Wanta know how to end up living an extremely disappointed life? Set internal expectations for everybody in your life and then expect them to meet them.
Recently, I noticed I was feeling pretty frustrated and angry on a regular basis. Honestly, I was downright disappointed with people in my life more often than should have been occurring which lead me to ruminate on what the heck was wrong with everyone!? I was snappy and short with my kiddos and consistently irritated by the various ways I found people in my life to be enormously disappointing.
On one day as I was going through our home, ranting about all the ways I was doing EVERYTHING and nobody was carrying their weight, I had a lightbulb moment when my daughter said, “MOM. We don’t know what it is we’re supposed to do that we’re not doing. Just TELL US.”
And then I realized that over the years it had been happening in my marriage too. Anthony and I would end up in one of those conversations…you know the ones. Where I would end up in tears over all that I was disappointed in, which inevitably lead to him saying, “TELL ME WHAT YOU NEED.” Which would lead me to feel even more irritated until I would eventually respond with, “I shouldn’t have to tell you what I need, you should just know it!”
I can be super hardheaded, and I’m embarrassed to admit that this cycle of disappointment and frustration went on for years. Call me insane, but I had just honestly never really bought into it that people in my life actually do need me to tell them what I expect and need, or else I have already doomed them to fail with one big high bar of unspoken expectations.
There it was.
The one sneaky little, seemingly justified cancer sucking the life out of far too many of my relationships, leaving me disappointed, them frustrated and wondering why I seemed so distant.
Here’s a shocking (or maybe not so shocking) truth – Even the people who know us well cannot read our minds. Really! They actually can’t! (You can thank my husband for teaching me this one!) 😉
People do not just telepathically know what we need, how we’re feeling, and what we expect of them. And even when it seems like they should, it is just better if we give them the benefit of the doubt that they really don’t know and need us to fill them in because they are that important to us!
You know, kinda like an “all about me debriefing” session in which I let you in on everything going on inside of me so you aren’t in the dark and I don’t end up disappointed in you over something you didn’t know I expected from you to begin with. “Going public” with our needs lets the people in our lives know we value them enough to be upfront with them, not leaving them to play some guessing game and walking on egg shells because they don’t know what’s going to set us off next!
So how have I changed things?
Well, for starters, for those in my life who don’t actually live in my household, I’ve lowered my expectations altogether. It just levels the playing field and the less I expect others to be, the less frustrated I will be. It’s easy to talk about grace, but when it comes to actually applying it to messy people in real life…well that’s where it’s hard…but precisely where it counts.
Here are a few practical things I’ve started doing within our home keep things peaceful and the frustration and friction of unmet expectations at bay:
- Chore lists for my kids (every week their chores change and I literally write out who and what I expect them to do for that week so we are all on the same page. It sure beats yelling!)
- I write letters to or send my husband text messages expressing (in a KIND & GENTLE way) how I’m feeling and what I am needing from him. (This feels strange at first, but ya’ll…it just works. And he genuinely appreciates it.)
- When a personal relationship takes a nose dive for whatever reason, I evaluate whether it’s necessary to go to them and talk about what they did that hurt me, or “cover over the offense” [Prov. 17:9] and move on.
Believe it or not, the people who love us really do want to please us. But guess what happens when they feel like they never can? THEY STOP TRYING.
Sometimes we are our own worst enemy to our peace and contentment, but have made it a habit of blaming the world around us.
What we really need is not more people to do what we want, it is more grace.
And so for me, GRACE has come to equal giving people the benefit of the doubt. Letting them off the hook. Overlooking faults. Refusing to be offended.
Grace to not be held to some standard that I constructed for them.
Spiritually, grace means that we are no longer under the law. So what right do we have to hold the people around us, hostage under our own personally constructed laws and then be angry when they don’t measure up? When we set expectations for the world and then punish them in our own way when they don’t measure up, it only shows how little we know of the grace the cross came to bring, and we diminish the work of Christ in us.
Let’s stop demanding perfection from ourselves and the world- and let those closest to us know what we need most. And for the rest, only give grace.
I sure do love ya’ll.