Trying to read someone’s mind does not work. I’ve tried it many times without much success. Talking face to face with someone and clarifying expectations does work most of the time, but it’s work and takes intentionality. Still, it is always good to try and figure out what expectations are valid and which ones aren’t.
Many times I am not even aware of my expectations until I get my feelings hurt. Other times I have been as clear and upfront as I can be about the expectations, but they still don’t get met.
That brings up 3 questions:
- What do I do when someone “cannot” meet my expectations, often ones that had been agreed upon? Given time, that happens to all of us. We agree to common expectations with someone and those expectations simply cannot be met. What do you do then? In simple terms, I think we should accept their decision and grieve the loss. If they can’t do it, then they can’t do it. It is what it is. If you do stay in relationship, you can hope that they one day may change their mind.
- What do I do if I have an agreed upon expectation with someone and they “don’t” hold up their end of the bargain? Some people are more than capable of carrying through but they just don’t. It’s a tough one, but it happens. I try to make sure it was an expectation and not a demand. Maybe someone said “yes” because they are are afraid to say “no” to me. If they can’t say no, it’s a demand, not an expectation. There’s always the chance that you just weren’t clear enough. In that case, you need to revisit the discussion.
- What do I do if God doesn’t meet my expectations? It occurs to me that I can have expectations that God never agreed to. Sometimes when I try to spend time with God early in the morning, I become aware that I have no idea what God is up to. But that’s precisely why spending time with God is so important to me. I need to sit with God and just be present. The Apostle Paul has the “audacity” to say “But we have the mind of Christ.” (I Corinthians 2). If that’s true, and I think it is, it’s good for me to quietly sit at my desk early in the morning, breathing deeply, and welcome God’s presence, saying, “O God, you have searched me and you know me. You know when I sit and when I rise; you perceive my thoughts from afar,” (Psalm 139) or “When I consider your heavens, the work of your fingers, the moon and the stars, which you have set in place, what is humankind that you are mindful of them, human beings that you care for them?” (Psalm 8).