Are High Expectations Zapping Our Joy? (repost)


NOTE: This is a recent post I did for Emmanuel Church at

I once had a therapist tell me I needed to lower my expectations if I wanted to find peace in a work situation. I’ve pondered this thought for quite sometime. Aren’t we taught to have high expectations in everything we do in life? How could we possibility dare to lower our expectations? Was this guy crazy?

Google defines expectation as “a strong belief that something will happen or be the case in the future.” From the time we are born, our parents place expectations upon us. Soon, expectations arrive from our teachers, our friends, our spouse, our church, ourselves…The list can go on and on. Every expectation, asking us to do more or reach a ceiling we may never be able to, setting us up for failure, sadness, frustration, guilt and shame. Anne Lamott said, “Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.” Have you ever felt resentment in your life because of an unmet expectation? I know I have.

It’s not that I feel expectations are bad. Expectations can motivate us and inspire us to do better. But, if we don’t look at them with a realistic eye, they can shatter our hopes and dreams. Brene Brown describes expectations this way:

The way to address this is to be up-front about our expectations by taking the time to reality-check what we’re expecting and why. Expectations often coast along under our radar, making themselves known only after they have bombed something we had high hopes for into the rubble.

We’ve all seen relationships crumble after expectations weren’t met. We’ve seen children fall into despair when they felt they couldn’t reach their parents expectations. Expectations can be a dangerous threat to our happiness if we don’t rein them in. Jen Hatmaker described her busy life colliding with expectation in her book, “For the Love.” She notes,

This is beyond unreasonable. It is destructive. We no longer assess our lives with accuracy. We have lost the ability to declare a job well-done. We measure our performance against an invented standard and come up wanting, and it is destroying our joy. No matter how hard we work or excel in an area or two, it never feels like enough.

I truly believe God would not want us to live our life this way. Proverbs 19:20 states, “Listen to advice and accept instruction, and in the end you will be wise. Many are the plans in a man’s heart, but it is the Lords purpose that prevails.”

I challenge you to move forward with close examination of your current expectations. I’m not asking you to live a life without goals or dreams. But to live a life where expectations don’t control the way you love others or yourself. I challenge you to pray to God to release you from past expectations that went unmet. Start today fresh, with a clean slate. Feel bold and bright knowing that God’s purpose will be your life guide not the expectations placed upon you.


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