Sometimes, our expectations can get in the way. When, for example, we’ve been unhappy with something for a while, and someone comes along whom we hope will make a change for the better, we end up projecting our expectations onto that person — only to be disappointed, because the expectations we are projecting are simply impossible to live up to. They have emerged out of a pent-up hope and longing, and so they have been set higher than any human being could really reasonably be expected to achieve. Or, alternatively, they might be achievable, but we are unwilling to give the person the time realistically required for that achievement.
When we project high, time-sensitive expectations onto others, we become disappointed, frustrated, perhaps even angry when they are not fulfilled to our satisfaction. And thus we bring upon ourselves a rather unnecessary sort of suffering. But we are not the only ones who suffer. The person who is the recipient of our projected expectations also suffers, because our disappointment, anger, and frustration get communicated to that person either directly or indirectly, and often s/he is taken by surprise — because usually, s/he had not idea of what our expectations were, and therefore had no opportunity to even try to fulfill them, whether that was ever a possibility or not. In the end, relationships get strained or disrupted, and everyone is left feeling wounded. Reconciliation is necessary, and can happen, in these circumstances, but we cannot help but think that the whole painful situation might have been avoided in the first place if we had been more realistic about our expectations, and more effective in communicating them to others.
In these moments, we might remember the basic counsel of Jesus to love our neighbors as ourselves. We would wish to avoid unnecessary suffering in life, and so would those around us. If we are able to carry with us a kind of compassion toward others that recognizes the limits of what is possible, and keep ourselves from expecting too much too soon, then we might avoid the deep disappointment for ourselves that comes from unrealistic expectations, and thus we would also avoid pulling others into our own pain. We should try to bear in mind that relationships come first, and that a person is more than a to do list or an agenda of priorities. If we can calibrate our expectations to flow out of relationship, then we are more likely to move forward that which we hope to move forward with a minimum of unnecessary pain.