The Silent Killer of Relationships — or at least one of them

A few weeks ago a friend sent me an interview on video between a relationship expert and pastor* that reminded me of the dangers of expectations in relationships. If we have expectations in a relationships — meaning we expect a particular level of performance — then two things will happen.

1. We will be disappointed every single time the expectations are not met. This was named in the podcast as “the silent killer.” Since we as human beings make mistakes daily, can’t read minds, and are vastly different in our skill sets, we will end each day disappointed in those we love and like — our family and friends, our neighbors and co-workers.

This next part was an eye-opener.

2. If we enter a relationship with expectations, and those expectations are met on occasion or regularly, there will be no joy or particular sense of gratitude. After all, the person is merely performing the way we expected them to behave, or the way they were “supposed” to behave. Whoa! This hit me right between the eyes, and I can’t get it out of my head.

Little joy or gratitude.

To be clear, I am not referencing the “big expectations” like expecting a spouse to be faithful in a relationship. Today’s post is about the million daily ways people disappoint us because they don’t behave in ways we expect them to, like a spouse who can’t remember recent conversations you have had, a child who forgets to take out the trash, or a friend who talks about her life at length and never asks about yours. In these cases, when a husband remembers a conversation, the son takes out the trash, and the friend asks about your day, our expectations can cause responses to their desired behavior to be emotionally matter-of-fact or even none existent. “Finally, they got it right,” we think. In the workplace, the examples just shared would produce “Meets Expectations” on an annual evaluation. Nothing to cheer about there. Such evaluations may keep you from being fired, but also keep you from being promoted.

Expectations are a form of law.

The value of the law God provided in the Old Testament is to reveal the truth that we aren’t holy, cannot meet holy expectations, and we need a Savior to make a way to have a relationship with a holy God: For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17)

No one can keep the law — not God’s, not ours.

God loves us, He is holy, and there is no imperfection in Him. We, however, are not holy. Our laws are narrow-minded, warped, biased, and hypocritical because we can’t keep the expectations we impose on others. When we impose a standard of behavior on those we know before they can get our “approval,” distance, arrogance, displeasure and disappointment permeate the relationship. No joy.

Why do we forget to extend grace?

Instead of having expectations we are to extend grace. Why is that so difficult? There are many answers. One answer is that when aren’t swimming in God’s grace, we can’t extend it to anyone else.

I was listening to a podcast this week during which a young athlete named Micah was interviewed. He had a surfing accident that caused him to be paralyzed. (Nothing is Wasted, Micah McElveen, Episode 220 HERE.) When asked to asked to name one of the benefits of the suffering he endured this was his exact answer in the interview.

His answer applies to each of us.

There is an illusion of independence. As Americans we celebrate Independence Day. We are self-made people. We pull ourselves up by the bootstraps. I was the quarterback and free safety and point guard. I was the pitcher. I was the short stop. I am going to pay my own bills. I. I. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me. Me.

The reality is, I never sustained the breath in my lungs. I didn’t give myself the physical frame that allowed me to play in those positions. The intellectual ability I had, yeah, I could build on it, but you don’t make the raw materials. And so the concept of being independent from God is actually a concept that is not grounded in reality. Meaning, yes, we can be apart from God, not being spiritually connected to Him through Jesus, but our atoms are held together by Him….My breath, my chest goes up and down based on a whole series of things that I have no part in.

You are God. I am here at your good pleasure. I cannot sustain my life or any of my faculties that you freely granted to me. And should you give any of that back, I am here at your good pleasure.

We forget we are swimming in God’s grace.

We are created and are being kept alive by God whether we are a person that believes in God or not. This forgetting can cause us to adopt an air of self-importance that produces distance between us and others. Forgetting the grace in which we live can silently kill our relationships.

Let’s stop forgetting. 

Picture Explanation: We have an adult daughter still playing soccer, and it is so much fun. Summer season opener. Perfect weather. Playing under the lights. Watching a young bunch of young girls in their soccer uniforms screaming, “Go, 17! Go, 17!” then clamoring for her autograph. Priceless while it lasts.

*I have searched for the video interview and can’t find it anywhere, though I remember the content vividly.



4 Responses

  1. I so appreciate this post. Expectations have stolen my joy more often than I care to admit! I love what you wrote – “when we aren’t swimming in Gods Grace, we can’t extend it to anyone else.” Bam! Truth right there!
    I wish I could come watch your daughter play! What joy that must be for you! 😘

    1. I am right there with you on the stolen joy occurrences. Too many times! I woke up this morning asking God to keep teaching my heart that I am breathing right now because God is allowing it. Very humbling. Very true. May we swim in His grace today so we can extend it to others.

  2. Hi, Friend. When we feel hurt or disappointed, it is always good to examine ourselves. Have we done the same to others? If so, then the right response is humility, confession to God and the offended party, repentance, and restitution if needed. When we see our own sinfulness, our own lack of perfection, we can extend grace to others. I love the scene in the Matthew Visual Bible where the Jesus character picks up the log and puts it up to his eye to teach that we need to take the log out of our own eye. There is peace in the place of grace. Thanks for that reminder!

    1. Yes, we can’t live up the the expectations we lay on others. We can sometimes hold up a list we have not yet done and think it fair to do so because we haven’t done “those things,” but the list of “imperfect” cannot be escaped. That “log” always exists and others have forgiven us those things to stay in relationship with us. So humbling.

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I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes growth.

1 Corinthians 3:6

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