Expectations are resentments under construction.

Anne Lamont

Expectations are difficult things.

We think we have a right to place a burden on reality, and that reality is required to behave accordingly. In regard to other people the burden usually takes the form of certain behaviors, often ones that benefit us or that we have grown to see as “right”. We expect our animals to use the bathroom outside, our kids to make good choices and our cars to start when we want them to.

Some expectations are more reasonable than others. This makes them more likely to be met, but it doesn’t guarantee that it will happen.

If we clean our house we can expect it to stay that way for a while, but an earthquake or a set of missing keys or living with a toddler may prevent this from happening.

We can expect our internet to work, but power outages or having the wrong provider or CIA conspiracies may cause it to be offline.

Just because an expectation is matter of life and death doesn’t mean it is more likely to be met either.  It is a very reasonable expectation that our spouse make it home from work alive, but there are thousands of people every day who don’t. It is a reasonable expectation that our children not text while they are driving, but it seems that a majority of people I see on the road are doing just that. Evidence backs the expectation that we wake up after going to sleep each evening, but sometimes this doesn’t happen.

Expectations are resentments waiting to happen.


Oftentimes, our suffering in a situation doesn’t come from the situation itself, but from our expectations, or, as we’ve been talking about, our thoughts about it. Losing a loved one is terrible, but it is also part of the natural order of birth and death. To expect someone to live forever is insane.

Other situations are less dire, and easier to see where our expectations are off. The internet not connecting and cars not starting are just hiccups in the natural world, not good or bad. It is our expectation or assumption that they will “work” that makes them so. Had we expected them not to work, we would not suffer. Order moves toward disorder, houses get messy. To expect otherwise is going against nature.

The next time you are unhappy or angry or frustrated, stop and ask yourself what expectations are not being met.

Are these expectations reasonable?

Are these expectations fair?

What requires that your expectations be met?

What would the situation be like without your expectations of it?