Expectations: Help or Harm?

Have you ever noticed that over the course of time, conversations with different people begin to develop a theme? It is not intentional and not necessarily arising from a topic either party is passionate about. It may not even seem that there are any correlations between the different discussions. However, I noticed a theme when a particular topic arose recently with a friend. I noticed because she suggested I do a hub about it. I was not planning on doing one, but then I realized how much the subject appearing and reappearing in various conversations over the past year, maybe more, has made me examine my own thoughts on the matter more closely. So here you have it, folks - my thoughts about expectations.

Expect: the dictionary definition

  1. await
  2. to anticipate or look forward to a coming or occurrence

- expecting company or a phone call

3. suppose, think

4. to consider

a) to consider probable or cercertain

- expect to be forgiven, expect things to improve

b) to consider reasonable or necessary

- expect hard work from students

c) to consider bound in duty or obligated

- expected to pay your bills


One thing I often hear is not to expect anything of others and I will not be disappointed or hurt. While that may be true, I also cringe at the suggestion. For one thing, the world already has enough jaded and hardened hearts. Just imagine the implications of that.


Simply being human is to expect. From the moment we are born, we naturally expect to be nurtured and taken care of. It is instinct. In faith, we trust what we cannot prove or see. Faith and hope are forms of positive expectations and anticipation. In general, to love is to trust and to trust is to love. It is all taken in good faith.


The way I see it - there is no in between. One either expects something or does not. One cannot not expect if one does and one cannot expect if one does not. Even expecting or hoping a little is expecting some. It is just the way it is. Why would I want otherwise? I would not feel like me. I would not feel alive if I deadened my heart that way. I also would not be able to give the best of me to anyone, to allow anyone close to me, or to meet or exceed expectations on a job. Expectations are everywhere. No way around it.

Society has built-in expectations of us all. We start learning them as a small child and continue to do so throughout life. These learned expectations enable us to function as well adjusted individuals within society. They teach us appropriate behavior, responses, and responsibilities.


Most of the time, we strive to meet these expectations. Several of them become our own personal standards to uphold. In many situations, we not only strive to meet these expectations, but to surpass them as well. Doing so provides a sense of accomplishment and self worth. Besides, there are consequences for failing to meet them. Failing at work may mean the loss of a sale or the loss of a job. Breaking the law might mean a fine or jail time. Failing to study earns a bad grade. And failing to meet certain expectations within a relationship may mean the end of it. On the other hand, the rewards for rising to meet them are great.

When it comes to relationships, expectations are tricky things to manage. There is a balance between expecting too much and expecting that certain standards can and should be upheld. Respect, for instance, is essential.


However, even on the best of days, one thing remains true - we are all only human. As such, we sometimes let ourselves down. We do not meet our own expectations, let alone someone else's. So the one thing I have always expected above all others, as far back as I can remember, is that people will sometimes disappoint me, sometimes let me down, or otherwise hurt my feelings. And I have done the same to someone else and will again. Everyone makes mistakes. That is just the way it is. But my nearest and dearest friends have stood by me through all of my humanness and vise versa.


I give my heart in friendship not because I expect love in return. I do not see it as an obligation or a demand. But it is all the more gratifying when it is offered in return and appreciated beyond measure. A trust is built and the closer one becomes to another, the more one can conceivably rely on that trust, that truth of love and faith in a bond. Therefore, it is not an unreasonable expectation to think that a friend, a spouse, a family member will still be waiting with more love to give even after a disagreement or a dispute of some kind.

The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are,but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them; we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them. ~ Thomas Merton

When I feel intentionally left out or that someone is purposely turning away from me, that is when I feel the most hurt or let down. Just developing the trust needed to believe that someone truly does love me for me and not for someone I am expected to be leaves my heart feeling quite vulnerable. Still, if I dare to trust that the gift of love offered in good faith was real, I must also believe in good faith that it simply still is and always will be so. I can accept that my human errors and failures will not be held against me. And I in turn hope that the other person realizes I do not stop loving because I feel hurt or disappointment. Because, again, the bond of love simply is.


An idealization is not what I love. That is what makes letting go so hard. When someone turns away from me intentionally, I failed somehow to meet expectations of me either not to do or be a certain way or to do so. And I can apologize in all sincerity for my humanness, but that is sometimes just not enough. I find myself wondering if what I failed to do was worth ending a relationship? Did I deserve it for failing to do whatever was expected of me? Or did I simply misplace my faith and trust, not in the person but in the reciprocality of unconditional love?

Have enough courage to trust love one more time and always one more time. ~ Maya Angelou

If I could know ahead of time a relationship will end, would I still do it? I don't know. Maybe not. But do I regret taking a chance on ones that did end? No.


Maybe I could save myself a world of hurt in just expecting all relationships and friendships to end eventually, but there is a certain thrill and magic that even disappointment cannot dull when I am free to believe I am accepted just as I am even when I am broken. Scary as it is to rely on that trust, there is more freedom to admit when I am in need, to allow someone to care enough to support me in ways I need as best he or she is able to. There is even more freedom for me to reach out in ways I may not have otherwise done to perhaps offer something more meaningful than imagined in return.


And the rewards far outweigh any disappointments when a bond truly is real. Rare as they may seem, that is how life-long relationships develop and last. That is how friends stay in touch for decades and how lovers spend a lifetime together. Somehow both parties choose to rely on their positive expectations. They forgive mistakes, letdowns, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, and all the flaws of an imperfect human love.


I do not expect perfection or never to be disappointed. I hope to develop real, meaningful friendships that see through flaws to the heart of an individual. And when I think I have found them, I will not expect never to be let down; I will have faith enough in the love offered and in the bond created to know they will last. To do otherwise is to not fully open my heart enough to appreciate what I have when it is there or after it is gone.


Not having faith in a relationship also hinders going forward after a problem arises because it prevents me from focusing on all of the things I like and love about a person and from accepting the things I like less with ease. In short, the relationship is not as rich as it can be. It is limited by negative expectations. So, I will gladly accept the risk of getting too close then getting hurt for the chance that a rare bond with unconditional love, acceptance, and forgiveness might be formed. They are truly priceless gems.



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Comments 31 comments

Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 17 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

While I expect your hubs to be just dandy, this one pleasantly exceeded my expectations. If your next one is a dud I will still look forward expectantly to the next and expect to be rewarded. I like it. You did a great job here reminding us to expect much and be happy with little.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

As does your comment exceed mine, Eric! Thank you! Thank you so much for understanding exactly what I mean. It is not a demanding thing. It is not an if-you-do-or-don't-do that thing. It is not even about living up to standards and expectations to do or be something. It is about enjoying life, giving the best of me, and taking love on faith. Expect bad along with the good, but keep the positive expectations higher, even if the positive is just a hope for something good and not a certainty.


marcoujor profile image

marcoujor 17 months ago from Jeffersonville PA

Dear Shannon,

You know I have read your hubs since I 'met' you and love how you share your heart while reminding us of universal issues in life.

I hope you never lower your expectations of yourself and always remember the beauty in your imperfections. What a beautiful world it would be if everyone took a page from this book.

Your quotations are exquisitely selected and I love your sweet comic insertions. Thoughtful and well-executed post. Hugs, Maria


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Aw, Maria. You are so sweet and one of the most sincere people I know. You, like most beautiful people, came along when I least expected it and continue to bless me with encouragement and love when I do not expect it. But, I instictively know also that I can have faith in our friendship. I loved reading your book. The words there are an indication of your natural gift of love. How inspiring you are! Yes, there is beauty in mine and the impetfections of others. And beauty in accepting them, expectations or not.


Larry Rankin profile image

Larry Rankin 17 months ago from Oklahoma

Interesting perspective.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Thank you, Larry.


billybuc profile image

billybuc 17 months ago from Olympia, WA

Although I know that human beings can disappoint, I also know that they can dazzle us with their humanity, and that makes it such a joy to be a part of this species. I love your thoughts on this topic.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

How very true, Bill. They dazzle us when they come through for us in those times when it is least expected. They dazzle us when they surprise us with something good that is totally unexpected. And they dazzle us when they are making it known through love and support when we do expect it, when we do turn to the faith in a relationship because we are too broken to want to stand alone. And last but not least, people dazzle us by contiuing to love us after we disappoint them or let them down, when we know we are undeserving of such continued affection. We are free to see all the beauty in humanity we expect to see.


MartieCoetser profile image

MartieCoetser 17 months ago from South Africa

Shanmarie, you have dissected 'expectation' to the bone, and gave your readers a deeper insight in this word we often minimize. You are quite right, we cannot be human without having expectations. We expect - the sun will rise, Christmas will come, we will hear from our friend, our partner will be home at a specific time, we will one day die, etc.

I think we should, when we try to comfort someone whose expectations were not met, refrain our advise to - "Never expect that all your expectations will be met," instead of 'Don't expect anything from others.'

Voted up and brilliant :)


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Haha, Martie. How many times have you told me I dissect something to the bone? Sometimes I fear that is not a good thing. Other times, it provides meaning to myself and it appears maybe to a few others as well. It makes me feel as if maybe I am doing something for others even when I am not trying to or expecting to.

I truly do not expect others to do for me because I ask or want it. I just have faith that a person will not turn away after I disappoint or anger if it is me that is truly loved. Or that if I express a need or disappointment I do not have to fear someone turning away more. For me, I have memories of hurting loved ones and having to eat humble pie in apologizing, but it was worth it. So, when a relationship ends, it is my shattered faith that is the cause of most of the pain. I want to keep searching for some sort of reassurance. Letting go is giving up on the small spark of hope that maybe that person just somehow lost sight of ME. I don't want to jump to conclusions that it was only certain things about me that was loved and appreciated. (That is a whole other hub, by the way. Haha. It bugs me when people say they love someone for something, implying it is not the whole person that is loved. For is such an unfortunate word choice.)

Anyway, thank you, Marie for allowing me to be me. For being a sounding board of sorts even if I seem pushy or demanding with my thoughts. I may think too much, but writing and thinking outloud is theraputic, if not irritating to others. And thank you for suggesting I write these thoughts out in a hub.


manatita44 profile image

manatita44 17 months ago from london

A lot in this Hub. You seem to have approached it from the positive side. Not an easy one to write, perhaps, but you have done this well. In Love and Light.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Hi manatita. Thank you for your support and encouragement. I try to approach things from a positive perspective. There is enough negatively all around without purposely creating more.


FlourishAnyway profile image

FlourishAnyway 17 months ago from USA

Sometimes we can avoid a lot of strife by verbal using expectations in advance so there is less opportunity for confusion and letdown. Don't be so hard on yourself. Sometimes things just don't work out and it just "is."


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Aw, you are so sweet, Flourish. That is true. I try to say in advance when I can or to explain if I think it might help. Sometimes it truly just "is" and other times, expectations have either changed or not been met - as when a close friend no longer cares or enjoys your company.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 17 months ago from southern USA

Dear Shan,

I am blessed beyond measure this day to have read this wonderful and genuinely written hub on expectations ... and, boy, this one being published on this day, was meant for me to read at this precise moment, trust me, dear heart!

You have shared a lot of great insight here, especially about not placing others up too high on a pedestal as they will surely fall off and then we are sure to be disappointed but we are all indeed human. I know the last thing I would want is for anything to have too high expectations of me and then be disappointed. However, I know it happens all the time, for we are all human.

On the other hand though, as you point out, things are what they are ...

Thank you for revealing your sweet heart here and with a message everyone should read. So, I am for sure tweeting, pinning, G+ and sharing

Voted Up ++++ Hugs and much love to you and yours always


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Oh, beautiful, Faith Reaper. I could not find the exact pendant I have in mind for you, but something similar. And I saw yesterday a beautiful cross pendant at work that has the word faith inscribed on the side of it. It made me think of you and I might just have to send you two!

I am pleased to find out my hub has blessed you in some way. That is so very humbling yet also a blessing in return, don't you think?

I must say, though, that I am hopeful you find some comfort in whatever it is you are going through. We are all just human and our love is not perfect, though we may try. It hurts me when I realize I let someone I love down when it is important.

One time, I slept through a close friend's graduation. I do not know if I ever properly apologized, but I felt so bad because I intended to go and disappointed her so on her big day. However, we are still very close to this day and I cherish that. And people have failed to be there for me when I most need someone just to care or share a laugh with. It happens, unfortunately. It just does.

But you, my friend, are beautiful whether or not you meet human expectations. Even your flaws have some beauty, as Maria said to me in her comment above. And I believe that you touch many with your beautiful heart. I am so blessed to know you! Thank you for being you just as you are in every given moment.

Hugs and love, sweet one.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 17 months ago from southern USA

Thank you for having such an understanding heart and a generous one too! You are precious to me. You have such a heart of love for others in always thinking of them when you see something that reminds you of them, like you have done with the perfect necklaces you have written about here. I know I would love anything from you, please know.

I will confess just this day, my expectations of someone were unrealistic and, of course, I may have inadvertently hurt someone's heart and so my heart is hurting just thinking about it. So, as our sweet Lord tells us to make amends right away, I will attempt to do so and pray forgiveness comes. However, sometimes I may view something as it truly is not, and make incorrect assumptions about something, and that is certainly not a good thing.

Again, I think our sweet Lord placed this one on your heart at this precise moment to publish at this precise time, maybe not just for me, but many. We may never know until we are face to face with Him.

Smiles ...and thank you again, precious heart


The Stages Of ME profile image

The Stages Of ME 17 months ago

Shan ~

First this is a wonderful hub and I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Just this week I have had many positive conversations on the subject of expectation. Yes, it is true we can expect people to disappoint and we also will be a part of disappointing others. The reason for this is we do not fully feel the offense of or on others. At the same time, unconditional love Agape love, is a love we can always seek and learn. To love in this way we get close to understanding why we love without expectation or at least attempt too. If we apply this understanding of love, to all relationship and understand it is meant to make us better. It would then be an unstoppable love, for the building of our Father's Kingdom inHeaven. Just my thoughts on your beautiful piece here. Thank you and Peace in your Stages


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Oh, Theresa, we all do that sometimes - have expectations we should not and make assumptions we should not.

I have got to tell you, though, that I admire your willingness to apologize. It sometimes takes a lot of courage to do because it is so humbling, bu if the apology is sincere and the one you are offering it to does not demand it for the sake of humiliation or to demean you, it is worth swallowing the pride for. I rarely ask for an apology, unless I want someone to really understand from my perspective why my heart was hurt. Even then, I don't want a begrudging apology, just a sincere show that my feelings matter too. But, that rarely turns out well and takes faith in a relationship to express a need for mending.

However, I learned at a young age not to withhold an apology if I need to give one. At least you will know you offered a sincere showing that you care. The rest is up to the Lord and the other involved, I suppose. I will also pray you find forgiveness from the one you feel you wronged, but I know you have already from our Father.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Hi Stages,

Thank you so much for your thoughtful comment. I appreciate hearing your thoughts on the subject. I think you are right. We do not always notice the effects of our actions on others. We try not to have expectations and we try to be thoughtful, yet we are creatures of expectation, even in anticipating the good.

How I wish we all could live with such agape love all of the time. If we all could truly love beyond our unintended expectations and see the heart of others all of the time the world would indeed be a better place.


Faith Reaper profile image

Faith Reaper 17 months ago from southern USA

Dear Shan, I did not wait to apologize and I am so happy now for it was all a misunderstanding on my part. Just that quick, all is good. Love covers a multitude of sins : )


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Good news! So glad for you!!


The Stages Of ME profile image

The Stages Of ME 17 months ago

Shan ~

Amen Sista ~ have an amazing tomorrow ~ Hugs


pstraubie48 profile image

pstraubie48 17 months ago from sunny Florida

Interesting and well said. I do have expectations of others. And in most cases, that is a good thing. However I do know that others are human, that things come up that may keep them from fulfilling whatever they said they might do. So for that reason, I accept it well when others are unable to come through....there are often very good reasons; such has happened to me.

Thanks for sharing this...we need to take time to consider such topics and to evaluate how we feel.

Voted up++++

Angels are headed your way this morning. ps


MizBejabbers profile image

MizBejabbers 17 months ago

Take it from a senior citizen, the older people get, the less our expectations of other people become. Perhaps it’s because we become jaded because we expected them to be better human beings when we were younger. I’m talking about serious things, not every day petty expectations. The spouse becomes an alcoholic and the child follows in his footsteps by becoming a drug addict when all we wanted was a good marriage and to rear happy healthy children. A relative or friend that we’ve loved and admired for years all of a sudden turns on us for no logical reason. We try to take solace in our work, but after a number of years we find that our knowledge and training is picked from our brains and then we are discarded as valuable human beings .

Some people seem to believe that family and society owe them, not the other way around. People need to realize that in order to receive, they must first give. Whatever is given comes back exponentially.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Thanks, PS. Yes, there are often very good reasons for not coming through. And sometimes it is just a matter of being human and messing up. Either way, we cannot expect people to be perfect and should forgive someone, especially if that person is truly contrite.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Aw, MizBejabbers. Hugs. It makes me sad to think of, but much of society has become that way. I enjoy the thought of families caring for one another through the generations and greatly admire families in which I have witnessed that. It takes a village to raise a child and the elderly are still humans with feelings like the rest of us.

As for expectations, maybe that's part of why things are that way. It has become a society focused on self empowerment, which is not necessarily a bad thing, except that it can be taken too far or used an excuse for failing to meet some basic expectations of others.

I may be young, compared to many here on HP especially, but I am very much aware of those serious expectations you mention on a personal level. Also, many of the conversations involving the topic of expecting have been with people about twice my age or older. That's precisely why I cringe at the thought of expecting less of people. It is not the same as expecting perfection or people to always be there. To me, it is just basic humanity. If someone offers a hand in friendship, why should I not expect loyalty and trust? If someone turns, why should I not eventually pick up the pieces of my broken heart and trust again with someone else?

People often say to just enjoy it while it is there. I do. And it is not about demands, it's about commitment to values of love, compassion, trust, loyalty, respect, etc. . .We teach our children these things and then often do not follow through as adults ourselves.

The spontaneous and unexpected things we do for those we love simply because we care are beautiful acts of love. They are magical and special, perhaps meaning more than when it is expected or asked for. But, to me, I appreciate being able to call on a friend and admit when I am not okay or to seek company with those I love just because it boosts my spirit. And I try to do that for others. When I fail, for whatever reason, I hope the other has as much faith in the bond of the relationship rather than the human mistakes to get past it with grace and a continued bond.

Yes, we must give to receive. Expectations guide the giving. I cannot hope from others what I am not willing to give in return. My heart may not be perfect, but sometimes it is all I have to give. I just do not want to give up those things. I think strong bonds are meaningful and should not be as fragile as they are. The problem is that they take two to build and to maintain. But they do exist, so I choose to accept that. What do those families and lifetime lovers, life long friends have? Faith and love enough to forgive and to forgive again if need be. They choose to

keep on caring and spending time together. They choose to make the time even after some time apart to maintain the bond. They choose not to purposely turn away. I think there is beauty in a love like that, because it does not judge or count wrongs. Call me idealistic, but I don't want to give up my ideals. Maybe I will feel differently thirty years from now. I hope not. I would rather be like a child in that respect, taught that family and friends are important, taught not to lose sight of these things, and not to let people or petty things in the grand scheme of life come between those bonds. We expect people to be better human beings? Model it.

I had a friend once tell me she was sorry she couldn't be what I needed. And I thought "you already are just by being my friend." It always seemed to me she felt I expected things I did not or that I wanted more than she gave. Sometimes "being there" just means not turning away or coming back after a misunderstanding. So you can't expect it from other people even in good faith because you have been hurt so many times before, then do it for someone else. It is worth it.


drbj profile image

drbj 17 months ago from south Florida

Thank you, shanmarie, for this revealing and encompassing treatise regarding expectations. I have always believed that our expectations depend to a great extent upon our attitude toward life in general. Do we see the glass as half full or half empty ... or simply needing to be washed. Our attitude colors everything we think or say or do. I wrote a hub some time ago on the subject - Math Equation for Success in Life - and believe it echoes your thoughts here.

Voted up, m'dear.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Hi drbj! I have been enjoying your hubs about crazy laws lately, but I will have to go read your hub on expectations. Attitude and perspective both play a huge role, I believe.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 17 months ago from The Caribbean

Very balanced approach on the advantages and non-advantages of expecting. It is human to expect, although life does not always deliver what we long for. Maya Angelou's quote still is relevant. Thanks for sharing your valuable insights.


shanmarie profile image

shanmarie 17 months ago from Texas Author

Hi MsDora. You sent the same message twice, with the exeption of the last sentence. I assume the second one is the one you meant to stay so I deleted the first one.

Thank you so much for your visit and thoughtful comment.

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