“Life makes fools of all of us sooner or later. But keep your sense of humor and you’ll at least be able to take your humiliations with some measure of grace. In the end, you know, it’s our own expectations that crush us.”
― Paul Murray, Skippy Dies
Unmet Expectations Deny Grace
I think our greatest disappointments and hurts come from unmet expectations. Maybe I’m too cynical for my own good, but I limit my expectations in order to be happier.
Have you ever imagined an event before it happened, only to have it go nowhere near how you thought it would? It may be that nothing was catastrophic or even went wrong, but since the event didn’t follow your pre-imagined plot you are now in a pit of despair. There’s a scene in one of my favorite movies that perfectly exemplifies this:
If you’re familiar with this movie, you know exactly how Clark’s grandiose expectations fail him and his family. Absolutely nothing goes according to his plan, everything falls apart, people are mad and hurt, and a squirrel gets loose in the house.
When you expect a certain outcome from a person or situation you’re likely to be disappointed.
Release your Expectations to Find Grace
The problem with having expectations for events or other people is that they are rarely voiced. Plus, they rely on other people to follow your secret script.
You expected your significant other to notice how full the kitchen garbage is and to take it out. Lost in their own thoughts, they did not notice the overflowing trash can and walked right by it. Now you’re irritated that you either have to take care of it yourself (again?!!!), ask them to take care of it (you are not their parent), or just let it be. You’ve had an entire fight with them, only it was all in your head. Now you’re upset and disappointed, they don’t know why, and everyone is having a bad night because of it.
You do have other options. What about instead of getting irritated because they didn’t notice or take care of the trash, you release your expectation that they can read your mind? Your options are still the same but your feelings behind it are completely different. Now there is no irritation or anger, but instead you act from a place of ease and openness. You haven’t had this silent, one-sided argument so you’re not all worked up. And when you’re not holding on to anger you’re a much happier person, which radiates out around you and positively affects everyone else.
So which is it: to hold on to expectations or to release them? Is it cynical not to expect anything, or is it wise?