It seems as though we have all disappointed our parents. Whether it was in failing to achieve the goals they had for us, or something much more sinister, is beside the point. We failed to live up to their expectations.
Then it became our turn to be the parent. Try as we might we attempted not to load up our kids with expectations. And then we learned some of these expectations were natural, because we wanted the best for them. Only later did we find out how much pressure these expectations foisted upon them. We experienced guilt.
They, like we, did their reasonable best to meet these expectations.
But whoever fails to meet another’s expectations evokes anger and disappointment on the part of the other. Such a stain on the psyche can last years, and in some cases a lifetime.
When Is Anger or Disappointment Justified?
Besides the fact we are all human, and we are given to anger and disappointment, many times instinctually, it will be hard to repress such feelings when we feel these ways. Like when another fails to measure up.
When our children fail us, or we, as children, fail our parents, the emotions are involved. No one can deny it. We just need to manage the outworking of our anger and disappointment.
We, and only we, are accountable for our emotions.
And still it may well be, if we can live free of expectation, we might relieve all tension for expectation. Such an arrangement puts the relationship first above all other priorities. This may be a better way. But we will need to work on ourselves, first, putting our own ambitions to one side, before this better way is available to us.
The Cost of Anger and Disappointment
Many a human being has been scarred by a well-meaning parent with expectations. We may well have done the scarring.
When we put ourselves in the position of feeling for a person who has failed to meet expectations, as they deal with anger and/or disappointment against them, we can begin to understand the wounding that potentially takes place.
Perhaps an initial anger that is reconciled in a timely manner is preferable to disappointment.
When we disappoint someone we feel guilty and even ashamed. At least anger, so long as it isn’t abusive, has an excuse; extreme early disappointment that comes with an apology later for overstepping the mark is better than a simmering disappointment.
The weight of some disappointments on the part of others never really diminishes and they can plague a person indefinitely.
Considering a Better Way
We easily lose sight of the real priorities of life—it is very human to do this.
We forget who we are burning when we load up our children with the kindling of expectation—a fuel-load to last a lifetime—especially when we reward results and not effort. Surely they look to us to provide protection; to show them the way; to show them how to live condemnation-free.
If we consider the cost of anger and disappointment we might consider a better way; a more encouraging way.
Better than anger or disappointment when someone has failed to meet our expectations is the grace-filled extension of favour. Likewise, when we have failed we have the opportunity to feel the favour of God for another chance.
It takes a forgiving strength to encourage someone who has disappointed us. It takes a courageous wisdom to express disappointment in an encouraging way. And when we can, we inspire people to better performance and not bitterness, guilt or shame.
Expectations and disappointments work hand in glove. In relationships, the less we expect, the less disappointment we will experience.
© 2012 S. J. Wickham.