Why Be Reasonable in Our Expectations?

HOPES realized and aspirations attained give us a sense of satisfaction. Admittedly, though, many of our dreams and expectations do not turn out the way we wish. Recurring disappointments in life can make us feel exasperated with ourselves and even with others. A wise man aptly observed: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick.”​—Proverbs 13:12.

What are some factors that can lead to feelings of disappointment? How can we work at being reasonable in our expectations? Furthermore, why is it to our benefit to do so?

Expectations and Disappointments

With the fast pace of life today, the more we try to keep up, the further we seem to fall behind. Demands on our time and energy can be unrelenting, and when we fail to get done what we set out to do, there is a tendency to come down on ourselves. We could even begin to feel as though we are letting others down. Cynthia, a wife and mother who knows the pressures of parenting, says: “Being inconsistent in correcting my children and feeling that I am not adequately training them is exasperating.” Stephanie, a teenager, says regarding her education: “I don’t have enough time to do everything I want to do, and that triggers feelings of impatience in me.”

Unreasonably high expectations easily turn into perfectionism, and this can be most frustrating. Ben, a young married man, confesses: “When I examine my actions, thoughts, or feelings, I always see how they could have been better. I am constantly looking for perfection, and this leads to impatience, frustration, and disappointment.” Gail, a Christian wife, says: “Perfectionist thinking does not allow for failure. We want to be supermoms and superwives. We have to be productive to be happy, so wasted effort irritates us.”

Yet another factor that can lead to personal disappointment is deteriorating health and old age. Diminished mobility and energy magnify our limitations and add to feelings of frustration. “I felt impatient with myself for not being able to accomplish things that were so easy and natural before I got sick,” acknowledges Elizabeth.

The foregoing is a sampling of what can trigger feelings of disappointment. Left unchecked, such feelings can even lead us to believe that we are not appreciated by others. So, what positive measures can we take to cope with disappointments and to cultivate reasonable expectations?

Ways to Cultivate Reasonable Expectations

First, remember that Jehovah is reasonable and understanding. Psalm 103:14 reminds us: “He himself well knows the formation of us, remembering that we are dust.” Knowing our capabilities and limitations, Jehovah expects from us only what we are able to give. And one thing he does ask of us is “to be modest in walking with [our] God.”​—Micah 6:8.

 Jehovah also urges us to turn to him in prayer. (Romans 12:12; 1 Thessalonians 5:17) How, though, does that help us? Prayer stabilizes and balances our thinking. Fervent prayer is an acknowledgment that we need help​—it is a mark of modesty and humility. Jehovah is eager to respond to our prayers by giving us his holy spirit, the fruitage of which includes love, kindness, goodness, and self-control. (Luke 11:13; Galatians 5:22, 23) Prayer also alleviates anxiety and frustration. Through prayer, “you derive comfort unknown from any other source,” says Elizabeth. Kevin concurs: “I pray for a calm heart and a clear mind so that I can deal with a problem. Jehovah never lets me down.” The apostle Paul knew the precious value of prayer. That is why he recommended: “Let your petitions be made known to God; and the peace of God that excels all thought will guard your hearts and your mental powers by means of Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6, 7) Yes, communicating with Jehovah really works to help us cultivate reasonable expectations of ourselves and of others.

Occasionally, though, we need immediate reassurance. A word at the right time is good. Confidential talk with a trusted and mature friend can help us get a fresh view of what is causing us to feel disappointed or anxious. (Proverbs 15:23; 17:17; 27:9) Youths who struggle with frustrations learn that seeking parental advice helps them find balance. Kandi appreciatively acknowledges: “Loving direction from my parents has made me more reasonable and balanced and more of a pleasure to be around.” Yes, the reminder at Proverbs 1:8, 9 is most timely: “Listen, my son, to the discipline of your father, and do not forsake the law of your mother. For they are a wreath of attractiveness to your head and a fine necklace to your throat.”

The consequences of perfectionist thinking are well summed up in the adage: “To expect life to be tailored to our specifications is to invite frustration.” To avoid this, an adjustment in thinking is required. Humility and modesty​—having a realistic view of our limitations—​will most certainly nurture in us balanced and reasonable expectations. Appropriately, Romans 12:3 cautions us “not to think more of [ourselves] than it is necessary to think.” Additionally, Philippians 2:3 encourages us to have lowliness of mind and to consider others to be superior.

Elizabeth, mentioned earlier, was impatient with herself because of her sickness. For her, time was needed to get Jehovah’s view of matters and to feel comforted in knowing that he does not forget our service. Colin is immobilized as a result of a debilitating illness. Initially, he entertained feelings that his ministry was almost worthless compared to what he had been doing while in good health. By meditating on such scriptures as 2 Corinthians 8:12, he was able to shake these feelings. This verse says: “If the readiness is there first, it is especially acceptable according to what a person has, not according to what a person does not have.” “Although I have much less to give,” says Colin, “I can still give, and that is acceptable to Jehovah.” At Hebrews 6:10, we are reminded: “God is not unrighteous so as to forget your work and the love you showed for his name.”

How, then, can we determine whether our expectations are reasonable? Ask yourself, ‘Do my expectations go hand in hand with God’s expectations?’ Galatians 6:4 states: “Let each one prove what his own work is, and then he will have cause for exultation in regard to himself alone, and not in comparison with the other person.” Remember, Jesus said: “My yoke is kindly and my load is light.” Yes, as Christians, we do have a yoke to bear, but it is “kindly” and “light,” and Jesus promised that it would be refreshing if we learn to carry it properly.​—Matthew 11:28-30.

 Reasonable Expectations Bring Rewards

Immediate and lasting rewards do come from listening to and applying the counsel of God’s Word as we work at cultivating reasonable expectations. For one thing, this has a favorable effect on us physically. Jennifer, who has benefited from Jehovah’s reminders, acknowledges: “I have more energy and enthusiasm for life.” Appropriately, Proverbs 4:21, 22 urges us to pay attention to the sayings of Jehovah with our eyes and heart, “for they are life to those finding them and health to all their flesh.”

Another reward is mental and emotional well-being. “When I expose my mind and heart to God’s Word, I find I am always a happier person,” says Theresa. True, we will still experience disappointments in life. Yet, we will be able to bear them more readily. “Draw close to God, and he will draw close to you,” urges James 4:8. Jehovah also promises to strengthen us in facing life’s challenges and to bless us with peace.​—Psalm 29:11.

Having reasonable expectations enables us to maintain spiritual stability. This too is a blessing. We can keep a clear focus on the more important things in life. (Philippians 1:10) Our goals are then realistic and attainable, which brings greater joy and contentment. We will be more willing to entrust ourselves to Jehovah, knowing that he will make things work out for the best. “Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God, that he may exalt you in due time,” says Peter. (1 Peter 5:6) Can there be anything more rewarding than to be honored by Jehovah?

[Pictures on page 31]

Cultivating reasonable expectations can help us cope with frustrations and disappointments