A confession: when people don't meet my expectations, I tend to blame them, not my own expectations. I think they could do better than this, if only they tried harder, or if they were more spiritual. (Condemning, aren't I?) Not that I explicitly think this, but it seems to be my underlying belief. Why else would I be frustrated at them for not doing or being what I want them to do or be?
Probably the only person I don't usually have unreasonable -- i.e. often unmet -- expectations of is my son. He is 22 months old. I expect a toddler to sometimes cry, have a low level of frustration tolerance, and to demand a lot of attention. And most of the time, he is lots of fun. Why, I wonder, is it so easy for me to love him and not condemn him, and so hard with other people?
Jesus' response to the poor widow giving money at the temple offering box shows me the problem with my expectations. After "many rich people put in large sums," the widow gave "two small copper coins, which make a penny" (Mark 12:41, 42). Jesus said to his disciples, "this woman has put in more than all these who are contributing to the offering box. For they all contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty has put in everything she had, all she had to live on" (v. 43, 44).
How convicting. Jesus knows what spiritual and emotional riches other people have; I don't. Where I see -- and privately condemn -- someone's meager contribution, Jesus sees a heartfelt self-sacrifice.
I've always thought it sounded trite and unsatisfying when someone says about people who let them down, "Well, they did the best they could." Perhaps this is just another way of saying that -- but lately I've found it helpful, when I'm disappointed with someone's behavior, to think, "Maybe this is their two cents."