I’m confident everyone who would answer the question in the title of this post would say “yes.” And if the yes answers were explained, there would be a variety of things that have disappointed all of us.
Reading a sermon entitled The Giant of Disappointment by Pastor Joel Sutton a few days ago got me thinking about disappointment. I reread the written sermon and was surprised to read that “Author John Cheever writes that the main emotion the average American feels is disappointment.” Yes, we all experience disappointment, but I have to question that it is the main emotion of the average American.
Everyone deals with disappointment; some disappointments are smaller than others and some are larger than others. Sometimes others disappoint us and often we disappoint ourselves. A brief definition of disappointment explains that it is sadness or displeasure resulting from nonfulfillment of our hopes and expectations. When things don’t go according to our plans, we often feel disappointment.
Pastor Sutton reminds us, “Sometimes promising opportunities are not as appealing as they looked when we first decided to step through the door.” In other words, dreams can turn into nightmares. We may wish it were different, but Pastor Sutton is right when he tells us, “Just because you are a Christian doesn’t mean you are immune to disappointments.”
Two paragraphs above I noted that sometimes others disappoint us and that we sometimes disappoint ourselves, but we should also keep in mind that we disappoint others. Think of some of the people we sometimes disappoint: our parents, our friends, our teachers, and many others.
In thinking about all of this, it occurred to me that we also disappoint God. I don’t think it surprises Him, and He certainly doesn’t quit loving us, but knowing we have disappointed Him may be helpful to us. During our Easter celebration I could not help but wonder if both Peter and Thomas had disappointed Jesus to some degree by their actions: denial and unbelief.
After I reviewed Sutton’s sermon a few times I found two articles with the same title: Dealing with Disappointment by two different authors: Tara Wells and Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries.
Wells explains that “when we believe that there’s something we must have to be happy and fulfilled, we can set ourselves up for disappointment.” She notes that when we believe something is going to make us happy, and when it doesn’t, we’re disappointed.
Some people avoid disappointment by lowering their expectations. They have decided that the best strategy is to exchange high expectations for realistic expectations. The problem for these people, however, is that there is no guarantee that their realistic expectations can or will be met.
Disappointments are not pleasant, but they can teach and strengthen us if we are open to it. Kets de Vries points out that “Many people successfully work through their disappointments. Somehow they have the strength to take stock of what has happened to them, learn from the incident, and move on. They come out of such disappointments stronger.” He makes it sound easier that it is for most of us, but he does give us some help for moving forward. He suggests that “constructively dealing with disappointment can contribute to personal growth and make for greater resilience.” He points out that many people, when faced with disappointment, wrongly tend to blame themselves.
I want to wrap this post up with what I think are four vital truths from Kets de Vries for dealing with disappointment from:
- To manage disappointment, we need to differentiate between situations that fall within our control and factors that are beyond it.
- We also need to check whether our expectations are reasonable. Are we setting our goals too low or setting our expectations too high?
- In spite of whatever disappointing experiences come our way, our challenge will be to not let bitterness take root.
- Disappointment is not meant to destroy us. If taken in stride, it can strengthen us and make us better.
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By the way, I hope this post has not disappointed anyone!