The hot rabbit trail of emotion I was trampling grew gnarly when my daily Bible reading led me to Psalm 28. Verse three suddenly reared up in front of me like a mama Grizzly bear on her hind legs:
“Do not drag me away with the wicked, with the evildoers, who speak in friendly ways with their neighbors while malice is in their hearts.”Psalm 28:3, CSB
My heart had recently been hurt. But sadly, real change is a slow process. I knew if I responded the way I always had, I would get what I’d always gotten. More importantly, I also knew if I continued to give what I’d often given, then my friend would receive the hurt she’d often received from me. And that was NOT what I wanted.
Even knowing all that, I still protectively responded to my hurt with my claws exposed. I now realize that the old bitter root of rejection I thought I’d yanked from my heart had once again triggered my insecurity. I tried to fake kindness and ignore the hurt, but instead I spoke in a less-than-kind way to my friend because she had unknowingly pulled that trigger. I harbored no malice mind you, but I didn’t respond very sweetly either.
After soaking in Psalm 28 for a while, I decided to do something new in hopes of a better outcome. I sat back and breathed for quite a long while and then replayed everything that had gone wrong between us. But this time, instead of merely ruminating and beating myself up (or wanting to beat someone else up), I asked God to show me my part in the mess and how to correct my mistakes. It’s funny how He always seems so eager to do that! Must be love!
Not coincidentally, my Monday morning group’s topic was “Being Content in Relationships”. (Yeah! That’s what I thought too!) One word kept popping up – EXPECTATIONS. I’ve learned to pay attention when something keeps pestering me, so I Googled the word and came across this quote, “Expectation is the mother of all frustration.” I totally agreed!
I continued on by reading an article describing how unmet expectations can create a great chasm in any kind of relationship. For example, you expect a friend to show up, and she doesn’t. Or you expect your children to clean their rooms before you get home, and they don’t. Or maybe you expect your husband to have the car washed and gassed up before your trip, and well … you get the idea. Great expectations can be a bear!
I clamped tightly to the term ‘unmet expectations’ thinking it hit the bear on the head. My great expectations in this friendship were not being met, and that was the problem. I’m convinced God let me buy into that lie and completely own it before the Spirit led me to the next article centered around the exact same quote!
The second article suggested that it wasn’t unmet expectations that were the culprits in relationships, but rather unrealistic ones. It even went as far as to say that unmet expectations are often self-centered. I bristled mightily at that thought, but I knew God led me on this rabbit trail to teach me how to become a better friend. He knows that’s been my heart’s desire all along. He also knows I’ve made my relationships all about me for way too long.
Now, I’m understanding that the best approach to overcoming relational conflict hinges on at least three things:
- getting a handle on what’s real by talking through your expectations with the other person,
- truly forgiving any harm that’s already been done, and then
- adjusting your expectations accordingly.
My friend and I have only known each other for a few short years, but I already know the difficult part for me will be adjusting my expectations, and she will struggle with talking it through. Our friendship may linger, but it will not flourish until we’re both willing to do the hard things. Neither of us will enjoy this process, but I’m trusting God to use our time and effort to produce something exceedingly, abundantly more than either of us has asked for or imagined. After all, we are both daughters of a King who loves His family well!
“Live in harmony with one another. Do not be proud; instead, associate with the humble. Do not be wise in your own estimation. Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Give careful thought to do what is honorable in everyone’s eyes. If possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.”Romans 12:16-18, CSB