During my adolescence into my 20s, I experienced much disappointment with people. I remember the very tangible feeling like sinking ships in the sea of my chest. Hyperbolic, I know, but that’s what it felt like.
An older woman I looked up to told me my problem was my expectations of people–they were too high. My 20-something year old mind could not wrap my mind around that. I thought having expectations was good! I thought having criteria was necessary.
Well in my thirties, I understand more clearly. After seeing many friendships go south, the most recurring issue was our expectations. Some expect their friends to show up no matter the cost because that’s how they feel valued in the relationship. Some expect people to give them space. Some of us expect reciprocity. Others of us expect to take and not have to give and that should be understood. Trust me, I’ve seen this. In my thriving relationships, the common expectation is respect. Depending on the depth of the relationship it might produce other expectations like listening and praying for one another.
Truthfully, there is only One we can fully have expectations of. The bible talks mostly about putting our trust in and having expectations of God. The only time I recall expectations of people (beyond roles and responsibiltities of church leaders and married people) is in the Love passage
1 Corinthians 13:7: . . .Love expects the best. . . (Living Bible Translation)
When I lowered my expectations–or put another way–had more realistic expectations of people, I was offended less and my friendships grew deeper. Admittedly, I don’t always expect the best of everyone…Game of Thrones, Scandal, and HTGAWM have exacerbated my trust issues! 🙂 But when I see a person as they are, I am less defensive going in and should they show themselves to not be trustworthy or compatible, I am less surprised. We all have great things and not-so-great things in our person.
Having unrealistic expectations of one another can disrupt our expression of love for one another. It is the foundation of the stronghold of offense. I hope that we can develop healthy expectations to not protect ourselves from disappointment, but to defend against offense.