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Managing Expectations: Building Strong Relationships At Home, At Church, At Work

“How do you explain your marriage?”

That was my question to Dr. and Mrs. Howard Hendricks as they sat on the hot seat at a Saturday luncheon with the leadership of our church several years ago.

In spite of their active and pressured life as seminary professor, conference speakers, church leaders, authors, parents of four, mentors to scores, they had one of the neatest relationships I had ever seen.

Slowly but deliberately, “Prof” leaned into the microphone:

“Jean and I have two unconditional commitments.
We are unconditionally committed to Christ as Lord.
We are unconditionally committed to each other.”

That was it! We sat hushed and stunned. Is it that simple? Is it that profound? What a challenge!

While an unconditional commitment to a spouse may include several components, very close to the top of the list is the commitment to manage each other’s expectation in a biblical and constructive manner. And it is critical to constructing any strong and stable relationship.

Every relationship involves expectations, whether it’s at “Home,” at “Church,” at “Work,” or even in the neighbourhood.

When you enter marriage, you have expectations of your spouse and your spouse has expectations of you. In your parenting, you have expectations of your children and your children have expectations of you.

It’s true on your job, at your bank, in your neighbourhood, at the fitness centre, on the highway, in the classroom.

When you join a church, sit on the church board, chair the mission’s committee, sponsor the youth program, teach a Sunday school class, prepare the church bulletin, usher at Sunday services, share on the worship team, serve in the nursery, expectations are always involved. It works both ways: your expectations of others and their expectations of you.

How we manage those expectations will largely determine the character and quality of those relationships. This, in turn, dictates the direction and quality of our lives.

In his book Little House on The Freeway, Tim Kimmel identified four characteristics of a home with peace. One of the four: “They discipline their expectations.”

Bob Biehl is a much appreciated author and speaker on Christian management. He writes concerning expectations: “All miscommunications are the result of differing assumptions.”

A number of years ago I was invited to teach a summer course at my alma mater, Dallas Theological Seminary, on the subject Premarriage Counselling and Marriage Enrichment in the Local Church. Dr. Mitchell of Arizona taught a course on Conflict Management in the Local Church. On Wednesday afternoon we went for a walk - my opportunity to glean from his vast experience of years in Christian leadership ministries.

I asked him what he had learned from the 35 pastors and Christian workers in his class. He told me that he had asked each one to give him a brief account of their most recent major conflict. I was most curious to hear the report. All but one were in conflict with their Board of elders.

Was their a common thread? You bet! In every case it was over ‘Expectations.’ Either their expectations of the elders or the elder’s expectations of them.

I found this remarkable because that very Wednesday morning I had devoted a major part of my class time insisting that students in my class would never officiate at a wedding without first conducting a premarriage course, preparing a couple for marriage. Why? A primary function of pre-marriage counselling and planning is to adjust unrealistic expectations and express assumed expectations so that the couple can commit themselves to agreed-upon realistic expectations.

The evidence is overwhelming. We are not doing well when it comes to Managing Expectations.

The Mismanagement Of Expectations

When expectations are poorly managed, four negative emotions emerge, any one of which can be destructive in any relationship.

Two of these emotions, anger and sadness may be the feeling of the person whose expectations are not being fulfilled; you or your spouse, your pastor, your colleague, or any person with whom you have a relationship where their expectations are poorly managed. The other two emotions, anxiety and shame, may be the feelings of the person who is trying to meet the expectations of another individual.

ANGER: When people are prevented from seeing their expectations realized, they often respond with anger. A Christian leader may be angry with you, his congregation or board because you or they are perceived as the obstacle preventing him from seeing a goal fulfilled.

A teenager may be angry with a parent who blocks the way to seeing an expectation realized.

A spouse can become resentful and angry with his or her partner who stands in the way of a dream coming true.

SADNESS: While it is much less intense, it is no less hurtful. When the expectations of your partner, your friend, your colleague, your child are simply lost, ignored or forgotten in the busyness and frenzy of your life, there is sadness and a feeling of being unappreciated. In either case these feelings can erode and corrupt any relationship. They are the soil that produces a harvest of hurt.

ANXIETY: This can become your emotional pitfall. You may feel this way when you are uncertain of what exactly someone’s expectations are. They won’t talk, They say, if you really cared, you would know! But you don’t know. You find yourself saying, “What does he/she really want?” “They give me a job but never tell me what they expect. They just complain.”

SHAME: When it is clear you have failed to meet the expectations of the other person you feel embarrassed, ashamed, unworthy. Children often struggle with this emotion when they come to the conclusion they can never please their parents.

For these reasons alone we must endeavour to cultivate some skills and strategies for becoming better managers of our expectations and the expectations of people who mean a great deal to us. Some lessons can be learned from two familiar biblical incidents.

Two Biblical Examples

In Genesis 24, Abraham sends his servant to find a wife for his son Isaac. In commissioning his servant, several expectations were clearly expressed: *from his home country, *from among his relatives, *offer her gifts of gold, jewellery and fine clothing, *leaving her home and travelling to where Isaac lived, *the Lord’s guidance. The servant, although in an inferior position to Abraham, begins some negotiating: *What if she won’t leave home? *He offers an alternative. Abraham rejects the alternative and clarifies his expectations. The servant steps out confidently, conscious of his master’s expectations and in due process is able to fully meet them! That’s how relationships grow deep and strong. That’s how one can maintain stability in any relationship.

Acts 13-15 relates the unhappy account of Mark’s defection from the mission of Paul and Barnabas (15:37). We are never told why Mark left. It’s pure speculation but I seriously wonder if it was a matter of expectations. Did Paul ever spell out to Mark his expectations of him in various categories: *duties required, *length of the term Mark would be with them, etc. Was Mark given the opportunity to negotiate his responsibilities?

While I can’t be sure of Mark, I know for sure it has been the primary reason why missionaries leave after their first term on the mission field and never return. In recent years missionary organizations have recognized this and have sought to address the problem by requiring an extensive preparation program before missionaries are sent to a foreign country. They need to know what to expect, what will be expected of them, what kind of co-workers to expect, etc. etc. Why do pastors leave churches prematurely and disillusioned? Why do marriages struggle? Why do families struggle? When expectations are assumed, never expressed, when they are imposed, never negotiated, when they are ignored or unrealistic, there is suffering, trouble and sometimes failure in one way or another.

I want to suggest a model that will help make a difference in any and every relationship. You will be able to locate on it exactly where you are in any particular relationship. You will be able to see how you got to where you are in that relationship as well as see how to change the dynamics of that relationship and bring stability to it.

Expectations

To manage expectations well we begin with recognizing three essential characteristics of expectations.

1. They Must Be Expressed

Someone has concluded that 80 % of our expectations are assumed
– never really expressed.

Consider for a moment one of your relationships. How many expectations have you actually expressed and discussed? You see – most are assumed.

During a week long summer conference a few years ago a young lady asked, one afternoon, if we could have a talk. She had been married for several years, long enough to accumulate a list of complaints against her husband. When I asked her if she had ever expressed these to her husband, her quick reply was; “Oh, he knows alright.” In a later conversation with her husband it became apparent that many of the criticisms were a surprise. She was sure he knew, but she had never clearly expressed them to him.

When my wife and I arrived at a church for a Bible conference we were met by a pastor who was heart-broken, dejected and a little angry. He had just resigned a day earlier. It was the fall-out from his recent annual review by the church board at which time his wife had been strongly criticized. What hurt most was the fact that they had never once expressed any of their expectations of his wife when he was hired. Now, in his review, he was hit hard. “It just isn’t fair,” he said. And it isn’t! You can’t complain about unfulfilled expectations that have never been expressed.

Interest magazine (July/August 1994) reported on a Lutheran bishop in North Dakota who sent out to his parishioners a list of 112 action verbs and asked them to circle the ones they felt were most important for a leader to be doing.

He received 332 returns.

Some verbs usually associated with leadership didn’t make the top ten: administration (12th), teach (23rd), lead (24th). What they wanted spiritual leaders to do was to pray (5th), love (4th), inspire (3rd), encourage (2nd) and listen (1st).

You may not agree with another person’s expectations, but you do need to understand what they expect. Don’t guess-so, know-so! Ask and listen! Give the person the opportunity to express. On the other hand, you have expectations. Don’t withhold them. Don’t be silent. Express them.

When it comes to expressing expectations, it is most helpful to discuss one category at a time. An open-ended question like, “What are your expectations?” is a non-starter. Identify a single category and focus on it alone.

Here are some suggested categories in five major relationships. Remember, you want to work on the ones which are appropriate, one at a time.


A. Husband/Wife Expectations

1. Time together

4. Money management

2. Home responsibilities

5. Sexual relationship

3. Prayer and Bible devotions together

6. Parenting

B. Parent/Child Expectations

1. Allowances

5. Use of car/telephone

2. Home chores

6. Homework

3. Television/Leisure time/Sports activities

7. Dating/Curfew

4. Church attendance/Devotions/Music

8. Clothing/Dress

C. Elders/Pastoral Staff Expectations

 

1. Office time/Schedule

8. Gender issues

2. Appropriate dress standards

9. Community time

3. Prayer partnership

10.Vacation/Leisure time

4. Attendance at meetings

11.Continuing education

5. Salary

12.Social activities

6. Expenses

13.Integrity issues

7. Spouses responsibility

14. Mentoring/Review

D. Leadership/Congregation Expectations

1. What do you understand to be the expectations members of your church have of you?

2. What are the specific expectation you have of individual believers who come to associate with your church?

E. Employer/Employee/Colleague etc.

1. Time

5. Confidentiality

2. Responsibilities: Workload/Social

6. Punctuality

3. Money

7. Dress

4. Education/Training/Mentoring

 

In his book, Lincoln on Leadership (p. 45), Donald Phillips quotes part of a letter written by the President to General Hooker relating a conversation they had together late in the civil war.

“What I now ask of you is military success…The government will support you to the utmost of its ability…I shall assist you, as far as I can…And now, beware of rashness. Beware of rashness, but with energy and sleepless vigilance, go forth and give us victories.”

Phillips comments on the letter,

“Contemporary leaders can learn an important lesson from this letter. For here, in one bold stroke, Lincoln told Hooker exactly what he thought of him (both good and bad) and precisely what he expected. He offered support and assistance, he encouraged his general to take the initiative and do the right thing. Then Lincoln gave Hooker the letter so that he could take it with him and ponder their conversation more thoroughly. Here was Lincoln the leader at his best.”

The lesson: Express exactly what you expect!

Carson Pue, President of Arrow Leadership Ministries, in his book Mentoring Leaders (156-57) writes:

‘When we at Arrow desired to hire a personal assistant to the president, we created a very accurate role description for the position. However Mr. Jim Postlewaite, who was working with me at the time, asked me for a list of what I was looking for in an assistant beyond the actual tasks that needed to be accomplished (the feelings, emotions side of the search). After a few days I provided him a list of what I wanted in an executive assistant. I wanted someone who:

·         anticipates my next move

·         takes initiative

·         is loyal to me and Arrow

·         presents well on paper—both writing content and layout

·         makes a great first impression

·         is a problem solver

·         is confident

·         is at his best when I am at my worst

·         has an “up” attitude

·         gets along with the other team members

·         has traveled and understands hotels and flights, etc.

·         is secure when I am away from the office

·         can produce when given a task – job delegated, job done!

·         can make me look good

·         is an encouragement to me – encouraging words and prayer support

In the course of my ministry years, I have seen dozens of job descriptions. This is only the second one I have seen that even addresses the question of expectations. Most churches and businesses have difficulty providing such a list because the leadership or board members have never discussed them or can’t agree on them. It is simply not fair to bring a person to a position for which they have responsibility and not provide them with a list of exactly what’s expected.

2. They Must Be Realistic

A cute comic strip, “Between Friends, pictures two young ladies talking together at a restaurant. One says to her friend, “Every time I see my therapist, I tell him that men don’t understand me, and every time I say that he tells me my expectations are unrealistic. Then yesterday, after years of therapy it suddenly clicked!” Her friend asks, “That he’s right?” “No, that he’s a man and he doesn’t understand me either.”

The fact remains, some expectation are just that – unrealistically high. So what can we do then?

In the “Pardon My Planet” cartoon, an earnest young man is speaking in candlelight to a young lady and says, “From the day you marry me I’ll spend the rest of my life making your dreams come true. ‘Till then, I’ll work myself to the bone trying to lower your expectations.”

The objective, of course, is not to lower expectations. It is simply to make them realistic. Unrealistic ones that are unachievable only set us up to fail.

She was a young excited bride-to-be eagerly anticipating married life with her fiancé. In a burst of enthusiasm, in the midst of one of our pre-marriage counselling sessions, she exclaimed, “I can’t wait until we get married and we can be together all the time!” Immediately the lights went on. “Hold it! Wait a minute! You mean that’s your expectation of married life?” Simply unrealistic. If the record isn’t set straight right now, they are heading for some rough water ahead. Managing expectations involves having expectations that are realistic.

A full-time pastoral leader recently called me. It was a distress call. He had just received a review from the leadership in his home church – elders who were caring and very supportive. In the course of his review they encouraged him to continue to develop his preaching skills and style. (Hat’s off to the elders here!) But he was distressed. Why? He was expected to prepare three new sermons a week, while carrying a full load of administration , counselling and visiting responsibilities. Simply unrealistic!!

We all have limitations: time, physical strength, training, skills, facilities, education, personality, experience, finances and a dozen more. That’s what makes some expectations unrealistic. So, what do you do?

My wife and a good friend were having lunch together when her friend lamented over the conflict she and her husband were having with their adult children. Due to circumstances of school and finances the 22 year old and 25 year old were living with them. The friend felt she was doing all the mother-chores for the adult children who were taking some advantage of her, showing little respect and taking on little responsibility. She and her husband were exhausted and frustrated.

So, in an act of desperation, the parents created a list of “expectations” - they called them rules – curfews, lunches, laundry etc. etc. They laid it all out – “If you are going to live in our home, this is what we expect.” It seemed quite reasonable to the parents. But with the children it was horrible. The son stormed out of the room stating he was moving out if he had to comply with them. The daughter raced out of the room and fled to her bedroom crying. “We are in a turmoil,” said her friend. What went wrong? What can we do?

My wife replied, “You made an excellent first step – writing down and presenting your expectations. However, you failed to do the second important step – give a person an opportunity to do some negotiations.”

When confronted with expectations that are being placed upon you, you have three options. You can say; “I’ll do it to the best of my ability.” Or you can say; “I’m sorry, I just can’t do it,” and explain the limitations that prevent that. But, there is a third option.” You can say; “Can we negotiate?” Managing expectations well, often requires some negotiation. This is the third essential.

3. They May Need To Be Negotiated

With negotiation, unrealistic expectations can be transformed into realistic expectations.

Here is a simple strategy for negotiating expectations:

a) Identify the issue, problem, area of conflict.

b) Choose the category. For example, it could be time spent together. Narrow it down to the conflict point:

“We miss having you home for supper.”

“I miss our date nights.” “We haven’t had a date night for weeks.”

“We need time to talk.”

“I am feeling very alone when it comes to family decisions.”

c) Express your differing expectations re: the category you have chosen. Take turns, being sure to listen to each other. It might even be wise to write the expectations down.

d) Focus on the problem, not the person. Sentences should begin with
“I think,” “I feel.” Don’t start sentences with “You!”

e) Take time listening and speaking with a Christian attitude.

Phil. 2:2-4; Make me truly happy by agreeing wholeheartedly with each other, loving one another, and working together with one heart and purpose. (NLT)

Be selfless, sacrificial and serving.

Eph. 4:25-32: So put away all falsehood and “tell your neighbour the truth” because we belong to each other. And don’t sin by letting anger gain control over you, Don’t let the sun go down while you are still angry, for anger gives a mighty foothold to the Devil…. Don’t use foul or abusive language. Let everything you say be good and helpful, so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them. And do not bring sorrow to God’s Holy Spirit by the way you live. Remember, he is the one who has identified you as his own, guaranteeing that you will be saved on the day of redemption. Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of malicious behaviour. Instead, be kind to each other, tender-hearted, forgiving one another just as God through Christ has forgiven you. (NLT)

Speak the truth (25)

Settle your differences quickly (26-27)

Speak constructively (29)

f) Work toward a compromise. Adjust, revise, reject, create until you can agree on your expectations in the category you have chosen. They are now expressed and realistic! Write them down (just in case someone forgets!)

g) Reinforce each other’s positive fulfilment of the expectations.

Re-evaluate regularly. It may require a little adjusting before you get it right.

Done over a period of time, you will soon establish a set of specific expectations for a variety of areas that have been clearly expressed. You have agreed on them. You have committed yourself to do them. You are accountable for them.

It must always be remembered, however, that some expectations are non negotiable. Certain legal, moral and biblical directives fall into this company. Parents, for example, can negotiate curfew hours, but never underage drinking or immoral conduct. Biblical absolutes are just that – absolutes!

Roles/Responsibilities

The scripture identifies a variety of roles in our society today. In Ephesians 5:22-6:9 there is the husband, wife, parent, child, slave (employee) and master (employer). In 1 Peter

As a father, my responsibility is not to exasperate my children (Eph. 6:4). Children are different. What exasperates one, may motivate another. This is where expectations come in.

As a husband I am to live with my wife in an understanding way (1 Peter 3:7). That is in the light of my understanding of her. Wives are different. What my wife needs from me may be very different from what your wife
needs from you. This is where expectations come in.

As a Christian leader I am to manage my family well, be above reproach, have a good reputation. As a Christian businessman, I am to be a person of integrity. What do these and many more biblical directives involve?

There is a sense in which our responsibilities in relationships are not fully defined until we have a clear set of agreed upon expectations. Then, and only then do I know my responsibilities.

Stability

What an amazing place to be in any relationship. Managing expectations is the price of peace in a marriage, a family, a business and a church. This may be an oversimplification, but I have often traced major “wars” between a husband and wife, parents and a child, members in a congregation, pastoral leaders and elders to the mismanagement of expectations.

When this problem is addressed and negotiated it can go a long way toward peace in a home or at a church.

On numerous occasions my wife and I have been enjoying a meal in a restaurant with some friends when a problem surfaces that they want to address. In most cases it relates to expectations between them, with their children or with a colleague. I reach for the paper napkin and sketch out this model for managing expectations. Why? When you understand and are meeting each other’s expectations, you will have peace!

But that won’t continue forever!

Change

More than ever before, we are convinced today of the reality of three things in life; death, taxes and change. Change will come and it will affect your expectations.

Just consider a few such changes: the first child, an unexpected fourth child, a visit from the in-laws, grandparent moving in, a layoff at work, moving from a two career family to an one career family or visa versa, the results of a medical test, a child obtaining a driver’s license, leaving home for college, getting married, promotion at work, new responsibilities at church, retirement and a hundred more.

Any one of these changes will require some adjustment in your expectations. How will you know? You will feel a pinch in the relationship.

Pinch

It’s not a crisis. It’s not an explosion. It’s not a meltdown. It’s just a pinch. The change makes it less possible to meet the expectations that you have been meeting in one category or another. Or, it makes you feel as though your expectations are being ignored, neglected or overlooked. You feel short-changed. Something is different in the relationship.

This is when you ask yourself, your spouse, your child, your colleague, your associate: “Is there anything going on in our relationship right now, which, if it continues, will drive us apart in some way.” Expectations in one or more categories are not being met the way they once were. Why?

This is what we call a “CHOICE POINT.” Don’t ignore it in the interest of peace-keeping. You will only create a pseudo-peace. It will be artificial and superficial. Unless you identify the problem and address it, you certainly will drift apart. You will build up frustration and anger, become bitter and watch the relationship deteriorate.

An unforgettable Candid Camera’s episode illustrates the point. An undercover actor enters a diner, sits at the counter beside a person eating a hamburger and french-fries. He quickly reaches over and helps himself to a french-fry off the person’s plate. The neighbour notices it, frowns, but turns away and ignores it. Another fry is taken, eaten, then another. No reaction from the neighbour, just frowns, scowls, disgusted looks. Several different neighbours were subjected to the same treatment. Not one person said anything. They internalized their frustrations and irritation. They obviously wanted to keep the peace but it was a pseudo-peace. Underneath there was lots of agitation. This type of thing is relived in real life over and over again.

Don’t ignore the pinch. Something is gong on which will drive you apart if you don’t do anything about it. Something has changed and it’s affecting your relationship. You are trying to keep the peace but you are slowly losing it.

So what do you do when you feel the pinch? You go back to the first line; EXPECTATIONS. Identify the category which has been affected by the change in your life. It could be time spent together, curfew, sermon preparation time, or any one of the categories you came up with when you deal with expectations. Now you renegotiate the expectations in that category.

Some years ago, Marilyn and I conducted a Marriage Enrichment weekend with a group of professional couples. One session was devoted to Managing Expectations. At the end of the day we were driven to the home of our hosts. We had barely settled into the back seat when the woman said; “Well, that explains it!” What explains what we wondered? She began to pour out her heart to us. She and her husband had been married 30 years earlier, just as he had finished his doctoral program. A significant career followed, the birth of children and church leadership . She regretfully confessed that she had never adjusted her expectations of her husband. With some complaining, she had absorbed the pressures. It was a pseudo-peace.

The “Pinch” is a CHOICE POINT. It’s the time for a PLANNED RENEGOTIATION. Do not renegotiate every category of “Expectations,” just the expectations affected by the life-change at that time.

I mentioned this at a summer conference a few years ago. After the service a couple introduced themselves to me – both physicians. I smiled and guessed that they had lots of experience in trying to manage their expectations. Was I in for a surprise!! They told me that early in their marriage they had agreed upon a set of expectations for several critical areas of their life. They had been married for 5 years and every year they had sat down together and revised those expectations. I was very impressed. I commended them highly. Then, I suggested that they would find it more helpful to revise at the time of a change that’s affecting a certain expectation rather than at the start of a new year.

What if you don’t do it then?

xxx Disruptions xxx

Disruptions occur because of the violation of expectations. Anxiety, resentment, blaming, guilt, anger, bitterness are just some of the unhealthy fruits.

Far too often, this is when the pastor or marriage/family counsellor enters the picture. There have been months, even years of mismanaged expectations. There are emotional bruises and scars, shattered dreams, devastated self images.

This brings us to the second CHOICE POINT.

Crunch

At this point a person has at least four options:

1. EXIT: We may choose to terminate the relationship. It is generally hurtful, resentful, painful, even a devastating conclusion. In marriage it is a divorce. In family it’s a moving out. In our work it’s a resignation. In ministry it’s leaving a church. Often it’s unbiblical. Never is it easy. It may actually be unnecessary because there is a better option.

2. QUIT AND STAY: We may choose to stay in the relationship but withdraw from any ownership, participation and responsibility. The husband or wife quits the marriage but stays until the children have all left home. The couple quits the church but decide to stay in the church for the sake of the children who love the youth ministry. The teenager quits the family but stays in the home until he/she leaves for work or college. The elder or Sunday school teacher withdraws from participation – just fulfills their term but no joy in ministry. Every case is a sad, pathetic story – settling for so much less when there is a better option.

3. FORGIVE AND FORGET: This is the option most Christians choose when the situation is not too serious. We may go back to the second line in our model – ROLES AND RESPONSIBILITIES. We review our biblical roles and responsibilities, face up to the fact that we have failed to live up to them, apologize, ask for forgiveness and promise to try harder. The problems have not been settled or addressed and we probably will be shortly repeating the cycle through the PINCH down to the CRUNCH again.

This is a PREMATURE RECONCILIATION. It’s a reconciliation for sure, but has the cause actually been addressed? Too often they are setting themselves up for a repeat breakdown in the relationship. This is a poor solution because there is a better option.

4. The PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION: This is the fourth and preferred choice. It requires returning to the top line of our model and renegotiating expectations. Not all of them, just the categories affected by the changes and disruptions creating the crisis.

Check the completed model on the following page.

Did you notice the two CHOICE POINTS: PINCH and CRUNCH? Which of the two is the preferred choice point? Of course, it’s at the PINCH in any relationship. Recognize it and act on it. Don’t wait for the CRUNCH!! It’s so much more painful and difficult. Avoid it at all costs.

Did you notice there are three strategies?

PLANNED RENEGOTIATION

PREMATURE RECONCILIATION

PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION

Which of the three is preferred? Of course, it’s the PLANNED RENEGOTIAION. The PREMATURE RECONCILIATION doesn’t eliminate the cause. The PRESSURED RENEGOTIATION is acting with an ultimatum on the table. So much better to plan to renegotiate any expectations affected by a life-change at the time of the life-change. That’s really being smart!!

Think about a relationship which you are in – whether at home, at work or at church. Where do you place yourself on the Expectations model? If you are at STABILITY, then you know why you are there – you have in one way or another expressed and negotiated the expectations pertaining to that relationship and for the most part those expectations are being met. If you are at the PINCH you don’t have to stay there – you know what to do. Change has come into the relationship. Think about the category that has been affected by that life-change. Now renegotiate those expectations. Many relationships today are feeling the CRUNCH. They find themselves in a desperate situation not knowing where to turn. Now there is hope. Don’t QUIT, QUIT AND STAY or just FORGIVE AND FORGET. Go back to the EXPECTATIONS, think through the categories where the relationship is falling apart and renegotiate those expectations.

Here is the goal in all of our lives:

Unity and Stability in the church. This is God’s ideal as we see in Ephesians 4:1-6

Harmony and Stability in the home. This is God’s ideal, as well, and in Ephesians 5:21 – 6:4 we see the critical factors to achieve this.

Harmony and Stability in the workplace. Ephesians 6:5-9 offers the critical factors, once again.

Unfulfilled Expectations

Not only do men and women have different expectations, they often handle unfulfilled expectations differently. Take wives for example. Martie Stowell in Promises Promises (p, 177) writes;

“A wife has assumptions about time with her husband, about money, about meals and about the children. Her husband has different assumptions. So every time he acts in some way that differs from her assumptions, she feels as though he has broken a promise to her.”

The effect; she feels betrayed and crushed. This, of course, is not really the case. What has happened here? There has been a failure to express, discuss, negotiate and agree upon a set of expectations in these categories. Think of the damage done when a wife thinks her husband has broken a promise. This can all be avoided through better management of expectations.

How do men, characteristically, handle unfulfilled expectations? They feel personal rejection. They feel neglected and usually withdraw or become aggressive and redirect their energy to their job, sports or hobby. This can all be avoided also! Now you know how to do it!!

What About Our God Relationship?

After all, our relationship with God is the most important of all. It is our primary relationship affecting every other relationship. Understanding and meeting expectations are as important in our relationship with God as with one another.

The Bible makes an important distinction between being a creature of God and a child of God. We are all His creatures; every breath we breathe is a gift from our Creator. Speaking of God’s Son, Jesus, coming into this world of humanity, John 1:11 says; “He came unto his own and his own received him not.” Then verse 12 says; “Yet to all who receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God.”

That’s the difference. Children of God have personally received Christ into their life, recognizing He is the Son of God who died to pay the penalty for their sin. This is what God expects.

When we receive Christ into our life, turning from our sin, trusting Him to become our Saviour, we are delivered from the penalty of our sin. We are committing ourselves to be one of Christ’s followers. That’s what God expects of us. That person becomes a child of God.

1 John 5:12 – “He who has the Son has life. He who does not have the Son of God does not have life.”

What can followers of Christ expect of God? Forgiveness; a personal relationship with God as our Father; a new life with the joy of the Lord, the peace of God, the guidance and energizing of the Holy Spirit, the privilege of prayer, a new freedom and ultimately a home in heaven.

If you have never received Jesus Christ personally into your life perhaps this prayer from The Four Spiritual Laws will help to guide you.

“Lord Jesus, I need You. Thank You for dying on the cross for my sins, I open the door of my life and receive You as my Saviour and Lord. Thank You for forgiving my sins and giving me eternal life. Take control of the throne of my life. Make me the kind of person You want me to be.”

Some Questions For Discussion

  1. What category of expectations is most problematic to you?
  2. How can you initiate a discussion on expectations?
  3. How can we initiate a discussion on expectations with a person who isn’t ready to express, discuss, negotiate?
  4. How do you negotiate with a person who is in a position of authority or power over you?
  5. How do you handle unfulfilled expectations?
  6. What unrealistic expectations are you struggling with today?
  7. Discuss together some realistic expectations of God, followers of Christ can have. Then, discuss some of our unrealistic expectations.

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