How to Respond to Unmet Expectations

How to Respond to Unmet Expectations - Grace Fox

Let’s take the high road. Let’s follow Christ’s example. And get on with the work of sharing Jesus love with others as He sacrificially shared it with us.

Relationships can be testy sometimes, right?

Conflict happens for various reasons, but unmet expectations is a common cause. That is—one party places expectations upon another and responds negatively when the second party fails to perform according to those expectations. Sometimes they’ve been verbalized; other times, not. Sometimes they’re reasonable; other times, not. It’s complicated.

Our human bent leans toward disappointment, frustration, anger, or even withdrawal when our expectations go unmet. We feel slighted or disrespected. Conflict results when we hang onto our grievances and refuse to discuss, evaluate, or adjust those expectations.

Remember the WWJD bracelets and other do-dads that trended once upon a time? The initials reminded us to ask,  “What would Jesus do?” before saying or doing something regrettable. If we’re in a testy relationship right now, we’d do well to ask WWJD.

Even Jesus experienced unmet expectations

As the time for Jesus’ arrest and crucifixion grew near, He went to the olive grove called Gethsemane to pray. He took Peter, James, and John with Him.

He told them what He expected from them:

“My soul is crushed with grief to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me.”

Then He went off alone and pleaded with God to remove the cup of suffering from Him. (Matthew 26:36-39)

Jesus returned to the disciples and found them asleep. He expressed disappointment and verbalized His expectations again:

“Couldn’t you watch with me even one hour? Keep watch and pray, so that you will not give in to temptation. For the spirit is willing but the body is weak!” (Matthew 26:40-41)

Jesus battled in prayer a second time, and then He returned to the disciples only to find them asleep again. He didn’t bother waking them up. After praying a third time and then finding His friends still asleep, He spoke words worthy of attention:

“Go ahead and sleep. Have your rest. But look—the time has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. Up, let’s be going! Look, my betrayer is here!” (Matthew 26:42-46)

This was one of the darkest moments of Jesus’ life.

He faced crucifixion, and He hoped His best friends would at least pray Him through it. But they couldn’t keep their eyes open. They snoozed while He sweat drops of blood. His expectations were both expressed and reasonable, but His friends let Him down.

How did He respond? With grace. He acknowledged their human weaknesses and then focused on matters at hand.

Let’s face it. No matter how reasonable our expectations might be, friends and family will let us down. They might have our best intentions at heart, but they’re human. And the truth is—we do the same thing to others, often without knowing it.

Life is too short and fragile to hang onto disappointments and grievances.

Granted, sometimes an offense cuts to the core and needs to be addressed appropriately by all parties, if possible, to bring understanding, healing, and closure to a situation. But when it comes to petty grievances, let’s not waste time.

The world’s filled with hurting people who need Jesus. If He could respond with grace to the friends who failed Him miserably in His deepest moment of need, then surely we—who have the power of the risen Christ within us—can do the same.

“Up, let’s be going!” Let’s take the high road. Let’s follow Christ’s example. And let’s get on with the work at hand—the work of sharing Jesus love with others as He sacrificially shared it with us.

Know you are loved,


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