Expectation vs. hope

~~~expectation and hope 2

Human beings love to imagine the future; we do it constantly. 

And our imaginings tend to take two forms — expectation and hope.

They seem similar, but shape our perceptions and our emotional lives in quite different ways. 

So the differences between them are worth noting:


Expectation is essentially a demand.  I must have X, it says, or I’ll be unhappy.

          Hope is more accepting and receptive.  I look forward, it says, to what comes.


Expectation is like a closed hand, clinched and tense.

          Hope is like an open hand, relaxed and patient.


Expectation wants to control reality, to impose its own selfish terms.

          Hope trusts reality, has faith that the facts will be friendly.


Expectation is wary and defensive.  It keeps one eye on what it wants and the other on what it fears.

          Hope is optimistic and inclusive.  Unfocused on any particular outcome, it stays flexible enough to make room for whatever.



Expectation kills.  By crushing flexibility, spontaneity, creativity and joy, it squeezes the life out of life.

          Hope is life-giving, promoting patience, courage, power and growth.


Expectation is restrictive, tying you to a particular desire.

          Hope is inclusive, freeing you to play with whatever comes next.


Expectation is an emotional anchor that drags you down.

          Hope is a spiritual wind that lifts you up.


2 responses to “Expectation vs. hope

  • svmcelligott

    How does this relate to shedding the pounds? and dare I say it….. Controlling your weight? When food appears to ‘dominate’ your senses and you feel powerless by it’s appealing nature? Fear of ‘letting go’ or ‘giving in’ on the one hand is freeing but on the other hand you’re trapped in a fat body🙁

    • Steve Hauptman

      Well, let’s see.

      “Dominate your senses” and “powerless” sound like descriptions of an eating disorder, so I’ll assume that’s what you’re asking about.

      Compulsive overeating is less about food than feelings. (Or as one famous book title puts it, It’s Not What You’re Eating, It’s What’s Eating You.) It’s an addiction. Compulsive overeaters use food in the way alcoholics use alcohol — to control emotional life, make sadness or anger or anxiety or boredom go away. Since this works only temporarily (feelings always come back), the addict is forced to make them go away again and again. And that’s how he or she ends up feeling powerless.

      Recovery means learning to understand and live with feelings instead of ignoring or numbing them. And it begins with a kind of surrender, an admission that, as the First Step puts it, “we were powerless over [the addictive behavior] and that our lives had become unmanageable.” Admitting that Plan A isn’t working frees them to seek a Plan B. And Plan B usually involves learning to accept feelings and to manage them in healthier ways, like identifying and expressing them appropriately and seeking emotional support in healthy places, like therapy, self-help groups, intimate relationships or a deeper spirituality.

      How does all this relate to expectation vs. hope? As I see it, addictions and expectations come from the same place, the scared/angry part of us that says I demand this, I refuse to accept that. And recovery and hope come from the same place too – the part of us that can be flexible, patient and accepting of the reality we’re given, instead of chasing after one we can’t have.

      I hope I answered your question.

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