Events over the last week have left many people feeling disappointed. We all know disappointment. We have all been introduced to that feeling of being let down, overwhelmed and done in. Disappointment is part of our lives. Who hasn't felt the frustration of difficult relationships or the strain of hardships at work or in the home? Who hasn't found themselves looking with anticipation to an exciting event only to be let down that it wasn't what we had hoped?
There are present disappointments, the kind that we face daily. There are also presumed disappointments. These are the ones that we believe will happen just by the mere fact that life continues to move forward. Disappointment can lead down a path of greater difficulty.
I'd like to devote this post to looking at two ideas. The first is that disappointment breeds disappointment. The second is to think about things we can do to combat disappointment.
Disappointment breeds Disappointment:
1. Dwelling on the disappointment. Putting too much thought into anything isn't necessarily healthy. Even good things can become distractions in our thought life, causing us to become less productive and even depressed. When bad things happen, we must go through a process of digesting them and learning to cope with them. That is healthy. However, continuing to focus on our sadness, our struggle or our worry over the future, is not healthy.
2. Laying blame. We all want to ascribe blame. It is my husband's fault that I did this. It's my kid's fault that happened. It's my boss's fault that I lost my job. Think through your day. Who did you blame today? That bad driver who cut you off? That slow cashier at the grocery store? The lazy waiter at the restaurant? Notice how I added an adjective before each of those people, bad, slow, lazy. It had to be someone's fault that I had a crummy day! Or could it have been, I didn't get up early enough to get to work on time without racing? I could have made a list when I went to the grocery store earlier in the week when I had time, so I didn't forget that one item I needed to cook dinner....and why doesn't my spouse ever take me out to dinner? Maybe the waiter at the restaurant had one too many customers like me, disappointed and grumpy!
3. Letting disappointment turn into something more fierce and controlling, such as anxiety or anger. Disappointment, as I said before is a natural part of life. While being occasionally anxious or angry is also normal, these feelings should not continue unchecked. Anxiety is basically a fight or flight response that will not turn off. If you have ever had a panic attack you know what I mean. Anger and the subsequent damage it can do to our own health or the health of others is also an emotion that is not meant to be the norm.
By allowing the three above mentioned processes take root in our lives we enter into a vicious cycle of disappointment breeding, not only disappointment, but other emotions such as anxiety and anger, which in turn can affect our health and the health of those around us.
Now let me turn to the idea of how to handle disappointment.
For the one feeing the disappointment:
1. Don't dwell there.
You have heard me harp on this before, but I only keep bringing it up, because I know it to be true. We are the only ones who have control over our minds. We can let disappointment rule us, or we can take those thoughts captive to the obedience of Christ. Even if you are not a Christ follower, you have control over your mind. If you dwell on all that is hard, sad, or bad, you will feel overwhelmed, discouraged and worn out! There are so many beautiful things to dwell on, from the beauty of creation to the lovely feel of climbing into a nice warm bed or eating a delicious meal.
2. Don't blame. Blame is not going to make the problem go away or get better. Be proactive. Find a way to make a difference in your home, in your job, in your community and yes even in your nation. My mother-in-law is a a big proponent of calling her elected officials, asking questions and stating her concerns. If enough people were actually doing that sort of thing, you can bet it would make a difference. Even if you don't see results immediately, you can know that you are doing what you can to make a difference. Being proactive takes away the feeling that you have been hurt or disappointed and gives you power.
3. Don't let deeper emotions take root. While anxiety and anger are just as normal as feeling disappointed, these emotions when left unchecked can result in much deeper trauma, not only to you personally, but to those you act out on. If you feel that you are heading down a road of being overly anxious or angry about a situation, find a good counselor, pastor or friend to talk to. Even making small adjustments in your lifestyle can make a difference in your attitude. When I am anxious I quote scripture, listen to music or go for a walk. When I am overly angry, I do deep breathing, letting the anger go as I breath out.
For those dealing with disappointed people:
Even if you are not the one dealing with disappointment you probably know others who are. You can be a light in their life and help them through the difficulty they are going through.
1. Acknowledge their disappointment. Don't say, "Get over it!" or "I don't understand why you feel that way." You may not understand, but the point is to be understanding. Let them talk, and try to understand where they are coming from.
2. Use your own experiences with disappointment to have empathy.
You'd be surprised how extending mercy can build bridges and break down walls! Your willingness to have compassion and mercy on someone who is struggling with disappointment could be the very image of Christ that person needs to see.
3. Give of your time. Sometimes people just need a friend to help them over the disappointment. Invite them out for lunch. Ask them to go for a walk with you. Get some fun movies to watch together, preferably something not controversial. If they are willing, pray with them. Let them see you are a real friend, one who has also experienced disappointments. Be open and honest.
I hope if you are reading this and you are experiencing disappointment that you will find some encouragement here. I also hope those of you who are not struggling right now, will extend your hand in kindness and compassion towards one who is.