the best in someone and lower my expectations. When I do, I can see the situation as it is, a moment of disappointment in a lifetime of joy found in a relationship built over time.


The truth is, we are always going to have “unmet expectations” just as we are always going to be unable to meet all the expectations others may have of us. If we can remind ourselves of this when it occurs in our lives, maybe we will be able to give that grace we so freely accept.


If not, we will continue to experience relational decay, which may cause us to lose the very ones we say we love.


Our model of underserved and unwavering grace is Jesus. Who if He had any expectations of me and you, would certainly see them as unmet. Of course, thankfully, this is not how His grace works.


The question is, can we show the same grace in our response to the “unmet expectations” we have and or will experience in our lives? I expect the answer will vary depending on how much we were expecting from someone else!


Romans 5:3-5 “We can rejoice, too, when we run into problems and trials, for we know that they help us develop endurance. And endurance develops strength of character, and character strengthens our confident hope of salvation. And this hope will not lead to disappointment.





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