It’s summertime, and many are planning vacations, visits with friends or family. It’s time for road trips or camping or visits to the beach. My husband and I are planning a trip at the end of the summer and I’m looking forward to a short getaway with a close friend.
But for many years I often ruined vacations. When our kids were little, occasionally we would have them stay with grandparents and I would accompany my husband on a weekend away or a work trip. And most of these were sabotaged or at least severely hampered by my attitude.
What was wrong with me?
The problem was I had GREAT EXPECTATIONS and they were entirely selfish. Any vacation or weekend trip was about me and what I wanted to get out of it. I expected my husband to be more attentive and romantic: solicitous of my every desire. I expected that he would know exactly how I wanted it all to play out (without my having to tell him). The accommodations had to be everything I hoped for. If they weren’t, I blamed him.
When the vacation was stressful and not so relaxing, I accused my husband of not planning well. When the weekend away was disappointing and way too short, I was frustrated. And when the work trip turned into meals with strangers and an inattentive husband (who was working, for crying out loud!), I was hurt and angry. I picked a fight and ruined the trip, or at least a large chunk of it.
It wasn’t until the Lord did a major work in my life regarding bitterness that I began to see what I had done. It was so, so selfish. I had developed an entitlement mentality regarding vacations or times away. I believed that since I had suffered hard things in the past, I now deserved to get what I want. What about my poor family? Were they not entitled to do the things they wanted on our vacation? What about relaxation for my husband? Didn’t he deserve to enjoy the trip instead of worrying about whether or not I was ticked off?
Hopefully, you’re not like me in this respect but I think having exalted expectations for any event is dangerous. I have heard people say they are unhappy in a church because the people there “don’t do _______ like I had in another church.” Or Thanksgiving was ruined because their favorite relatives couldn’t make the trip. Maybe their birthday was a disappointment because they didn’t have the celebration they had wished for.
One of the characteristics of a Christian with a transformed mind (Romans 12:2) is that we think of others first. We don’t just focus on our own desires or expectations, but on others and how we can encourage and bless them.One of the characteristics of a Christian with a transformed mind (Romans 12:2) is that we think of others first Click To Tweet
Philippians 2:3-4 says,
Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
If we take this exhortation seriously, we will go into every event, every situation, without thinking of our needs first. We will grow to be others-centered. Jesus modeled this so wonderfully in His ministry here on earth. Even when He was exhausted and people were clamoring for His attention, He noticed the insignificant, the needy. He put their needs above His own.
I won’t tell you this is easy or that it happens overnight. It’s a constant process of surrendering to the Lord, asking Him to work in my heart, and choosing obedience. But I can tell you that the outcome produces more joy and happiness than doing it the other (selfish) way.
Here are 3 ways our expectations backfire on us:
- My imagination and dream of how it “should be” is rarely able to be fulfilled. I’m setting myself up for disappointment.
- The people around me suffer when they don’t know how to make me happy, or don’t understand why I’m unhappy. I am bringing misery to those I love.
- The frustration and/or pain I feel causes me to lash out at others in unkindness and sinful behavior.
In contrast, the last time I accompanied my husband on a work trip, I was thankful for the time to catch up on reading, for the break in my regular routine, and for the opportunity to see new places and meet new people. I focused on blessing him and those we met. It was a wonderful time! Believe me, I was content and joyful beyond what I would have previously hoped for.
And notice that I chose to be thankful, rather than wishing for what I didn’t or couldn’t have. Thankfulness and self-pity absolutely cannot co-exist. It’s either one or the other. I would even say that thankfulness helps us fight our unreasonable expectations.
How do you fight having unrealistic expectations? I’d love to hear.