I hung up the phone, a huge weight hanging around my neck. A close friend expected me to be somewhere at a certain time for a gathering, and I was going to be very late. “Well don’t you care about being with me?” she asked. The underlying accusation that I didn’t care about being with her was tangible in the air. “Yes, I do care, and that is why I will be there with you at 4 pm.” As we hung up the phone, my happy-go-lucky spirit slowly sank into a deep funk.
In the never-ending battle of trying to please others, once again, I was a disappointment.
We all know what it is like to be a disappointment. People have spoken and unspoken expectations for us, and when we don’t meet them, they are sure to let us know. There are hoops we are expected to jump through in order to be approved of and loved. When we fail to make it through the hoop, approval and love are withheld and disappointment, guilt and shame are what remains.
Being a disappointment is hard.
We disappoint others when we don’t show up at their parties. We disappoint them when we decide not to promote their ideas. We disappoint when we don’t agree with their political ideologies. We disappoint when we can’t meet their deadlines. We disappoint when we say, “No.” We disappoint when we don’t do what they think God wants us to do.
We have babies out of wedlock and we marry the wrong person and we drop out of school. We struggle to find work and we yell at our children and we don’t say, “How high?” when people ask us to jump. Sometimes we are even the black sheep of our families.
We really want others to approve of us, but the expectations are too high. The effort and cost of trying to please them is too much. But the pain of being a disappointment is difficult to bear as well.
Living up to the standards and expectations of others is as exhausting as being a hamster on a spinning wheel. If we want to get off the hamster wheel, we need to stop trying to please others and choose to please God instead. There is a little known verse in the Old Testament that talks about what is important to God.
Thus says the LORD, “Let not a wise man boast of his wisdom, and let not the mighty man boast of his might, let not a rich man boast of his riches; but let him who boasts boast of this, that he understands and knows Me, that I am the Lord…” (Jeremiah 9:23-24)
In this verse, we see that riches aren’t important, or wisdom, or strength. What is important is understanding and knowing God. What is important is knowing that He is the Lord. Understanding, knowing, Lordship….all of these verses point to the importance of having a relationship with God.
Your job and riches aren’t important. Your wisdom and education and success aren’t important. Your physique and shape and age aren’t important. Your relationship with God is.
You are going to disappoint others. There are unspoken and unrealistic expectations of you. You can’t meet them. You probably don’t even want to try. But your performance and meeting the expectations of others is not what is important. Your relationship with God is.
The next time you disappoint someone and feel the weight of guilt and failure, try putting the situation in perspective. Remember that the only approval you really need is from God and that your relationship with Him is what is important in this life, not your performance against human expectations.
We want to pursue what is important: knowing God, understanding God, and making Him Lord in every situation in our life. Our relationship with God satisfies us and is the only expectation that really matters.
Let’s shake of the lie of “We are a disappointment” and speak the truth “We are approved” instead. Imagine how much peace we would have if we lived out our lives without feeling like a disappointment to people but by feeling approved by God instead.