The Dangers of Expectations

Last week I wrote about wanting things to go back to how they were, and how that expectation is unrealistic and unhelpful. This week I want to take this one step further and explore how our expectations of others and our desire for specific outcomes leads us to resentment, anger, and hopelessness – and what we can do about it.

Expectations

We view the world and others through our own perceptions, beliefs, and mores. Consciously and unconsciously, we expect people to think and act in the way we believe others should act. It is not bad to have our expectations, but assuming others can, will, and desire to live by our standards is unrealistic. I would hope that everyone would see the world the way I do and treat each other kindly, but if I am being honest, I can’t even live up to that perfectly every day.

Our expectations are not only about the actions of other people. Our expectations are also about the environment, politics, society, and every circumstance that touches our lives. Most of the North America is currently experiencing severe cold and snow right now. Many are angry or disheartened by this fact. Their expectation is that it should not be cold, but it is winter and Mother Nature does what Mother Nature does. Others are having trouble accepting election results or the seriousness of the Coronavirus. Just because we don’t want to believe the facts, does not mean they are not facts. Our expectations of people, the environment, and the world can not control the reality of any of those things.

Acceptance

Instead of stubbornly holding on to our expectations in the face of reality, we need to accept reality. The image of Charlie Brown, Lucy, and the football comes to mind. Charlie Brown constantly expected Lucy to hold the football for him. And Lucy constantly pulled the football away before he kicked it. If Charlie Brown decides to believe each and every time that Lucy will act differently than she has consistently acted, who is to blame for his pain?

As I have said before, “Pain comes from expecting a dog to be a cat. A dog is going to be a dog.” People are probably going to do what they have done before. The weather is going to be the weather. The results are going to be the results. No matter how much we believe or insist, these facts will not change. Our desire for reality to be different from reality only causes us pain, anger, resentment, and disappointment. Acceptance is the key to peace.

Boundaries

Bear in mind that acceptance does not mean we allow ourselves to be continually hurt. It is important to create boundaries and to voice our needs. Charlie Brown needs to accept Lucy will remove the football – and then he should probably find someone else to hold the ball for him in the future.

Acceptance does not mean we excuse or accept the actions of others. Acceptance simply means we stop fighting reality. When we can accept the reality of the situation, we are then empowered to do something about it. If we are around people or circumstances that do not serve us, instead of angerly attacking reality, it is best to accept the reality of the situation so that we are then empowered to change the situation or remove ourselves from it.

Much of our anger and resentment is because we are playing the victim of some person or circumstance. We are giving them our power. It is important that we set healthy boundaries and clearly voice those boundaries moving forward.  

Be Kind

As Robin Williams is quoted as saying, “Everyone you meet is fighting a battle you know nothing about. Be kind. Always.” We can only the do the best we can do that day at that time. We can encourage, hope, and pray people will act better – but on any given day they are only going to be able to do what they are capable at doing. Know that even when someone is seemingly intentionally being mean, it is usually because of their own pain. That doesn’t mean you need to take their abuse, but it does mean that you can still give them your empathy.

Where are you fighting reality? What do you need to accept? What boundaries can you put in place? Instead of playing victim to circumstances or others, empower yourself through acceptance.

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