For the last two weeks I have been sharing an inspiration I got from one of our pastors. As is typical for me, I had to mess with things in order to personalize it, but also to solidify it in my memory banks. It seems as I get older it takes more effort to mentally hold on to ideas, thoughts and concepts (OK, also names, dates, places, etc.)
If you follow the whiteboard illustration above, you will see a gap between the expectations bubble and the reality bubble. I call it the stress gap because when our expectations don’t line up with reality it will potentially cause all kinds of feelings. Feelings like disappointment and anger and frustration and disillusionment.
Maybe not fully readable in the picture is the word ‘unrealistic’ in the expectations bubble. By definition, when our expectations don’t reflect reality, they are unrealistic. Have you held on to unrealistic expectations that have caused you pain? I know I have.
When we discover that we are holding onto expectations that fall outside of reality we must first fully acknowledge them. This means recognizing that we have had a blindspot in our perception. I have found that as I deal with my blindspots I mature.
Next we must choose to surrender these unrealistic expectations. I have to let them go, but often they are powerfully rooted in my desires. Taking then to God in prayer is one way to approach this act of humility. This will lead to the next step, which is grief.
I have often spoken of grief in these posts. Grief is the result of loss, even when the object of the loss never had substance to begin with. It doesn’t matter, it still hurts. As a child I wanted a grand piano, the bigger the better. Given my family’s finances it was impossible. But it was a deep desire. When I was old enough to realize that this was something I could never expect from them, it was a loss.
The next step is the final stage of the grief process: acceptance. When I can accept reality it will lead me back to readjust my expectations. Every time I repeat this process it will narrow the gap between expectations and reality until they are fully overlapping. My belief is this alignment will eventually produce contentment because we are no longer chasing the impossible.
How have you experienced this in your life?
Where do you need to engage in this process with the goal of finding peace, joy and contentment?