I frequently catch a Target commercial featuring a young couple hosting their first family Thanksgiving. The wife is working hard not only buying the perfect centerpiece and table settings (available at Target, of course), but also rehearsing the best way to bring the turkey to the table and greet the guests at the door. I’m sure it is pretty common for a first-time hostess to want to make the day as perfect as possible. However, every time I see this commercial, I cannot help but think her expectations are too high and she is setting herself up for a big disappointment when things inevitably go differently than hoped.
Last week, I received an e-newsletter from Bobbe Evans with Pro Athletes Outreach. While discussing a recent family event, she shared this seemingly simple yet key reminder that “Expectations are resentment under construction.” Wow. How often, when something doesn’t go as we thought it should have, we are upset, resentful, and may even declare “I’ll never do that again?”
Bobbe notes that expectations are especially high during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays as we cling to the magic of the season and tell ourselves “This year it will be different.”
o This year my teen-ager will happily agree to be part of the special family activities I’ve been able to budget for and to schedule.”
o This year my in-laws will agree to join us for the Christmas Eve service at church.
o This year my husband has listened and has already gone back to the store where I pointed out “my perfect present for 2009.”
As she admits, these are high hopes….many of which may be dashed.
Is it wrong to hope? Is it wrong to plan ahead so an event will turnout nicely for those invited? Should we, instead, develop an Eyeore-“Woe is Me” pessimistic realism? If we don’t expect anything to go right, then we can’t be disappointed when it doesn’t. Or does this take it too far?
I do not believe the danger lies in looking forward to fun activities. After all, marriage experts often share that a couple’s relationship is strengthened when they hope and dream for the future. The key is to manage our expectations, and not derive happiness from everything turning out exactly as we planned. Instead, develop an attitude of gratitude and be a scout for the everyday blessings in life. Think of Tiny Tim and his family in the Dickens’ Christmas Carol. They were very poor, yet so grateful for each small gift.
This holiday season, enjoy planning the meal, cooking food your family enjoys, singing carols, and spending time together. Just make sure to set a goal to be thankful, tone down excessive expectations, and cherish the joys in life. There’s great advice in scripture: “be anxious for nothing, but in everything give thanks”.
Written by Jeff Kemp, President of Stronger Families