Dealing with Unmet Expectations

Photo credit: unsplash_LKirb We all have expectations, every one of us. Some expectations are general and others are more specific. Many are intrinsic to who we are and our personal makeup.

In western countries, we expect water to come out of a tap, uninterrupted electric power (especially for the TV!), and nowadays, free wifi. But there are more personal expectations.

Many of these, if not most of them, won't be met. Why? Because many of our expectations are unrealistic. What's a sure sign of an unmet expectation? Disappointment.

How can we handle unmet expectations?

How do we handle disappointments and unmet expectations? There's a lot of advice available for dealing with unmet expectations. Much of it focuses on marriage or work relationships, and some of it is very good.

So, how can we best handle other unmet expectations?

Situations in life often don't go as we would like or hope. Some circumstances we find ourselves in are beyond our control, and many of our dreams and hopes get dashed in the crush of life.

Let me take a shot at answering this question from a somewhat counter-intuitive way.

Lower your expectations

First of all, we need to lower our expectations. This may sound opposite of what you hear in entrepreneurial pitches, but the key here is realism, not optimism.

Many times, lowering our expectations to more realistic or reasonable levels will help us avoid a lot of disappointments. Even Jesus understood this—

But Jesus would not entrust himself to them, for he knew all people. He did not need any testimony about mankind, for he knew what was in each person. John 2:24, 25 (NIV)

Keep this in mind—people will always disappointment us in some way, and at some point, we disappoint others.

[bctt tweet="People will always disappointment us at some point, and we disappoint others"]

Dump your expectations

We just might need to dump our expectations. What?! This may really sound strange, but here's my perspective on this.

Unrealistic expectations are often a matter of misplaced trust.

When we trust people in whatever way, for whatever reason, we are placing some trust in them.

This in itself is not wrong, but it can set us up for disappointment. Our trust may be unrealistic, or something may happen that's beyond the control of whoever we've placed our trust in.

[bctt tweet="Unrealistic expectations are often a matter of misplaced trust"]

Again, Jesus offers us some guidance. When asked by His followers who was the greatest in God's kingdom, Jesus brought a child before them and said—

I tell you the truth, you must change and become like little children. Otherwise, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. The greatest person in the kingdom of heaven is the one who makes himself humble like this child. Matthew 18:3-4 (NCV)

Sometimes we need to dispense with or forego any expectations. Instead, approach life and relationships with a childlike faith in God. Childlike is not the same as childish. Childish would be to expect things our own way. Childlike is to be expectant but open.

Examine your expectations

But what if our unmet expectations are with God, not just other people? It's easy to question God, even blame Him when things don't go the way we expect or want.

But is this realistic or reasonable? This is the crux of the matter. Why not start here? Because we're not likely to go here till we've been disappointed.

Our expectations are often a projection of ourselves onto others—our needs, desires, hopes, or whatever we think will answer the questions we hold inside.

[bctt tweet="Our expectations are often a projection of ourselves onto others"]

Disappointment cracks open the denial we protect ourselves with when the world around us moves in on us. Or, when someone, even God, lets us down. But what if the problem lies with us, not God or others?

We could get cynical, which many people do, or we could get honest. How? Jesus, again, gives us some simple but useful direction—

If any of you want to be my follower, you must stop thinking about yourself and what you want. You must be willing to carry the cross that is given to you for following me. Matthew 16:24 (ERV)

We need to examine our own hearts and motives to see why we expect what we do of others or God.

[bctt tweet="We set ourselves up for disappointment with unrealistic, unreasonable expectations"]

In other words, we often set ourselves up for disappointment with unrealistic, even unreasonable expectations. Disappointment is hard, but misplaced blame won't resolve it.

No guarantees

I can't give you any guarantees. That would just set you up for more disappointment. But, give these three things a try in dealing with disappointments and unmet expectations, especially when they recur.

  1. Lower your expectations—be realistic
  2. Dump your expectations—be childlike, not childish
  3. Examine your expectations—get to the root of why you expect what you're expecting

No guarantees you won't ever be disappointed again, but maybe they'll help keep you from getting let down so often. Here's where some pure, childlike faith in God will also go a long way in that direction.

What's your experience in successfully dealing with unmet expectations?


Here's a couple of other posts on the subject of unmet expectations that might be of some help and encouragement—

Three Ways to Handle Your Unmet Expectations

Unmet Expectations

Resolving Unmet Expectations