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  • Writer's pictureRichard Parrish

Unrealistic Expectations

His words revealed his distress.

“No matter what decision I make, half of my congregation will be against it,” he said.

It’s not the first time I’ve heard pastors or leaders caught in the middle of contrasting expectations.

“How is it permissible for large crowds to protest or assemble for political gatherings, but our churches are not allowed to assemble for worship?” he questioned.

As he lamented, I thought: It’s not just churches and pastors who struggle with COVID restrictions.

Many small business owners are hemorrhaging financially, wondering how long they can hold on. While doing everything to take precaution against a hideous virus, some believe the whole “COVID-thing” is over-hyped.

The decisions business leaders make frequently are met with mixed reactions from their employees. Some believe it’s too soon to open the doors of our businesses. Others say failure to re-open will be worse than the virus.

And dare I speak of a Presidential election year?

Diverse opinions, imposed expectations, and anger contributes to our communities’ polarization and undermines unity.

Many of us can identify with my pastor friend. We’re between a rock and a hard place. Daily, we face differing opinions. Deciding how we will lead and live with the expectations of others is no easy task.

When faced with unrealistic expectations, I’m learning:

We must desire truth.

Psalm 86:11 says:

“Teach me your way, O Lord, that I may walk in your truth; unite my heart to fear your name.”

Here are examples of three unrealistic expectations:

1. I can please everyone.

We must debunk that assumption. Although my desire to be accepted by others is strong within me, “truth” teaches me it’s impossible.

Being open to receive instruction from the LORD through His Word encourages me to “fear” [revere and respect] God, not others.

2. Life should be fair.

“That’s not fair,” was a declaration I would often make as a child. Until I was willing to accept the truth that life is not fair, I could only see myself as a victim.

Subconsciously, many expect life to be fair. Throughout Scripture, we find how injustice happens. It didn’t seem appropriate for Joseph to be thrown in a pit and sold into slavery by his brothers (Genesis 37). It wasn’t fair for Stephen to be stoned to death, or Paul to be imprisoned (Acts 7:54-60; 16:16-24).

Truth teaches us: there’s not always a consolation prize in life.

Now, here’s a big one.

3. You should agree with me.

After all, I know what I’m saying is correct. And for that reason alone, you should take me seriously. Right?

But expecting people to agree with me out of courtesy, or because I believe my ideas are sound, is well, unreasonable.

Your experiences are different than mine. The events that shaped me are not the same experiences you encountered. What’s obvious to me may not be clear to you. That’s why constructive dialogue is necessary.

As my pastor friend and his congregation are recognizing, difficult decisions are necessary for all of us. Those decisions will not please everyone. For some, the outcome may seem “unfair.” And it’s for sure; disagreements will continue.

Here are three questions for us to consider:

  • Is it possible that our viewpoints and expectations may be unrealistic?

  • Is it possible we are seeking “truth” from well-meaning but unreliable sources?

  • Am I willing to submit my expectations to be exposed to the light of God’s truth?

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