If I’m honest, my biggest fear is being disappointing.
I feel it every time I meet someone new and they say, “Oh, you’re THAT Allie! I’ve heard so much about [fill in the blank].”
I feel it every time my husband comes home from work and I tell him that I’m feeling exhausted or depleted or overextended and he suggests that we cancel whatever we have planned that evening and I respond, “Oh, no, we need to go, it’ll be fine, let’s get going.”
I feel it every time I make dinner for a group or host a party or plan a getaway or decorate something or design something or write something or create something.
I’m afraid I won’t live up to the hype. Won’t meet (and exceed) expectations. Won’t up the ante, raise the bar, outdo whatever I did the last time.
I want to change everyone’s story. If your story is that everyone leaves, I want to be the one who doesn’t. If your story is that everyone is thoughtless, I want to be the one who’s thoughtful. If your story is that everyone takes advantage, I want to be the one who’s appreciative and generous. If your story is that everyone’s flaky, I want to be the one who’s dependable. If your story is that people are unsafe, I want to be the one who’s a refuge.
I want to be the one who’s never disappointing. So I do everything I can to make sure I’m not. I always show up, always step up, always check in, always come alongside. I write back, I remember, I offer, I accommodate. I make sure that when I ask myself is this enough? the answer can always be at least it’s everything I have.
But what happens when that falls apart? When my capacity — my everything I have in me — is fundamentally less than it was before? When always becomes usually, and then usually becomes sometimes?
If you’re in relationship with me, I’ve probably disappointed you lately. If not in the five months that I’ve been pregnant, certainly in the 16 months since I lost my dad. And if not yet, then soon. I won’t answer your email, respond to your text, or return your phone call. I won’t check in with you even though you told me about that big thing you had coming up this week. I won’t offer to help, or I’ll fail to anticipate needs, or I’ll neglect to follow through. I’ll show up to your party with a bag of chips and a box of Oreos instead of homemade crostini and tartlets. In fact, I might not even show up to your party at all. I won’t make you feel special or cared for. Your birthday gift won’t be terribly thoughtful, or I’ll cancel our lunch date at the last minute and for the third time in a row, or I’ll miraculously show up for our lunch date but with absolutely nothing to offer.
I will be one more person who abandons you, who’s inconsiderate, who’s unreliable, who’s inconsistent. I will be one more person who disappoints you.
This, obviously, will not be very much fun for anyone. You will be hurt, and I will feel crushingly inadequate. I will want to make it up to you but will probably fail to do that too. I will start to think of myself as one of those EGR people — extra grace required.
But in this season of being disappointing — or perhaps learning how to be okay with being disappointing — I believe that there will be good things too. When I disappoint you, maybe it will create space for you to discover something in yourself, or in another person, that you didn’t see before. When I disappoint you, maybe it will challenge both of us to stop striving to do things in our own strength. When I disappoint you, maybe I’ll have to learn how to trust in your love for me — to receive your grace, your lowered expectations, and your acceptance of me based not on what I do but on who I am.
So, take note: I will be disappointing. Either it’s already happened, or it’s happening now, or it will happen. I love you, I am for you, I have deep affection for you — but I will disappoint you. And it’s okay. Because as long as I’m not disappointing, I’m only learning things I already know. When I’m not disappointing, I’m learning how to show love and grace — but when I am disappointing, I’m learning how to be shown love and grace.
Of course, I never want to stop practicing love and grace toward others; I still fail, constantly, to do so and to do it well. But I can only give what I myself have learned to receive. More accurately, I need to learn that anything I’m capable of giving I have already received. I need eyes to see. And the only way I can get there is by being disappointing.
“For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? If then you received it, why do you boast as if you did not receive it?” (1 Cor 4:7)