Expectations for prosperity caused great disappointments during recessions and depressions. We can say those circumstances were beyond our control and yet, they cause disappointments. Big, major disappointments.
What if we added all big ones to all the little disappointments we experience each day? If we depend on circumstances to gauge our happiness, we are in jeopardy because circumstances are constantly changing. And like the big ones, they are beyond our control. You might say you don’t do that. In a day’s time you may do it more than once. I know that I have done it more than once.
I have felt expectations when a great promotion was coming up that I just knew I was ready for; it was ‘my time’ in the department to move up, and I ‘sensed’ that I would get it — and I didn’t. I ‘expected’ the school to close due to the bad weather, but it didn’t, and I had two teens bored from being indoors with ‘nothing to do’ while I had made my own plans for that day. I expected’ that I would get an “A” that I worked on diligently in my writing class, and instead, I got a “C.” No way! I expected my best article ever to be selected for a contest, and it didn’t. I set myself up for these disappointments because I ‘expected’ them.
When I placed my expectations on people, again I was usually disappointed. Someone repeated something I asked them not to. Someone didn’t invite my best friend to a party they were having. Crushed expectations; big disappointments. Life and people may and do change; the unexpected happens to us all.
I know that men and women can never fulfill all of each other’s needs. Only God can. But at times, I used to expect them to and in those expectations of them, when they didn’t or couldn’t, I was disappointed. Disappointment is ‘the first seed of doubt’ and can lead to defeat or depression.
So how did I finally learn not to expect things from others, not to lean on others for my joy or happiness? Can one unlearn the emotion of expecting others to fulfill our needs and do the things we think they ought to do?
Yes, I believe we can. There is no commandment saying, “Thou shalt expect others to fulfill our needs and do what we want them to do.” Actually, the commandments are a compilation of honoring and doing good to others; not expecting them to do good for us.
I had a tremendous expectation turn into disappointment with my teen-age son. It was a turbulent time and I loved him, but did not like him much, how he looked or how he dressed. The disappointed expectation turned into a life role play where I was the mother of expectations and he was the child of disappointments. I had visions of what he should do with his life and he had much different views of what he wanted. So much so, that it affected not only our relationship but included the whole family.
Frustrated, I finally went to a trusted family counselor and gave him my story. He wanted my son to come in to hear his view. That being done, he then told me my son did not have to come back, but I did. What? Is there some mistake here, I am paying for this session and I’m the disappointer?
I did return and he explained that my son was fine and perfectly happy with himself, his choices for school, work and his future. I had different expectations for him and that was my problem. His remedy was that I should learn to love my son as he was and to compliment him each day on something he did that was good. That would help us communicate without friction. told him there was nothing my son did that pleased me. And his answer was, ‘If he takes the garbage out, that is good – thank him.’
Which is the only thing I could do and the garbage taking-out WAS good and I did genuinely thank him. I’m happy to say that I did follow the counselor’s advice, I thanked my son for all the good things (and there were many I had overlooked) and downplayed what I thought was bad.
Within a week, the tension subsided and we were talking and smiling to each other. The mother of expectations and the child of disappointments were no more. I took stock of what the doctor told me and found that once I lost my expectation of what I believed was ‘good’ for my son, I found what was ruining our relationship.
I practiced making a habit of gratitude instead of expectation. Expectations can become habit-forming and sometimes the more you expect, the more you want. Then you have to deal with more disappointments.
Today, I am so blessed to have such a close and endearing relationship with this man – my son, who has done well in his life and succeeded without my expectations. Instead, he had my support, love and encouragement.