Expectations and Interpretations

When turmoil afflicts our relationships, we might blame others. Yet, sometimes the source for the discord might lie within us. In other words, we might be creating our own discontentment. 

The list of unfulfilled high expectations is long. “If he really loves me, he would _______.” “I thought I would receive some  recognition for my effort.” “I thought you would _______.” “Our son should have called us by now.” “How could anybody forget this?” “I can’t believe he/she did that. Do you know how this makes me look?” “I thought a friend would do more for me.”

Unfulfilled expectations will release negative emotions. The stronger the thought and the greater the offended value, the more powerful the feelings. Feelings might range from disappointment, sadness or hurt to anger or bitterness. Standing right along side of unfulfilled expectations in wrecking our peace is our own misinterpretations.

Perhaps the greatest difficulty with misinterpretations is nobody believes that his or her own interpretation of an event is wrong. Confident that “my understanding is right,” harsh judgments like, “He intended to do that” or “She is so selfish,” attack the other’s motivations. Once again, negative emotions are unleashed destroying our inner peace.

Once these strong feelings have taken root, the natural tendency is to allow our feelings to drive how we will continue to interpret the perceived offender. In other words, we can become the source of our own downward spiral as the language of absolutes begins to creep into our thinking. Nothing the other person does is right. Everything that he or she does is for the wrong reason. I can only expect the worse from that person. And if contrary evidence does appear, it can be dismissed with a sarcastic, “Right” or “I know what is really going on.” This thinking only fuels stronger convictions and feelings about that person. Sound familiar?

What can rescue us from such storms robbing our peace? Love and grace.

Rather than focusing upon how we expect others to treat us, love centers upon being a blessing to others. We are not in control of what others might do. We can only control what we choose to do. We can choose to extend grace, because we need it also. We will not live up to everyone else’s expectations, nor will they fulfill all of ours.

When we are convinced others have acted spitefully, we might feel like they don’t deserve love. Yet we are in control of what we do and we can choose to seek their well being because we serve Christ. Love will listen to explanations before speaking because we hope for the best. Seeking their well being involves being open to the possibility our understanding was wrong. And if we discover that we were wrong, the appropriate response is, “I am sorry I misjudged you. Please forgive me.”

Up to this point my focus has been upon misinterpretations and high expectations. Unfortunately, people can also act in malicious ways and can deliberately seek to violate even basic expectations of decency. Their intentions might seek to harm our lives in some way.

If we wish to squelch their evil, if we desire to refuse them the power of robbing our peace, we must give them what they do not deserve. We must seek to forgive them as the Lord profusely forgives us of every wrong. To paraphrase Jesus and Paul, we need to overcome evil with good by loving even our enemies. Once again, the answer is grace and love.


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