Recently our son was disappointed by a situation with a friend. He had expectations for how the other boy would behave but the boy fell short of these expectations and our son was disappointed, so much so he blocked his number so the boy wouldn’t be able to contact him anymore. In talking with our son later about what had happened, we realized that his expectations were based on how he would react but did not take into account some factors about the boy that probably shaped the behaviors that occurred.
In your relationships with others, do you find that people often let you down and don’t meet the expectations you have set for them? Whether this is in a friendship, work relationship, marriage, or dating, expectations can leave us disappointed and even upset. But, have you ever thought about where these expectations come from and how you formed them?
Back to the discussion with our son, we identified four factors that can impact the expectations we set for others.
- Circumstantial experiences
These four factors can shape our expectations of others, oftentimes without us even realizing it.
Upbringing – The way you were raised plays a huge factor into what you expect from others. Your values, discipline, and basic foundational core impact your beliefs and expectations greatly. What you find important is oftentimes the result of your experiences in your upbringing. Things you love and things you despise are usually the results of the impact of your upbringing.
Circumstantial experiences – From the time you were a teenager until now what were some things you experienced in your life? Circumstances that were happy or traumatic greatly shape the expectations we place on others today.
Faith – How much do you allow God to move in your life and how much do you allow God to change you? Do you see yourself as God sees you or as the world sees you? These are vastly different mindsets and these two mindsets can lead to many disappointments in terms of expectations. Also, your faith (or lack of) shapes how you expect others to behave or react in certain situations.
Resolution – How do you see things resolved? Do you shy away from conflict or do you confront it head on? Are you typically the aggressor in situations or do you take the victim role? Do you hold your tongue and say little to nothing or do you spew words at people? Do you thoughtfully consider what you will say before saying it or do you speak before thinking? Or, do you block someone from your life completely so they can’t hurt you again, as our son did?
Based on these four factors, this is how expectations of others form. In truth, we typically expect us out of others because there is comfort in being around people that are like us. We like people like us and if they aren’t like us then we think they don’t meet our standards.
The danger of this mentality is that if God expected us to be like him we would always fall short. We would never meet his expectations. It is only Christ that can meet expectations. If God extends grace upon us then shouldn’t we extend grace to others when they don’t meet our expectations?
Can our expectations of others be a form of judgment? Yes, absolutely. Especially if we use our expectations to condemn people when they don’t meet the expectation we have set for them (that they often aren’t even aware of). However, it is not judgmental if we learn to accept what people can bring. If we embrace our differences and don’t see the disappointment when our expectations aren’t met, but learn from the situation, then we are turning our disappointment into a learning experience.
Oftentimes our expectations of others is a selfish desire for people to conform to our standards. The hardest thing in relationships is learning to manage our expectations. We all have a choice. When people fail, and they will, do we let that affect us personally? If so, why? Is it because we think we are better than they?
These are hard questions to think about and made for a deep conversation with an 11-year-old. Hopefully, in his interactions with his friends and in our relationships with the people in our lives, we will remember these four factors and manage our expectations so we don’t set others up for failure.
Most importantly, I hope we all remember that people will disappoint us, people will fall short of our expectations. But God will never disappoint and never fall short. God will always do exactly what He says He will do, no ifs, ands, or buts about it.
Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God, keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations…. (Deut. 7:9)