The Anger Of Expectations

Kyle Reed // @kylereed

When I was growing up no one ever talked to me about expectations. I never read a book about it, never had my dad sit me down and talk to me about expectations, didn’t even hear a sermon on expectations. But as I walk into adulthood I have found time and time again that expectations is the biggest thing I struggle with.

Whether it be high or low expectations, I often find myself disappointed and often times angry that they are never met. It is not something that I realized was going on, but it has become glaringly obvious to me that at the core of most of my frustration are my expectations.

I often wonder if expectations are a motive of selfishness, idealism, or the lack of contentment? It is probably is all of the above. But expectations seem to be the first thing I set and the last thing I think about. But they never leave me satisfied. In fact, they only produce more anger.

This struck me as odd when I realized that hardly anyone talks about the issue of expectations. How we project them on others, situations, and our own life.

Here are just a couple of quotes I found about expectations:

“There were two ways to be happy: improve your reality, or lower your expectations”  –Jodi PicoultNineteen Minutes

“When you stop expecting people to be perfect, you can like them for who they are.” –Donald MillerA Million Miles in a Thousand Years

“No expectations mean there is no risk of disappointment.” -unknown

I do not know about you, but expectations kill me every time. With the girls I have dated, with every job I have taken, every friendship I have started, and every dream I have dreamt.

And as I continue to think abou this subject I come back to a one-way conversation with myself. I feel like I need to get this conversation out to others.

This is something that I have never talked about before and would love to hear what you think about expectations and how you handle them.

Share your thoughts on expectations below


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Kyle Reed

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I create websites, conversations, and ideas. Advocate for the 20 somethings. Looking to connect everyone to a mentor. Married to my best friend, Ginny. I like my coffee black and my dog Jack. I currently live in Nashville and work at Sony Music/Provident in Nashville
  • Benji

    this is good  stuff and I think you’re right..this is a topic that is way under-addressed in ministry circles..I know  that both in the marriage  counseling that I have received and given, expectations are  very much a common struggle in christian marriages…I sometimes wonder if some of the marriage teaching that we the church offer has done more harm than good because it seems like the young ladies are expecting their young husband to be the next James Dobson and the young husbands are expecting their young wives to be the next Beth Moore…what we fail to remember is that it wasn’t until James Dobson and Beth Moore were in their forties before they became who we know them to be….
    my wife and I have both really had to address our expectations of each other and we realized that we both needed to lower the bar…

    • @kylereed

      that is a great point benji. It is interesting to see how we look to others to then project our expectations on someone else. I do it all the time

  • AdamLehman

    Nailed it. I’m working with a pastor who is helping ministry types deal with this. He calls this “pretense.” False Identity leads to a False Mission leads to a False Mission.

    When our identity isn’t rooted in the place our identity was meant to be rooted, it’s going to throw our whole life/work/relationships/leadership out of wack. We’re going to engage in relationships filled with pretense; masks. 

    Expectations are a part of pretense. It’s coming to the table “needing” or “wanting” something that the other was never meant to deliver on. 


  • Shellie Kubicki

    Wow!! When was the last time I stopped by?? I think I have a few more gray (covered-up) hairs!! And my daughter got engaged!! 

    Seriously, though. I lived so much of my life not living up to other peoples’ expectations of me, my career, and my choice of a husband. No matter what I did, straight A’s, honor roll, honor society for pharmacy students, it was never good enough. I was so conditioned for failure. And the worst thing, looking back, is I “expected” nothing better for myself. I also think it was part of why I sank into my addiction. Never living up to someone else’s dreams. Never having my own dreams. 

    Someone told me early into my recovery that expectations can only lead to resentments. Against someone else or yourself. It doesn’t matter. I learned to rely on faith and a change in my perception of my goals. Or, again, what someone else expects. I have to be honest with myself as to my limitations. I can’t do it all! And I have be OK with that. It sounds hard, but really, it’s a total reliance on my faith in God. God knows my limitations AND my assets. I accept that I am not, & never on this Earth will I be, perfect. I think it starts there. Accepting me. Accepting (knowing) God has His hand in every breath I breathe & every step I take. I do have good qualities and bad ones that God & I & my sponsor work on. It is a daily battle sometimes! 

    You have that spark!! Don’t let the “bad” days get you. Turn it around and call it a “learning” day. Because in the end, you are your own worst critic! 

    I think I can, I think I can, I KNOW I CAN.


  • Rebecca Harnum

    “…with every job I have taken, every friendship I have started, and every dream I have dreamt.” 

    Pretty much nailed it. I once decided to “simply” lower my expectations to avoid disappointment in people – co-workers and friends, specifically. It worked. Until I realized I’d lowered them to the point in which I didn’t have any. At all. And I don’t think the pendulum is supposed to swing that far to the other side. 

    My experience has been that the biggest problem is not in having expectations (high or low) but in not communicating them to people. I guess it makes sense – if people don’t know what we expect they have no idea when or how they’ve disappointed us. Right?

  • Grant Jenkins

    Expectations can be a tricky, sticky thing. I think the majority of disappointment is rooted in unrealistic expectations. Communication is the best way to navigate the expectation mine field, but we usually project and assume more than we communicate. If you get it figured out, let me know. I could use an expectation consultant. 

  • Erin Woods

    Indeed. Expectations are tricky. Our lives are built on them. People have always expected certain things from us and we have always expected certain things from ourselves and others. Not to mention circumstances. I expected my life by 28 to look a certain way. I expected certain outcomes from my obedience and my personality and my connections. At 28, my life looks absolutely nothing like I thought it would. But I love my life. I love the people that Lord has given me in this season. I love my job. And still, i have had some very angry days with people and with God for unmet expectations. 

    In college, I had a friend point me to Psalm 62:5. It says For God alone my soul waits, He alone is my expectation (or hope). I have wrestled with that verse for years. I do not know how to not expect anything but God. I don’t know how to fully invest in a dream and only expect God. Or how to go into a new dating relationship or even a friendship and not expect certain things…to only expect God. I don’t know how to not expect Christians, particularly Christian leaders, to actually behave like Christians and not jerks. What does it mean to only expect God. 

    I don’t know that I will ever know how to do that. But, I can filter my expectations through Him and His Word. So when Christian leaders are jerks, I can know that they answer to Him and not me. And that I answer for my actions as well and so I have more grace. And when there is promise of potential in a new relationship and then that person decides they don’t want me, I can know that I have already been chosen by someone much better who loves me infinitely. And the sting is a little softer. And when I give all I can to a dream and keep having doors slam in my face, I can know that God has better plans for me than I could dream up and not only that but His heart aches for my sorrow too. And He wants me to discover his dream for me even more than I do. 

    So, that is how I have to approach expectations. I have to filter them through God and trust His Word over my feelings and in my circumstances. And I am continually having to re-learn this.

  • Deacon Bradley

    I understand your frustration with unmet expectations. I think lots of people share your sentiment (evidenced by the other comments). I would caution against the conclusion that expectations should be tempered or avoided altogether though.

    Zig Ziglar describes it this way, “First you have to prepare to win. Then you must plan to win. And ONLY THEN, can you expect to win.”

    Tim Tebow doesn’t win games because solely because he expects to. He prepares relentlessly. He plans thoroughly. He has earned the right to expect to win. 

    We get into trouble when we jump to the expectation. We have no right to be there really. 

  • Brittyshark

    How about “there is a way that SEEMS right to a man but in the end leads to RUIN”? Excellent article, great springboard for a sermon and timely topic for young people so easily ensnared in entitlement. Anger over expectations is selfish because it says to God “my way was the right way and You messed it up on me”. Brother, we’ve all been there. Great job on this!

  • Montarious

    Good post Kyle,


    When it comes to expectation I believe the best approach is
    to make sure both parties have a clear and agreed upon definitions of whets
    expected. My mom taught me at an early age that it’s important to only hold
    people accountable for expectation they have agreed to for themselves.

     For example, in
    dating, a girl can expect a guy to open the car door for her but if the guy doesn’t
    have this expectation for himself he may disappoint the girl when he doesn’t
    open the door.  The girl can simply avoid
    a lot of disappointment by not expecting a guy to open the door for her but just
    being grateful when he does.

     I also believe one
    root to unforgivness is unmet expectations, I have been able to forgive people
    more when I understood the conflict between my expectations for them and the
    ones they had for themselves, communication is Key! 

  • shelbyisrad

    Okay First, its been waaay too long since I’ve visited your blog but I am enjoying catching up on your posts.
    Second, I think it just clicked with me… my anger frustration really does stem from my unmet expectations and all the things I put expectations on. I definitely need to sit with this realization some, but i agree withe everything you said. I think I’m going to make it a goal this week to be conscious of my expectations and trying to not place so much value on them. 

  • David Helms

    Here’s where I learned to not have expectations: Star Wars.

    From the time I was a little kid I freaking loved star wars, I had the action figures, the micro-machines, the books, the cassette tapes.

    1999 came around and my expectation were sky high.  And then I saw The Phantom Menace.

    My childhood obsession crushed me.  I tried to make myself like it and failed miserably.  

    From that day forward I just live.  I let things be what they are.  If it’s good, then good.  If it’s bad, then oh well.  Am I wrong? maybe.  If I am it’s George Lucases fault.

  • Joanne

    I can relate to this very well. I always seem disappointed in people, cheated or taken advantage of. I realize now that it was my inability to see that both myself and the other person did not the same, clear boundary of expectation.
    I am very willing to help someone out, but when I no longer feel I am helping and I am suddenly feeling used I withdraw and become angry. It does not seem fair to “assume” the other person had the intention of taking advantage. I had not laid out a boundary.. there was no line to cross, no expectation laid.
    I am learning.. to often in hindsight, that I need to be more open with what my own boundaries are, For example.
    I have friends who use our home as a vacation home where they don’t have to cook or clean up and they come Friday and stay until Sunday without ever bringing anything with them to support their visit.
    Over time my husband and I became very resentful and began trying disengage with this couple. A once loved friendship had become bitter. I can’t blame my friends. My door was opened to them, we never asked them to bring food, and we never kicked them out. My EXPECTATION was that people all have the same etiquette when it came to visiting someone’s home. It was this expectation that caused me to not set boundaries from the beginning and almost lost my friendship.
    Now when I am asked by a friend if they can come for a visit I reply:
    “I would love for you to come for a short visit, but I will have to wrap it up before lunch to get things done before….”
    “Great, I would love some company. I will make some pasta, can you bring dessert?”
    Knowing that expectations are not met only when we are not prepared with boundaries has been my experience. I continue to let my expectations of a situation dictate my reactions, but I am trying to establish boundaries BEFORE that happens.