When You Cannot Meet Everyone’s Expectations of You

“When she saw her hope unfulfilled, her expectation gone, she took another of her cubs and made him a strong lion.” (Ezekiel 19:5)

In the expectations game everyone loses when it comes to living with an illness. We can become discouraged and depressed when we find our hopes dashed, when we have a few “good days” and expect them to last, only to be knocked flat again by affliction a short time later.

Expectations can create all sorts of problems between spouses and friends and family. We say we will do something, or make plans ahead of time to go to some event, only to have our hopes dashed and the injury multiplied by disappointing those close to us. And the situation is not improved by those who have little understanding or willingness to accept such disappointment.

We cannot control the reactions of others. If grown people act like immature children because the stars do not always align perfectly for them, there is little we can do about it. If people have short memories, forgetting the good days God has blessed them with, and are only willing to focus on disappointments, we can’t make them broaden their vision to see the entire picture, one with blessings and disappointments–it’s called life.

The rain often follows sunny days, the seasons of life and the seasons of our illness change. It is wonderful to see the sun shining after so many rainy days, and how wonderful it is when the Lord blesses us with improvements in our circumstances after a difficult period. But though we may try to see and accept these situations philosophically, others may ignore the good things and only focus on the half-empty glass in front of them.

It can be painful when friends and family turn away from us because of our afflictions. It is astounding that when we need friends and family the most they can shun us, react with anger, resentment, childishness, just as we are already under the pressure of flaring illness and pain. I think this may be the worst thing about illness, worse than the pain and suffering of the illness itself.

One angry person is “mad.” Two angry people is “madness.”

I have often found that a very challenging part of my illness is not to return anger for anger. When my illness crushes expectations in others, and they react with anger, it can be a herculean task not to lash right back with my own anger and frustration. After all, I not only have the worsening illness to deal with and its disappointment, but also a “two-year-old” adult who is taking their anger out on me on top of everything else. I suspect I’m not alone in facing the madness of disappointed expectations.

I have learned over the years to take my frustrations and disappointments to God. Occasionally it may help to discuss how I’m feeling with others, but when the others are part of my frustration, it can very much be like reasoning with two-year-olds. Some people, despite their age, are not very mature, and you cannot reason with such people. The best you can do is pray that the Lord will help these people to wise up, grow up, and that God will give you the strength and patience to deal with such people as best you can.

It is very sad that on top of the weight of affliction and illness the afflicted must also deal with unmet expectations of others. Sometimes we must face our own frustrations over the bad turn of circumstances, but by far the hardest thing is to deal with the frustrations others thrust at us because we do not meet their unreasonable expectations. Sometimes I almost feel that I should wear the following sign:

I am someone living with an illness.
I will, to the best of my ability, try to live up to your expectations, but sometimes I will not meet them.
Because, as the first line says: I am someone living with an illness.

Prayer: Dear Lord, frustrations abound in our lives because of afflictions, and disappointment, especially coming from others, is very hard to bear. Help us, Lord, to be patient in affliction. Amen.

About the Author:
Karlton Douglas lives in Ohio with his lovely wife. Affliction has led to many failed expectations, but the Lord delivers him from them all.

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Do you have a hard time with failed expectations? How do you deal with the disappointment others have in you?

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