Expectations kill relationships.
Is this true?
Think about one of the last times you got upset at someone. What made you upset? Basically, it’s because you cared. You had a certain expectation in mind that wasn’t met. If you wouldn’t have cared, you wouldn’t have been upset. This can be exemplified by taking any situation in which a friend of yours hurt you, then imagining a random stranger doing the same thing.
For example, the strangers who walk down your street every day don’t love you. They like other people better and would rather spend time with their friends. They don’t think the work you do is important. They don’t kiss you goodnight or hug you each morning.
But you don’t care because you don’t expect anything of those strangers: you have no expectations.
So perhaps a solution is to eliminate expectations. Might that seem like a worthy aim?
Many expectations are, of course, driven by selfishness. If we crucify self, we are mortifying our expectations. But too easily “eliminating expectations” warps into the victim mentality of “I don’t expect anything good to come to me,” a cynical view.
The fact then is that you are still being selfish because your self and your expectation to be mistreated is the focus rather than others. That’s where you’ll find selfish attitudes that bring out nobody-likes-me thoughts.
One way to properly handle our expectations is to replace them with right actions.
Gratefulness grows relationships.
What is the perceived difference between thankfulness and gratefulness?
Thankfulness is what makes you say “thanks.” Gratefulness is what makes you respond with “You did that for me? Let me do something for you!”
Salvation is a gift from God; we can never repay it. That’s a fact we’d all agree with. But does that mean we don’t try to repay it? Not as an attempt to purchase salvation–something without price can never be bought–but to give back the love we owe.
Thankfulness says “Thanks for the gift of salvation.” Gratefulness says “I love you, God, because you first loved me. I give my body as a living sacrifice to you because Jesus sacrificed Himself for me.”
The perceived difference between thankfulness and gratefulness is perhaps merely semantics. They are actually the same thing. When Scripture says “Be thankful,” it certainly means “Be grateful.”
If you want to grow a relationship, try being grateful. If you’re not in the habit of being grateful, it can feel pretty artificial to think this way. That is not a sign of the inherent silliness of gratitude, but a sign of your ungrateful heart.
Gratefulness is not an automatic response for humans because at its root, gratefulness recognizes that I don’t deserve any good that I’m receiving. However, we tend to live as if we not only deserve the good we’re receiving, but also a heap of a lot more after all we think we’ve done.
The next time you are upset with someone or with a circumstance, stop to ask yourself what expectation you had that caused you to care in that way. Given some thought, you may realize that your expectation was either unrealistic, unreasonable, or uncommunicated with the other party. That’s something you can change.
But not always is it your fault. Sometimes other people simply don’t meet even agreed upon expectations.
Still, you can choose to lay down your expectations and let go of your frustration, but you must follow it up with gratefulness if the relationship is to grow. Be serious about it. In the middle of your frustration, search for what you should be grateful. Humble yourself, be grateful, show gratitude.
I once read an analogy about love that said there are two rooms in your heart: the Appreciation Room and the Depreciation Room. Every relationship starts out with you spending most of your time in the Appreciation Room. You paint the walls with all the things you appreciate about the other person. [Analogy from The Love Dare by Alex Kendrick]
The more time you spend with the person, the more time you spend in the Appreciation Room. And the more time you spend in the Appreciation Room, the more you fill the walls with good things, and the more you want to be with the other person. The room becomes bright and lovely, made beautiful by all the things you appreciate about the other person.
But then you notice something you don’t like. You get hurt or irked or angered. You end up in the Depreciation Room, and in your frustration you splatter the wall with black and red, splashing out the thing that upset you. Then you sit in that room and stare at the walls.
The more time you spend in the Depreciation Room, the easier it is to see things about the other person that rub you the wrong way. In fact, some of the very things you once painted on the walls of the Appreciation Room now just get on your nerves–they go up on the walls of the Depreciation Room. That room will become darker and darker until the relationship is destroyed unless you do two things: Forgive and move out.
Forgiveness is releasing a person from the expectations set upon them. Forgiveness isn’t simply walking out of the Depreciation Room and locking the door (something that is impossible to do); forgiveness puts a fresh coat of paint over those things you had been writing up against a person (love covers a multitude of sins).
Choosing love is choosing to stay out of the Depreciation Room, leaving you with only one other place, the Appreciation Room. Love is a choice, as well as an emotion. You choose which room to be in. You choose which walls to paint.
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.”
I Corinthians 13:4-8 NKJV
There is a well-known maxim taken from the Bible: A man who wants friends must first be a friend.
Maybe you think, Well, I don’t want friends. I’m not a social person; I’d rather be left alone.
Do you have that choice? The Bible commands us to love each other; it even commands us to love our enemies. And Scripture says it is by the love we have for each other that the world will know we are Jesus’ disciples. Jesus said:
“Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends.”
John 15:13 NKJV
The point being that this idea of expectations and gratefulness and love is not just fluff. These are principles commanded by God for us to follow.
“Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.”
Romans 13:8-10 NKJV