Our first Valentine’s Day together, my husband, Scott, bought me a dozen long-stem roses. This Friday we will be celebrating twenty-seven years of marriage. Guess how many times he’s bought me a dozen long stem roses? Once.
It’s a good thing I didn’t expect roses every Valentine’s Day, right? Now, I don’t want to give you the wrong impression about Scott. After being together over thirty years (we dated for three), he’s done plenty of “unexpected” romantic things. That’s one aspect of his personality I love—spontaneity. Plus, roses on Valentine’s Day are too much money!
Where do our expectations come from?
Expectations stem from our thought process when examining evidence combined with personal experiences. They usually come from what we’re used to, our families growing up or our personalities.
We place expectations on ourselves and all our relationships—family, friends, co-workers, bosses, pastors, strangers, and even God.
Expectations can be good or bad, high or low, realistic or unrealistic. But usually, unexpressed expectations get us in trouble. And expectations based on assumptions get us in trouble too.
When Scott and I got married, we both had our expectations for each other. Many of them were not discussed until a conflict arose. What I’m going to share with you is a short outline of what we’ve learned through trial and error, but more importantly, through our relationship with Jesus Christ.
How to Form Healthy Expectations
The Bible gives us some principles to form expectations and deal wisely with the expectations of others.
I’m sure this comes as no surprise. Openness and honesty first with ourselves and then with others is a must. We need to take a good hard look at what we expect and discuss it with our loved ones.
When you communicate:
- Choose an appropriate time to talk.
- Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be gentle, be loving, and be direct. Don’t dance around the issue.
- Ask for feedback to make sure the other person understands what you’ve communicated.
- Maintain eye contact.
- Listen and show you are listening by nodding, smiling, etc.
- Wait for the person to complete a thought without interruption.
- If you don’t understand something, say so.
- Paraphrase what you heard so the other knows you understand.
We all make mistakes (Romans 3:23). We all fail ourselves and others (James 3:2), and we must be able to communicate when we are wrong.
The Hebrews were expecting the Messiah (Luke 3:15). Yet, when Jesus the Messiah came, they had unrealistic expectations of what he would do. When He didn’t fulfill their expectations, they crucified him.
Jesus forgave those who killed him (Luke 23:34). Jesus forgives us for our many sins. And we must forgive others too. This includes our loved ones or friends who harbor anger towards us or have unrealistic expectations of us.
Unforgiveness is cancer. If allowed to remain in our hearts, like cancer, it will turn to bitterness and destroy relationships, including a healthy relationship with God.
“Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil.” Psalm 37:8
“In your anger do not sin. Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry.” Ephesians 4:26
“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.” 1 Corinthians 13:4-8
To live this kind of love is impossible without the Holy Spirit. As long as we are on this planet, we will be challenged to show love and mercy the way Christ did.
We need to remember that all people are different. It pleased God to make us with differences. As Christ followers, we are obligated to grow in love and grace (2 Peter 3:18, Philippians 1:9)
If we have created expectations for others that they cannot meet, it’s not their fault. On the same token, we are not obligated to live up to others unreasonable expectations.
If we place all our expectations and hopes on anything other than God, we will always come up wanting (Daniel 5:27)
When we place our expectations on God and the truth of His word, we will always be satisfied. (Psalm 22:26: 107:9, John 6:35)
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.
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Beckie — nice blog. I never looked at expectations that way . I liked how you tied communication, love and forgiveness into the message. Very nicely done, especially in the end when you say God will always satisfy us– that is so true.
Del, thanks. I’m glad you were able to glean some helpful points from this post. I certainly was checking myself as I was writing it. I’m continually learning as I write.
Yes, and amen—God will always satisfy!
Such an insightful and very helpful post! Thank you, Beckie, for sharing–will be saving this for frequent reference!
Cara, I’m so glad you found this helpful. Your comment blessed me greatly.
Thanks and many blessings to you!
Such sound and wise advice, Beckie! As always, we need to place God in the center of everything in our lives, trusting Him to guide us gently, yet firmly, as we grow in our relationship with Him and others whom we love.
Blessings, my friend!
Martha, Amen! Love the Lord first. Love others as ourselves. Seek God’s approval over man’s.
Thanks for your comment and blessings back to you!
“…we are not obligated to live up to others unreasonable expectations.” This is a truth that we too often forget. Thank you!
Josie, glad this helps. Yes, our obligation is to love the Lord and love others as ourselves. Period. And clearly, that’s enough! It certainly cannot be done without the Holy Spirit. Oh, how I praise the Lord we are not in this alone 🙂 Thanks for commenting, Josie.
Very well communicated, Becky. I will be sharing this post with others. I have personal experience with the bitter root of unforgiveness and how Jesus can free us from our own entangled webs. An unforgiving spirit is sin. It steals our joy, our peace (all of the good fruits) and negatively impacts our relationships with others. Forgiving someone who’s wronged us is difficult but so worth the effort. Forgiving doesn’t mean we condone their actions, but it frees us from allowing their actions to control us and empties our hearts of sinful responses. Only through the power of the Holy Spirit can the bad fruit be plucked from our hearts- anger, bitterness, sinful attitudes… The enemy wants to use these fruits to distort our image of Christ. Let’s don’t allow him to sow sour grapes. Choose the sweetness of forgiveness every time. We win when we forgive like Christ. ~Melanie
Melanie, I hope everyone who reads this article will scroll down and read what you have written. I know exactly what you’re speaking about and you worded it so well.
I truly believe that only through the Holy Spirit can we let go of bitterness. The enemy wants to rob us wherever he can. Let’s be determined to “get better, not bitter.” In this way, we are a powerful witness for Christ!
Thanks for sharing!
Good reminder of keeping our expectations in check.
People don’t realize how important communication is and when it’s done with love and forgiveness, the power it has over any situation. It defeats the enemy. Great post!
Misty, Great point! The enemy flees when love and forgiveness are demonstrated.
Thanks for taking the time to comment.
Oh you are so right Beckie! If our husbands don’t live up to our expectations we get angry, frustrated or annoyed. Often they don’t even realise we had those expectations! Even if they do live up to our expectations, we give them little or no credit because we they’ve only done what we think they should have done. They have to go way above and beyond before we usually are appreciative! In our pre-marriage counselling we were encouraged to ‘expect nothing, minister everything’. It’s very hard to do this, but I have found that when I let go of my expectations of my husband and instead be grateful for whatever he does, I appreciate him so much more!
Sally, Great points! And for more about married, I encourage readers to get ahold of Sally’s fantastic book, That Book for Wifes https://www.amazon.com/That-Book-Wives-transform-marriage-ebook/dp/B01N67ADW6
I’m almost done reading it and intend to buy this as a gift.
Aww, thanks Beckie!
I agree that expectations can make or break a relationship. I have learned in my marriage to change some of my expectations to some more grace-giving ones. I still have work to do in this area! Thanks for this!
Great post. Expectations nearly robbed me of my joy. Not just expectations of others but expectations of myself. I’m a Christian I should think & act a certain way correct? (tongue in cheek) I would be so hard on myself. I still am at times. About ten years ago, I did a Bible study on the word “Expect” it is interchangeable with the word “hope.” I’ve fallen into that trap again. Lately, I expect more of myself than God expects of me. Thank you for the reminder.
Cherrilynn, You bring up another big part of expectations: the ones we place on ourselves.
I fall into the trap that you mentioned more often than I should: expecting more from myself than God expects of me. I’m sure it bleeds out to what I expect of others too. So, thank YOU for the reminder 🙂 and for reading.
Blessings on you as we grow in grace together!
You have some practical tips, Beckie. Thank you. I think a lack of communication gets a lot of us in trouble.