Updated: Oct 20, 2020
A quote from Matilda Talbot appears in this image. She says: "They wanted me to be the best I could be, and I wanted not to disappoint them." She wrote this in her autobiography: "My Life and Lacock Abbey".
Expectations... sometimes it's hard to live up to the expectations of others, but on the other hand sometimes it makes you stretch a bit more, and overcome things that hold you back. It can serve as an incentive. But if we fail to live up to those expectations, we risk disappointing both ourselves, and disappointing those who expected more from us.
Yet expectations, that others set, are not the measure of our success or failure. Nor are they the yardstick we should measure our progress against. We place a big burden upon ourselves when we take on the expectations of others for ourselves. Should we feel bad about not living up to what they think we should have done or what they think we should do with our lives? Is the problem really that their expectations are their goals, and not ours? Is the problem that others have unrealistic ambitions for us, or are trying in some way to live their life through us? Setting a goal that would be what they would want, or see is desirable? Hinging their own happiness on what we do?
Loved ones do, in general, want the best for us. But sometimes that "best" is a reflection of what would have been best for them. And what would have been best for them isn't always the right fit for us. Our parents might have wanted us to be an artist, because they love art and have always wanted to be an artist, or want us to own a home because they have always associated home ownership with security and stability. They may have dreamed that one day we would be a CEO, as they have always been in a vulnerable worker situation.
Sometimes we think that we are letting our loved ones down if we don't succeed at one thing or another. And, yes, sometimes they are disappointed in us. We can hear comments like: "I expected better of you," "How could you let this happen?", "Why didn't you listen to me and take that job?" It hurts when they respond that way, especially when we are already at a low point. We might respond back with "I did the best I could," "There wasn't any choice," "I thought I was doing the right thing." We might not respond at all, and retreat to lick our wounds.
There can be anger and hurt when expectations are not met, and both sides can also say and do things that may damage our relationship, beyond the damage that the expectation caused.
As parents and loved ones, we need to be careful of the expectations we are setting. We might not even say them out loud, but we could be setting our children up to fail by having high or unrealistic expectations. We could be transferring what we want, and not allowing our young people to grow and develop in their own way. We could be stifling their natural talents and personalities. Our dreams are not theirs. Let's not be in a hurry to have them grow up and learn all we want them to know, but let them learn at their own pace, with a bit of appropriate guidance and prompting. We also need to be aware that everyone makes mistakes, although what our idea of a mistake is will possibly be different to theirs. Making mistakes is part of growing and developing. They help us learn.
Have you ever thought about God's expectations for us? Does He have any? Is He disappointed when we fail, or we don't measure up to the perfect yardstick? In the same way as we want to please our parents, we might want to please God so very desperately, and worry about disappointing Him.
We know that God wants the best for us too. He doesn't want us to fail, and He wants us to succeed. But He also understands when we do fail, and even put something in place to cover that very thing. The sacrifice of Jesus Christ. Where we fall short of that perfect length on the yardstick, Jesus takes up the rest. God doesn't expect us to be perfect. Yes, our mistakes grieve Him, as He doesn't want us to be hurt, and He knows the impact that wrong choices will have on our lives. But God is there to make it right when things go wrong. He doesn't leave us when we take the wrong road. We may fail to listen, but He remains with us. That journey isn't one we have to take alone, and never leads to disappointment.