I’ve been thinking a lot lately about happiness and of course it’s opposite unhappiness. I’m interested in writing about this because I think that these two things are a parallel to the twin forces that battle constantly in my mind. I am referring of course to Worthless and Worthwhile. I general I would say that the former equates to unhappiness while the latter to happiness. My mind wanders as I consider this idea and I wonder just what does Worthless do to my thinking that would lead me be unhappy. As I thought about this one word kept coming back to me over and over again. Expectations. Let’s explore this together ok?
Just what is an expectation anyway? It’s a strong belief that something will happen or that someone will or should achieve something. I was preaching out of the book of Romans a few weeks ago and this very thing came up. I asked people to think about something that would immediately set them off. What button could be pushed that would immediately make them angry or upset. As an example I told them that I expect my devices to function all the time every time and that when they don’t I find it very difficult to keep my composure, especially if I am alone. For example if I want to weed eat in my yard and I can’t get the weed eater to start I will have a temper tantrum and rage quit my chores completely. I expect the device to work and I expect to be able to use it to complete my chore. An unfulfilled expectation has altered my mood for the worse. A silly example but you get the point.
I think it is quite natural to feel disappointed when your expectations are not met, and I’m not suggesting that expectations are in and of themselves bad or to be avoided. In the above example my expectation was quite realistic and pretty much in my control. The true danger lies in expectations that are either unrealistic or out of your control or possibly both. When your expectations fall into these categories you really are asking for trouble. I want to focus right now on what I think are the places where these expectations are the most damaging to our overall state of unhappiness. That is in our relationships with ourselves or with others.
I’ve established that I think failed expectations open the door to unhappiness. I think that it follows that expectations that are unrealistic are by definition going to be unfulfilled. The question now is how can we apply this knowledge to our lives so that we can avoid this source of unhappiness.
Be honest with yourself. If you are unhappy check your expectations to see if they are realistic. Are you asking to much of yourself or of those around you? Are you responding to failed expectations with mercy and forgiveness or with anger and frustration? Do you have the same feelings over the same failed expectations over and answers to these questions will help you understand better your condition and help you put together a plan to regain happiness.
There is one more thing I’d like to tell you about today. Definitions usually include a handy list of synonyms and expectations is no exception. There are two that I’d like to focus on right now: assumption and hope. Both synonyms for expectations and at the same time wildly different. One of them is toxic and the other a source of life. When you assume something you are laying claim to it. You are taking ownership when it’s not yours. I have made assumptions in my life often to my detriment. Hope on the other hand is something that is nearly essential to life. Hopelessness is one of the worst places a person can find themself.
If your expectations are founded in assumptions you will probably find yourself disappointed more often than not but when you hope even if you fail you can continue on because hope is one of those things that gives life and strength rather than sap it away.
I pray that you will keep your expectations realistic. I pray that you will face failure with mercy and forgiveness. Finally I pray that you will live a life of hope and leave your assumptions behind.