While the current times may seem frustratingly grim, hope is all around us. We hope for good weather, a good meal, or good news. Others may hope to return to work, get back on their feet, or go back to school. We do not hope for bad things to happen, nor do we hope that a situation turns out unfavorably. Hope is always positive.
Why then, do we feel that our hopes are often let down? If it is truly a hope, we know that the situation may not happen the way we think it should. We understand that we do not control the outcome, and we can only wish for it to be to our liking. What do we do when our hopes and desires are not realized? Do we decide that it was not meant to be and move on, or do we wallow in self-pity, failure, anger, and frustration? The problem begins when we cross the line between hope and expectation.
Hope, by definition, is a sunny word. Webster defines it as “to cherish a desire of good, or of something welcome; to want something to happen or be true.” Hope is looking for the good, the fresh, the enjoyable. It is a word that brims with optimism, but without a self-focused undertone.
Expectation, by definition, is a word that is somewhat at odds with contentment. Webster defines it as “the act or state of expecting; the state or act of looking forward to or anticipating.” When we begin to expect something, we feel entitled to have it. We get impatient when it doesn’t arrive on our timeline. We anticipate something in the future being better than what we have now.
These two mindsets are close relatives, but they have a few distinct differences.
Hope relinquishes control — When we hope, we know that we cannot make something happen. That is the very reason why we hope. Otherwise, we would do it.
Expectation wants control — When we expect something, we assume that it is within our reach, and therefore, it is ours to take. Frustration and other negative feelings arise when our expectations are not met, as it makes us realize the situation is outside of our control.
Hope acknowledges that some situations are about more than just us — Hoping leaves room for things other than our desires. It allows the individual to handle the situation gracefully if the hoped for outcome is not realized.
Expectation arises from feeling of entitlement, pride, greed, and selfishness — If we expect something, we think we deserve it. We have earned it, we have suffered for it, and we have desired it. The expectations are completely a reflection of our own self-centered wants.
Hope can be reassigned or renewed — Hope leaves room for grace, understanding, and patience. It is a more selfless attitude towards our desires. If our hopes are not met, we can easily redirect them, because we are not parked at either success or failure.
Expectations are either be met or missed — When it comes to expectations, we are left either happy or sad. There is little room for anything else. Either life gives us what we want, or it doesn’t. It is tough to live life between those two extremes for a long period of time.
Maybe this is an exaggerated way of looking at things, but even so, it’s not wrong. When our hopes turn into expectations, we set ourselves up for failure. We try to take control of our own lives in a way that we were never meant to. We expect the most favorable outcomes for ourselves, we expect a life of ease, we expect everyone to know what we need, and we expect to have everything our way. Simply put, that is never going to happen.
We are sinful people living in a sinful world. Every created thing will let us down in some way, because creation was never designed to fulfill us. Only God can do that. Whether it is a new job, a new paycheck, a new relationship, a new house, a new hobby, a new lifestyle, a new car, etc., it will always fall short. When we wrap ourselves up in the expectation that the future will always be better, we miss out on the gift of the present.
We can hope for the best things in life, but we shouldn’t function like we are entitled to them. It’s a slight attitude shift that can help direct our focus off of ourselves and what we don’t have, which is a worthwhile pursuit! Thanks for reading 🙂