Conflict: When Expectations Don’t Match Experience

The great theologian/philosopher/poets, the Rolling Stones, once said, “You can’t always get what you want…” Isn’t that really what’s at the heart of every personal conflict we face? Whether it’s conflict with your spouse about money, sex or respect. Or conflict with your children about curfews, friends, integrity, or house rules. Conflict is what happens when our expectations don’t match our experience.

Andy Stanley says when our expectations don’t match our experience we have a limited number of choices. We can believe the best or assume the worst about one another. Our approach to the disappointment, worry, and ultimately the confrontation we face will be determined by how we answer this one question. How will you react?

Will you believe the best? Will you assume the worst?

Assume the worst. Worry increases. Anger rises. Fear, doubt, revenge and retaliation become the goal.

Believe the best. Disappointment still sets in, but with hope. Hope that a reasonable explanation can be made. Hope that the information I have is incomplete or misunderstood. Hope that an apology is imminent. Believe the best and the emotional nature of the conflict is transformed from a potentially explosive circumstance to the kind of conflict that builds strength in a relationship.

Today, you will face conflict in your relationships. Your expectations won’t match your experience. Will you believe the best or assume the worst? How you answer that question determines whether the conflict will damage or strengthen a relationship. Choose wisely.

“Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving, even as God in Christ has forgiven you.” Ephesians 4:32

1 reply
  1. Terry
    Terry says:

    This is a great topic, and the cause of many fights and relationship issues.

    Missed expectations… We are hard wired to a voice (maybe Satan) that is always telling us the worst about someone when they miss our expectations. We need to put our heart in the right place before talking to them about the missed expectation. We need to look at reasons from their point of view why a reasonable person would missed that expectation which will help put our heart in the right place. (of course not all people are reasonable) With your heart in the right place, a civil discussion can take place over the missed expectation, and hopefully find a solution to it. Many times we will find it is ourselves listening to that little voice of Satan that causes to get upset and not the actual facts.

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