Updated: Jan 1, 2019
Let’s talk about the elephant in the New Years Eve celebration room: While we are throwing confetti and making resolutions, some of us are dealing with real disappointments that happened this year. Maybe I should say, we are not dealing with those disappointments, but instead planning to paint over them with a new coat of Resolutions. The hope is that if we resolve to be better, the disappointment will just evaporate at the stroke of midnight. The reality is that if you don’t deal with the disappointments of 2018, they will start to show through the paint of your resolution – my guess -- about the middle of February. This isn’t rocket science; in fact, the way to deal with disappointment is so simple (didn’t say easy), that you may have overlooked it in the past.
Face It: Pretending not to be hurt by another’s behavior or a situation that didn’t turn out like you wanted doesn’t make you mature, it makes you dishonest. Without meaning to, people will disappoint you. Another person’s shortcoming doesn’t make them bad, it makes them human. Your job is to discover if your expectations of them were realistic or idealistic. Did you ignore what your heart and spirit warned you about? Did you assume more about the relationship than there was? Or, were you misled? Tell the truth to yourself about the relationship or situation that disappointed you.
Feel It: Give yourself room and space to cry if that is what you need. You could write a letter to the person expressing how you feel, whether you mail it or not. Don’t pretend that you are ok if you are not. Identify what you are feeling: is it sadness, anger, relief (yep, that too), or something else? If your feelings are such that you want to harm yourself or someone else, speak to a pastor, therapist or trusted friend. If you decide to share your feelings with someone, consider the outcome you expect. For example, are you looking for a change in behavior, or insight into another person’s feelings? Remember that you can’t change anyone else’s behavior, but you can change your response.
Forgive It: Forgiveness frees you to see good in others again. Unforgiveness imprisons you to a pained, fearful, untrusting perspective. Whether your disappointment comes from a mistake (accidental) or an intentional slight, release the offender so that your heart and arms are open to receive good. Unforgiveness expects payment for an offense that cannot be made good with human hands or actions. No matter what he, she or they did, they do not have the power to make it right in your heart; only you can start that process. And while we’re talking about forgiveness, forgive yourself for the mistakes and slights that you have committed. If possible, apologize to those you have offended. Whether asking for forgiveness or forgiving someone else, recognize that forgiveness doesn’t mean the relationship will be restored.
Taste the Fruit of It: All the fruit of disappointment isn’t bitter. If you are willing to face, feel and forgive, you will find yourself changed by your disappointment. While there may be tears in the beginning, the lessons you learn through facing disappointment can create reservoirs of wisdom, compassion for others, and experience that you can teach from. Facing your disappointments honestly will be fruitful if you allow yourself to grow. How much better to be known as a person who has experienced the pain of disappointment, and open to help others heal.