I am convinced that the root of frustration we experience is directly due to unrealistic expectations. Our expectation level of something or someone should match that of their particular position at that moment. You are nodding your head in agreement right now. But think back for a moment to that last interaction you had with someone.
Think of that interaction you had that frustrated you. Was your frustration due to someone not fulfilling or meeting your expectations? What makes you then create unrealistic expectations which then ultimately cultivate perpetual frustration? Here is why I think this happens:
Paul writes to the Colossians and reminds them to not shift from the hope of the gospel (Col. 1:23). I believe that every single time we create unrealistic expectations, we are in turn shifting the balance point of our lives. We shift from the hope that is laid out for us in Christ and by Christ.
We fail to function from a distinctly gospel-centered perspective. This is the real cause of our frustration. Frustration then is a man-made defense mechanism that is activated when we ourselves creates undue duress for ourselves.
Let me share a few stories from my life that illustrate this point:
The unrealistic to-do list. As I have mentioned before, I love to do lists simply because they work for me and help me stay on track. I have one problem though. When I create the list, my mind dumps everything I want to get done onto one list. The issue then becomes that I do not complete every single thing on that list. While I am writing this post, my task application shows 14 items. I know that with the alloted three hours that I have, there is no way that I will finish all 14 items. This frustrates me. I start to say what I hear many people say “There are not enough hours in the day,” or something similar. This however is an issue that can be quickly resolved. What I need to do is cut down my list by about ten items. This will alleviate unnecessary frustration and will definitively boost my productivity.
The unrealistic time-frame. When I worked a regular 9-6 job, I created for myself unrealistic expectations. I knew exactly the amount of time I needed to get to work. I knew that at least 15 minutes would be added to my commute if I needed to get gas for my car. I knew that my commute would be extended by another 15 minutes if I did not brew some coffee at home and wanted to stop at a Starbucks on my way to work. Often, I assumed there would be no traffic. A person who is wise will leave a comfortable buffer zone that can handle unforeseen obstacles. I liked to live life on the edge, providing myself a dose of frustration. This morning routine did not serve well to set off the rest of the day. The reason for my frustration was me. No one else. It was my fault for setting up unrealistic expectations. It is an easy change. If I changed my habit, there is most certainly hope for you.
The unrealistic pace setter. We often want people to change instantly. When they do not show signs of significant change, we get frustrated. The funny part is that we tend to track the change needed in others much closer. We become unrealistic pace setters. I have grown to agree with reality. I know that some people will not change. At least not for a while. I believe that there is no use in getting frustrated over particular behavior. I know it will happen. I know how a person functions. I know their mindset. What would make me get frustrated? This is not the first time that they do that which irritates those around them. What makes some people frustrated and some who appear as though their feathers were not ruffled one bit? It is the same concept. Unrealistic expectations perpetuate unwanted frustration.
We need to agree with reality and see things the way they are. When we filter every single frustration through a gospel lens, it becomes an opportunity for growth not a burden to carry. God looks at us not as we are but as Christ is. We should imitate the God who created us. We need not shift from the hope of the gospel. The gospel rescues and redeems us from the frustration that we may experience.
Question: When have you experienced frustration because of an unrealistic expectation? Do you agree that unrealistic expectations fuel your frustration? Please share your opinion in the comments below!