December 14, 2011

Unrealistic Expectations

Expectation [ek spek TAY shuh'n] (Noun)
The act or state of looking forward to or anticipating; looking forward with assurance.

People have expectations. People around you, people who know you, people who follow you, and people you haven't actually even met yet - they all have expectations. And like it or not, they have expectations of YOU! 

Do you know what they are? Do you know what people expect?
Are there unrealistic expectations that - if you simply addressed them - could be cleared up and brought back home to reality?

Or what about very realistic and fair expectations? Are we living up to those?
For instance, it's completely understandable for my son to believe that I should spend time with him. And that I should do it often! But at times my wife and I have to address an unrealistic expectation that I (or she) should spend every waking, living, breathing moment doing the exact thing that will thrill his soul and make him happy. 

2 different expectations. 1 is reasonable and attainable. The other is neither.

We are often misunderstood because people have expectations of us - reasonable and unreasonable - that we will fail to live up to. Sometimes it's due to the fact that we had no idea anyone expected this of us. Other times though, it will simply have to do with the painful fact that we failed. Knowing this, I believe there are some key things we can do to prevent failing to live up to people's expectations, and as a result, being (once again) misunderstood:

1. Be CLEAR about the expectations you have of yourself.
If you're the pastor of a church of 500 people (or 200, for that matter) - or the leader of an organization of 300 faithful - you can't possibly meet all of those people's needs. You can't personally shepherd or equip or disciple that many. (At least not affectively!) But you probably don't expect yourself to do that. So make that clear to everyone! I know I need to do a better job of communicating to the people of my church that I have a few very clear, overarching expectations of myself as Lead Pastor of The Brook:
  • Faithfully preach the Word of God and set the pace of spiritual growth
  • Cast vision of WHERE our church is headed, WHY we're moving in that direction, and HOW we're going to get there (&)
  • Lead, equip, and empower our staff and leaders - being available and proactively pouring into their lives
Yes, I counsel people. I (sometimes) read and respond to incredibly lengthy emails. I directed traffic in the parking lot at Brooktoberfest. I spent 4 hours one day moving rocks around on our property. I'm leading our mission trip to Guatemala this summer. While all these things are important - and I LOVE doing (most of) them - I have to make it clear that these can't be everyone's expectations of me. I'm not a professional counselor. I'm not an engineer. 

2. If someone makes their unrealistic expectations known to you, address it.
As Scott McClellan said in his recent post, The Decision To Do Nothing, you can "decide not to address it". But make sure you understand ahead of time, your decision to do nothing is still a decision. And in one, possibly awkward, but totally necessary conversation, you could clear it all up. And for worst case scenario's sake, let's say the person doesn't agree with you - that they think you should live up to their expectations. Well, in that case, all you can do is lovingly let them know that you're going to have to disagree on this matter. And you - deep down, personally, where it hurts - are going to have to be OK  with the fact that sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we are going to be misunderstood

What else can we do to clear up unrealistic expectations?

1 comment:

Stony and Brit said...

I love that you bring up real issues and you don't always answer all the questions. This particular blog hits home for me. I need to either have a hard conversation or accept that doing nothing is my decision. Thanks!!