Beware of Expectations

The kindly old manager at my internship site ordered pizza on the respective last working day of each intern. When appetites were sated and the ultimate conclusion approached, he asked each intern for a piece of wisdom.

On sudden inspiration, I gave my sage advice. It seems to me that expectations are the root cause of all dissatisfactions, dissappointments, and disasters. So, dear friend: Beware of expectations.

[Edit 5/19/06: Comments closed due to spam.]

5 Comment on "Beware of Expectations"

  • . . . a minor quibble with your adaptation of James 4: 1-4. I think that your use of the word ‘expectations’ resonates too much with the semantical domain of the word ‘hope.’ Cynics, the depressed, and the otherwise jaded might agree that we ought to beware of having hope. Of course one could also argue that there is an analogous semantical overlap between ‘desire’ and ‘hope.’
    Perhaps I am wrong, but it seems to me that to break out of this connudrum we need to explore the roles of mortality and ‘pleasure’ in our descent into the abyss. Could we better say, “Beware of pleasure” ? That is to say, our mortal pleasures are the ‘root cause of all dissatisfactions, dissappointments and disasters.’ One could argue then, the immortal pleasures which transcend a cursed temporality might not lead to our triple ‘d’ descent into darkness. But then you would also have to clarify the nature of immortal pleasures, for example, on the issue of the expectation of the pleasure of possessing 1000 virgins in Paradise. . . .

  • Arlan Post author

    Not at all; this ad-hoc profundity is no deliberate adaptation of James, but it does not conflict. If we, for instance, expect God to keep us from getting laid off, but we are, then our expectation is clearly at fault. One might say that we “hoped” God would not let us be laid off–then we are confusing the meaning of hope. But our actual expectations quite often do not line up with our true hope.

    The expectation of 1000 virgins can be easily renamed a desire. But we can expect things without them being proactive desires–frequently we do not experience our expectations as desires unless the expectations go unmet. Of course a good pessimist can expect things that he does not at all desire–but one could say that constitutes a sort of dissatisfaction, and may lead to a disaster. Pessimists are not kept safe by their cynicism, no matter how hard they try.

  • So, the ‘ah hoc’ stuff aside, are you saying that our expectations are not (always) God’s ‘expectations’ (i.e. since we are not God, it is futile to have expectations). Or, are you saying that expectation, hope, and desire have no semantic overlap as long as you use the caveat, ‘true’ with the word hope ? If we are looking for an escape hatch, why don’t we just say (to ourselves), ‘. . . if the Lord wills, I expect such and such. . . .’ ?

  • Arlan Post author

    Perhaps rather than fretting over “expectations” we ought to be looking at “beware.” I did not say “forsake expectations.” It might have been better for me to say that “hopes” and “expectations” are functionally interchangeable, because what we hope for in the Lord we expect to receive–insofar as our hopes are founded in Christ. But if our hope is in Christ, and if God works all things for our good, what can ever cause a disaster–except in our perception of something as not the good thing we expected God to do for us?

    You noted that “desire” might have the same ambiguity in this context as “expectation.” I don’t think “pleasure” gets much further from the overlap. It does have somewhat more of a carnal connotation, but it can’t be too far from delight, as in “delighting in the Lord.”

    Feel free to try variations until you find one dogmatically acceptable. I am content with my original formulation, as an expression of my own (naive? blessed?) experiences.

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