I’ve known people who were saddled with such great expectations that they crumbled under the pressure. It can happen. But not as often as we might think. If we think people fail because too much is expected, take a look at those for whom nothing is expected. The lack of purpose and accountability is debilitating.
I once knew a marriage where both people tolerated the other person’s mediocrity. It didn’t make them happy; they were miserable. Partners should expect improvement from one another. High expectations in relationships are fine. We fabricate high expectations for people we don’t know all the time. We expect musicians to keep putting out great music. We expect Pixar to pump out excellent movies. We expect politicians to deliver on their promises. High expectations lead to excellence much more frequently than they lead to failure.
Some people hate trying to live up to other people’s expectations. I get it. My advice: never live up to the wrong people’s expectations. But the person who refuses to live up to someone else’s expectations will find themselves unreliable, unhelpful, and unhappy.
Without expectations we cannot have community. In the New Testament, Christians show up for one another and expect others to show up for them. They gather, break bread, share, and give. They take care of widows (1 Tim. 5:3) and expect each other to care for orphans (James 1:27). They expect submission from each other (Eph. 5:21) and insist that each other bear with one another (Gal. 6:2). There is no such thing as a community without great expectations.
The great missionary William Carey said, "Expect great things; attempt great things.” So don’t be afraid to expect excellent things from others and more importantly, dedicate yourself to all the good things you know others are expecting of you. Perhaps our friends will learn to expect great things from God when they discover they can expect great things from us.