We have a van with automatic doors. Push the button, the door slides open. Push it again, the door slides closed. Very cool invention.
When it works.
I think it’s reasonable to expect the door to work as promised. It’s reasonable to expect my M&Ms to taste like chocolate and not dirt. Expectations are a gift to help us prepare for and navigate the world around us. We expect the concrete to be solid under our feet. We expect the cars to stop when the light turns red. We develop those expectations from experience and adjust them as they are either met or not. If we don’t make those little adjustments or if we build our expectations purely from our imaginations, we can get into trouble.
We don’t just have expectations about the physical world. We have them about people. And they have them about us. In the beginning of Acts 3 a lame man has a set of expectations about Peter and John. Because they are going into the Temple to pray, they must be devout. If they are devout, they must be charitable. Other devout people have been charitable. Therefore, I can expect a donation.
See the pattern: assumption (and another assumption) and experience leads to expectation. Peter and John had no money, so in a sense they did not meet the man’s expectations. Granted, it worked out because they healed him instead of giving him money, so they far exceeded the man’s expectations. We’re the same way. Sometimes we knock one out of the park, but more often than not, we fall short. And in a customer-service culture that can be tough.
Here are three things to keep in mind when you feel like you have failed to meet someone’s expectations.
1. It is inevitable.
When messed up people try to do stuff in a messed up world, we make messes. It proves you’re one of us.
2. You have no control over someone’s expectations of you.
Oh, I suppose if you have over-promised and then under-delivered you could bear some responsibility, but more often than not we don’t know what process of assumptions and experience went into building those expectations. Maybe the expectations were unreasonable and unfair to start with.
3. You’re in good company.
Jesus Himself constantly failed to meet the expectations of people, even those closest to Him. However, that never distracted Him from His mission. That’s the thing, if we get hung up on doing and being all others expect us to be, we risk being pulled away from God’s and vision for us.
How have you dealt with expectations?