Devil’s Tramping Ground, photo courtesy of northcarolinaghosts.com

One of my biggest disappointments was one of my own making: expecting someone to be something they were not.

Have you ever had that? Have you ever put expectations on someone else, only to have them disappoint again and again?

It hurts. And, yet, they are not the ones hurting us, we are the ones hurting us.

Unrealistic—or even realistic—expectations silently placed on a friend or family member will merely sow seeds of resentment as that person fails to live up to what we’ve imagined. They aren’t purposefully hurting us, they are simply going about their lives, living as they choose.

There’s a place a few miles from here called the Devil’s Tramping Ground. It’s a spot of earth where nothing grows, and legend is that anything planted there will wither and die. It looks real enough, and “ghost hunters” have detected anomalies (whatever that means), but it’s mostly a place to visit for a lark or to drink beer, as evidenced by the empty cans on the trail.

When we sow our seeds of expectation in a Devil’s Tramping Ground, we cannot expect fresh, verdant shoots. Planting our hopes on someone else’s behavior, no matter how “right” it seems to us, will not end well…for us.

Like my father once told me, if you want to make sure people don’t disappoint you, don’t expect anything out of them!

Oh, true. Sadly, true. Even when we expect them to do the right thing. Even when we expect them to live up to their role, as mother, wife, sister, friend…titles don’t ensure our needs are met. I have friends bending over backwards for some of the most vile people on the planet simply because they hold the title of mother or father. Titles are worthless. Behavior determines role.

The next time someone disappoints us, we need to perform a forensic analysis. What were our expectations? Were they realistic? Did the person know what was expected? (Not merely could they assume, but did they actually know?) Is the current behavior linked to past behavior? Should we really be surprised, or does it just feel good to “be hurt.”

Sometimes playing the victim can have its own rewards, so we need to be careful with how we handle hurt. We can’t wear it like a mantle. We need to turn to God. God promises to comfort us. God promises to care for us in our hurts.

“Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God” ~2 Corinthians 1:3-4

The next time we’re about to place expectations on another, we need to ask ourselves if it’s warranted. By forgoing placing expectations, we can avoid being hurt. But, since we’re human, we’re bound to do it again, so the next time we’re hurt or disappointed, we need to turn to God for comfort.

And, then, try not to do again.

So much easier said than done.