Forty million Americans suffer from anxiety disorder, our country’s most common mental illness.
I wonder how many of those conditions are tied to a sense of worthlessness caused by failing to live up to what others expect of them?
We’ve raised a couple of generations of self-absorbed offspring who are grossly offended by any act or expression that even suggests they could be wrong. I’m not talking about this kind. But knowing that you have disappointed someone you care deeply about hurts. Especially when you realize that you don’t have the ability to be or do what they demand.
So, what do you do when you can’t meet the expectations others set for you?
A good place to start is to see what John Mark did when he disappointed the great Apostle Paul (Acts 15). While his prior failures may have caused Paul’s distrust (he left the mission team before the tour was finished), John Mark now was caught in a debate between Paul, who didn’t want him on his team, and Barnabas, who thought he should be included. The whole story isn’t described, but because we know that years later Paul sought John Mark’s assistance (II Timothy 4:11), we can make a couple of assumptions.
- John Mark was important to someone. While others may be disappointed with you or consider you insignificant, there will always be somebody who wants you around. In John Mark’s case, Barnabas was willing to give up his ministry position with Paul in order to have John as part of his team. There will be some that you want to please, but you will never meet their expectations. They may focus on your failures or set standards you are unable to attain. The pain and rejection are real. But you can’t let the hurt shape your future. Look around. You are important to someone. Be the best YOU you can be.
- To someone, John Mark had value. Beyond being important, John had something to contribute. Barnabas was more experienced in working with young preachers than Paul. What motivated him to risk his life to reach out to Paul (Acts 11:25) now moved him to insist that John Mark be part of his team. While some may doubt your ability, there are those around you who value what you have to offer. Don’t try so hard to please those who have turned you away that you fail to see those who are wanting you to join their team. There are those who recognize your abilities and they want you to be part of their lives. Stop wasting time trying to impress those who have already marked you off.
- John Mark refused to quit. He had to be disappointed that Paul no longer wanted him around, but he hung on. He didn’t deny his calling just because someone thought he was a failure. He didn’t go home because the “professional” didn’t think he had what it takes. He somehow managed his hurts and kept himself in the game. And eventually, his chief critic was asking for his help.
If you haven’t already, you will soon learn that you’ll not be able to please everyone. You will find that even those you love the most will not understand what makes you tick, nor will they always appreciate the quirks that make you unique. They won’t recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and will think you should sing just as good as your older sister.
When it happens, remember John Mark. Learn to manage your feelings so they don’t manage you. Don’t quit. You can’t make a difference if you take yourself out of the game.
Remember that you were neither created nor called to meet the expectations of those around you. The One who made you is the One who called you, and, ultimately, His opinion is the only one that matters.
Set yourself free from the chains of unrealistic expectations and let your ministry blossom.